Growing through Difficulty


Cracked egg

There is meaning hidden in the small changes of everyday life, and wisdom to be found in the shards of your most broken moments.

Elizabeth Lesser


Broken Open

There is a book entitled, Broken open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser that contains many pearls of wisdom about change, loss, grief, and devastation that is a natural part of our lives.


One of the many things that I really appreciate about Lesser’s book is that she writes about her own struggles in life, her own challenges to put ego and resistance aside to try to learn from hard times. Through these admissions Lesser shares that we all have adversity at times in our lives that we can move past and grow from. It’s not easy – boy we all know that! – but it can be so worth the journey.


I recently met with a client who talked about feeling broken open, raw, and really alive despite what he was going through. Lesser describes these experiences, as crappy as they may feel at the time, as opportunities to wake up and know what is really important to us as if for the first time.


A More Meaningful Life

Have you ever had a time in your life that was devastating but in hindsight taught you things about yourself – your strength, your wisdom, your persistence – that you never would have discovered had this experience not happened?


None of us willingly seek out difficult times, nor should we, but amazing things can happen when we experience them nonetheless. It’s not a given that we’ll come out with more wisdom but with hard work, a willingness to learn something new about ourselves, and faith that things will get better, somehow they often do.


Although it may be easy to sarcastically believe these ideas are nothing more than Pollyanna pablum, if you think about it, there are many stories that we hear personally and in the media that describe strength, resilience, and growth in spite of devastation.


The Alberta Floods and 9/11

The floods that many of us experienced in southern Alberta this last June was a good example of people coming together to help one another, sacrificing their time, energy, and at times safety, to help others get to safety or to provide food and shelter until people could get back on their feet. The terrorist attacks on September 11 are another example.


Hope through Story

Lesser also exemplifies these ideas by sharing many stories of other people’s lives – the death of a child, being faced with life altering illness such as cancer, MS, or stroke, near-death experiences – and offers pearls of wisdom told in people’s own voices to illustrate how we really can grow despite the “awfulness”. Ideas such as:


“I realized that my only hope was to give up the life that had been, in order to make room for the life that is. I call it my “choiceless choice””. (Written by a parent with MS and a sick child)


“Although from the ego’s perspective the stroke is not much fun, from the soul’s perspective it has been a great learning opportunity. When you are secure in the soul, what’s to fear? Since the stroke I can say to you within assurance I couldn’t have felt before, that faith and love are stronger than any changes, stronger than aging, and, I am very sure, stronger than death.”


“We can choose darkness, fear, addiction, and despair. We can choose light, hope, meaning, and joy… I chose life. I chose to find a way back up… My daily mantra is “Surrender and relax into the mystery” (Written by a parent whose son died)


“It is so awful what happened, but it’s a different life for me now. It’s a deeper life. A life of connection to people on a more real level”. (written by a woman who lost her brother in the Oklahoma City bombing)


And You?

How about you? What can you do to grow through the hardship you’re going through?


When everything seems against you, remember the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.

Henry Ford