Inconvenience can train us for life if we see it as an opportunity to grow and become better versions of ourselves.
By global north standards, our commutes in Manila are excruciatingly inefficient. If we’re lucky, it takes an hour on a weekday to drive 10 km. Often, driving that same distance takes 2 to 3 hours. Sitting in these jams is an almost daily habit for me. And when I’m in it, negativity and frustration almost always gets the better of me. I rant to myself or whoever I’m with about how inefficient, corrupt, and uncaring our government is. I also resent how much energy and time gets “wasted” on the road.
But even if you don’t sit through these jams, you probably have your own list of stubborn inconveniences, which like to arrive at the “best” moments. Like a broken printer the morning a report is due, running out of coffee after an all-nighter, stepping into the shower to find you’re out of shampoo, or the unexpected accident on the way to work.
Life always comes with these small, but irritating hurdles, and try as we might, we’ll never really escape them.
Last Thursday, I decided to do something differently. Instead of giving into my inner urge to complain, I challenged myself to look at the inconvenience as an opportunity to grow.
I’m glad I did this. The attitude shift changed the first half of my day for the better, and led me to two valuable insights:
First, inconvenience strengthens patience, which is a crucial skill to turning any worthwhile dream to reality.
We’ve all gotten used to the faster way of doing things. It’s the ethos of our technologically hi-tech world. Not a bad idea, but it can be misleading because the highest dreams to realize, often take the longest time. Think of learning a new language, skill or sport. Those goals take months if not years to fulfill.
If we expect life to move quickly all the time, what happens when our best efforts to achieve a goal don’t get rewarded as quickly as we’d like? Moments like these, impatient people get discouraged and give up. But those with a deep stamina for patience, will keep at it, until they get to where they want to go. They keep at it because they know,
Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.
Patience isn’t just about waiting. It’s also about trusting our best dreams will one day become real, even if it takes awhile. Patient people aren’t afraid of waiting, and working while they wait, because they know what is richest, and most worthwhile always takes a lot of time.
Second, slower means more time to notice and appreciate nuggets of beauty around.
When I decided to do this last Thursday, I noticed that I got to work more optimistic and energetic than when I let the traffic exasperate me. I also felt stronger, because I spent that hour trying to strengthen my ability to see beauty amidst unpleasantness. Another skill which should be helpful for when life gets even harder.
Doing this reminded me that inconvenience is really, at the end of the day, an external circumstance. It robs us of a little productivity, but it can also be space to grow on the inside. The difficulty it subjects us to can be a training ground for approaching hard knocks with hope.
By learning to embrace challenges with hope, we become a better version of ourselves, in the interior sense.
As a wise Disney character once pointed out,
The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.
And isn’t that the kind of person all of us deep within would like to become?
So next time life gives us a bitter pill, we really should resist the urge to look at it as defeat. Instead, let’s take it as an opportunity to grow and to take a step closer to the kind of person we dream of becoming. Not only will this attitude strengthen our ability to endure hard moments, it will also turn you and I into people who inspire and strengthen those around us through how we live.
Thank you so much for reading!
If you have any other tips for how to deal with life’s bumps, small or big, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below.