“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Stephanie Nielson and her husband Christian’s lives were changed forever when they were involved in a terrible plane crash in August 2008. For three and a half months, Stephanie slept in a medically induced coma undergoing countless procedures. The 27-year-old mother of four woke up to realize, first of all, that it was a miracle that she was alive and second, that she had burned the majority of her body and was horribly disfigured. Her arms, legs, hands, and face were covered with third- and fourth-degree burns—the worst occurring on her face. Through her personal faith as well as love and support from her family, friends and community, she was able to accept her new life and move forward with strength and hope.
This was a completely unexpected event in Stephanie and Christian’s lives. How many of our lives have been touched by tragic circumstances or had a family member or friend go through them? I’m willing to guess almost everyone has. Personally, we lost our son Kenny who died in a car accident five years ago. Was this devastating for our family to go through? Absolutely. Did it bring us closer together and strengthen us? Yes, it did.
However, most challenges we have are not of this tragic magnitude. In life, trials, setbacks and failures are inevitable. When we experience them, perspective is often the first thing to go. They can make us stronger and develop our character, but only if we maintain or regain perspective and use them to contribute to our growth.
Here are four steps we can use to gain perspective and move forward:
- Acknowledge. This is the first step. Don’t bury it, deny it or procrastinate facing it.
- Empathize. Trials and failures often affect others as well. Make sure you take the time to talk to, listen to and support others. Sometimes their perspective and/or strength will help you.
- Analyze. I understand that some things are out of our control. However, is there anything that you could have done to affect a different outcome? What did you learn from this experience? If applicable, what things can you put in place or changes can you make so that it won’t happen again or if it does you will be better prepared.
- Act. Depending on the scope of your setback, you may need to take a few days to recover, mourn and/or reflect. Take one task and one day at a time if necessary, but don’t give up. Action leads to momentum which in turn leads to growth and success.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”