When the going gets tough……You learn a lot about yourself

If I asked 10 people to finish the sentence below, I bet many of them would answer in the manner shown in parenthesis:

“When the going gets tough, (the tough get going)”

In most cases I would agree and I think that is one of the hallmarks of many people, especially those who are successful in their worldly pursuits.  Life is not easy and I can personally say that I have learned much more from my challenges than I ever have from circumstances where I gained something easily.  I’ll cite a few cases in my life to illustrate these experiences.

When I graduated from high school I chose to attend the United States Naval Academy for plebe summer.  I was well prepared physically, but I was not very mature for an 18 year old high school graduate who had never been away from home on my own.  My time at the academy was short and I learned a lot about myself in the next few years when I attended Murray State University and obtained my first degree.  As a result of my personal experience at that time I made a point to make sure that both of our sons had ample time away from home as teens where they had to deal with adverse situations.  These trips included many high adventure trips to the Grand Canyon and the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.  I hope these trips helped mature my sons in ways I had not been exposed to.  It seems to have worked.

When I was 30 I learned that I had thyroid cancer.  Most types of cancer are very challenging and many are fatal.  I was fortunate because my type of cancer was very treatable and I have very few challenges today as a result of that experience.  I learned at that time to trust in the wisdom of others, especially those in the medical profession and I also learned the value of a supportive and loving spouse who stood by me every step of the way.  We navigated through that episode with God’s help.

In 2009 and 2010 I was in the middle of growing my consulting practice and the downturn in the economy was not  helping with this.  We also had two sons in college and we learned very quickly to determine the difference between essential needs versus wants.  We were fortunate to come through that segment of time unscathed and the lessons I learned then about avoiding debt and the dangers of being overly leveraged stick with me to this day.

Tough circumstances test us.  We learn many things about others when times get tough, but we learn much more about ourselves when we have to make challenging and difficult decisions.

My encouragement to you is to reflect upon those most challenging times in your life and see if you made decisions you would repeat again today.  If you would not, take time to consider what you would do differently if confronted with a similar situation in the future.

People learn a lot about you during challenging times.  Even better, you learn a lot about yourself.