This week I caught an interview with Jennifer Hudson, the young singer who was voted off of American Idol and ended up stealing the show in the movie, Dreamgirls. Jennifer was asked how she handled the disappointment of being eliminated from Idol when most people thought she would win. She admitted that it was painful and that she cried a lot, but that eventually she returned to her faith. "I chose to trust that God had a bigger plan for me than I could see at the time," she explained.
I guess so. Her performance led to an Oscar.
Jennifer's story is a powerful reminder of how life's disappointments may in fact be preparation for something even more significant in our lives. And, this belief has the best chance of coming true when you make a demonstrated commitment to learn and grow from your present day circumstances.
For example, when I look back at the painful breakup of the relationship I was in before my marriage, I can see that the suffering and subsequent growth I went through was exactly what I
needed to prepare me for a more mature and lasting relationship later on -- although I certainly didn't know it at the time. The pain and disappointment forced me to grow. It challenged me to face my fear of living alone. It prompted me to get my butt into therapy. And it ultimately helped me to develop self-respect. I learned to treat myself better, which in turn, naturally raised my standards for how I would allow others to treat me in the future.
Jennifer's belief can serve us all in times of suffering or pain. For example, is there something going on in your life right now -- a breakup, a problem at work, the slow growth of your business, or the chronic stress of trying to find time for your life -- that might be attempting to prepare you for what's next? Think about it. What if your current challenge is a call to action -- the kind of action that will prepare you for the next phase of your life? What are you being invited to learn? What qualities of character are trying to be strengthened or developed?
As I've dealt with my own challenges over the last several months, the belief of "disappointment or suffering as preparation" is something I hold onto as a reminder that we are never alone, that
there is a purpose to our suffering and pain, and that when we get to the other side, a great opportunity to use what we've learned in service to ourselves and others awaits. Take heart. Every day, in some way, we're all being prepared for something better . . .
Take Action Challenge
Choose one thing that you feel disappointed about, frustrated by, or fearful of? Now, ask yourself the following questions:
1. If this were happening to help strengthen a part of me, which part would it be?
2. What lesson can I learn from this experience?
3. How is facing this obstacle teaching me important skills that can be used to help others?
Finally, ask yourself: What kind of help do I need to make the most of this learning opportunity? Then, do what it takes to find that support. Ask a friend for a referral to a therapist, call a mentor for guidance, or create a gathering of hand-picked friends to help you brainstorm new ideas.