What Kind of Stronger?

We've all heard and experienced the profound truth in the phrase: What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. But what kind of stronger? When we're faced with crisis — no matter how painful or unjust — we have the choice to respond in a way that hardens our heart or in a way that softens it.

It's been my experience that that moment of choice doesn't come right away. It comes at some point after the storm has passed — when we're more available to listen. And while there are more and less graceful ways to carry yourself during, it's how we carry ourselves after that can set the course for the next chapter.

Often the best we can do during is hold on tight. Whether it's a business or career-defining project that's gone off the rails, a relationship that's ending, a falling out with an old friend — we do our best to hold on through the hard moments in the heart, the self-doubt, the dings we take to our self-image. It's only later on when we've built up our reserves that we have room to ask the questions that lead to new answers.

That's the critical moment. How can you embrace what happened — as awkward, painful and perhaps, in hindsight, for the best as it may have been — as a chance not only to learn something new but to become someone new?

Here are some questions you can use to start the exploration:

  1. What was the thing I saw from the beginning but chose to overlook?  What emotional need did it fulfill for me to overlook it?
  2. What did I project onto the situation or person that (without making what I see on the outside untrue) is more true about me?
  3. What part of me do I need to toughen up to have better boundaries the next time something like this happens?
  4. What part of me do I need to soften up to be more receptive to feedback earlier on the next time something like this happens?
  5. And, finally and most importantly: Where would my life go if I didn't need to re-learn this lesson again five years from now?

Life brings us countless opportunities to get stronger. Each of us gets to define what kind of stronger we want that to be.

Jonathan Raymond