One quote that has always stuck with me goes something like this: “Remember that life happens for you rather than to you.” The basic idea is that life has a lot of ups and downs. Some of the things we experience aren’t pleasant. However, we do better in life if we can try to understand what our negative experiences might be teaching us, rather than just getting upset that something bad happened.
This is easier said than done. Awhile back, I got in a fender bender in a parking lot. It wasn’t a big deal, no one was hurt, but I now had a dent in my bumper. I was immediately angry and frustrated with myself. I started having self-blaming and negative thoughts, like “Why wasn’t I paying more attention?” and “This sucks—it’s probably going to cost a lot of money to get fixed.”
Frustrated and Upset
These thoughts didn’t move me forward at all. They just got me more frustrated and upset—and I was already feeling that way! But what’s the alternative? How could I respond in a more helpful way when something negative happens in my life?
Don’t Waste the Lessons
One idea I’m trying to keep in the forefront of my mind is to not waste the lessons. In almost everything that happens in my life (even the bad stuff), there is a lesson I can take with me. Even if it’s something small, my life will be better off if I can take hold of the lesson that is there for me.
3 Lessons from a Fender Bender
So, what’s the lesson in the parking lot fender bender? Here’s what I came up with:
- I need to be more careful about my driving. I often go on “autopilot” when I drive, and sometimes I get distracted by my cell phone or other things in my environment. I need to remind myself to focus on the task at hand. The consequences this time were very minor—but next time it could be worse. When I’m driving, I need to focus 100% on my task and my surroundings.
- Accidents happen. It’s a reality of life that sometimes annoying things like accidents occur. It’s almost like a “tax” of driving—sometimes things just happen, like your car breaking down or getting in a fender bender. Instead of getting angry and upset, maybe I could just pay my “tax” and move on with my life.
- When I’m driving my wife’s car, it has a backup camera as well as a bunch of sensors that make noises when you’re getting close to something. We drive her car most of the time, so I get used to having those features. When I’m in my other car (without all the features), sometimes I don’t make the switch in my mind that I don’t have those things to help me. I need to remind myself to pay more attention when I don’t have a backup camera or the sensors.
These lessons weren’t necessarily life-altering, but they were something. If I had stayed angry and upset, frustrated that life happened to me, I wouldn’t have learned anything. But by believing that life happens for me, I was able to move forward in my life with a few lessons that will hopefully keep me safer in the future.
What do you think about the idea that life happens for us, rather than to us? Think about something “negative” that has happened recently in your life. Try to come up with at least one lesson that you could take from the experience that could help you in your life moving forward.