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A Blessing in Disguise | The Gustavian Weekly

By Colin Rieke Opinion Columnist | December 5, 2014 | Opinion

Do you see pieces of a broken mug, or pieces of new opportunities?

Do you see pieces of a broken mug, or pieces of new opportunities?

Colin_RiekeLast weekend I purchased one of my favorite collectable items, a locally handcrafted ceramic mug. I couldn’t wait to go home and use it. Then the unimaginable happened: I dropped it.

Just as my mug shattered, so did my attitude. I was so mad I was speechless. It was such a stupid thing that could have easily been avoided. Even worse was the fact my Mom gave me money to buy it. After five minutes of feeling bad for myself I realized what happened was already in the past. There was nothing I could do to change it.

Realizing the past was behind me, I could not come up with a good reason for continuing to feel angry.

The bottom line is we can’t predict what happens to us. If we could, we’d prevent anything bad from happening. We also cannot change the past. So if you can’t predict the future and you can’t redo the past, what can you do?

You can focus your thoughts on the “now.” You can be aware of your attitude. You can choose to not let the past affect how you feel in the present.

This does not mean we’re not allowed to be angry. Experiencing emotions is an essential part of being human. As far as anger goes, we have to experience it in order to know how we can deal with it. When I dropped my mug it took five minutes of being angry to realize I didn’t like feeling that way. I had to experience that feeling so I could figure out how to cope with it.

The only way you can be aware of anger, is if you are angry in the first place. We should not strive to avoid anger, we should strive to be aware of when we are.

Yet, simply being aware of anger does not guarantee you will successfully deal with it. There are some things in life that are extremely difficult to accept or to let go of. For example people who have never smoked a day in their life get lung cancer.

Rather than being angry at these facts of life we need to be concerned with how we react to them. The first thing we can do is avoid labeling things as “bad.” Events are not inherently “bad.” They are “bad” because we think they are. Events are events. Whatever happens, happens.

Shattering my mug doesn’t have to be “bad.” It can simply be me dropping my mug and it shattering. If your team loses the game, then your team loses the game. If you trip and fall, you trip and fall. If you get an F on your test, then you get an F on your test. If you’re out of money, you’re out of money. If your feelings are hurt, than your feelings are hurt.  It is what it is.

By accepting things for what they are, without judgment, you free yourself to act. So if you trip and fall, then you pick yourself up. If you get an F on your test, then you figure out how to study harder. If you’re broke, you find a way to make some money. If your feelings are hurt, then you find a way to stay positive. The only way you can act is by accepting the past and moving on.

One way we can accept things for what they are is to be knowledgeable of what lies within our control. Most of what happens in our life lies outside our control. We do not control the economic situation of the family we are born into. We cannot control whether we get cancer. Similarly, we cannot control the results of most of our actions, just as I could not control the dropping of my mug. If I could have controlled that, then I would still have a mug.

What we can control, is our attitude. I read a quote that goes something like this, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it.” This quote illustrates a powerful quality of attitude: choice.

We can choose to not label things as “bad,” but we don’t have to avoid judging things as “good.” If we make the conscious choice to not label things as “bad,” and if we understand what lies outside of your control, we can take away the “bad” and turn it into something “good.”

When I dropped my mug I labeled it as “bad” and became angry. When I became aware of my anger, I found a way to deal with it. And my way of dealing with it was seeing how one event can lead to another, how something “bad” can give birth to something wonderfully “good,” and how when one door closes another one opens.

I had no idea at the time I dropped my mug that it would inspire me to write this article. Now, I’m glad it broke. When I look at this picture I don’t see pieces of what used to be mug. Rather, I choose to see new pieces, pieces that can fit into making many new things.

All of us have “bad” things happen to us. Whether you see the “good” that can come from them, well, that’s up to you.

-Colin Rieke

1 Comment

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  1. Jeffrey Alexander says:

    You can focus your thoughts on the “now.” You can be aware of your attitude. You can choose to not let the past affect how you feel in the present.

    Good set of points 🙂

    When something bad happens, expect that good things will follow. That’s the rule.