Nov 232010

We’ve all heard the phrase “count your blessings” and probably most of us do that quite often.

What we don’t always realize is that we’re neglecting to count some of our best ones because they’re tucked away in places we don’t think to consider.

If we take even a few moments to look we can find some of our most precious treasures buried among our discards. We quickly or even unconsciously judge certain things or experiences to be useless, inferior or even bad, and we toss them away, out of sight, out of mind.

We forget to notice the silver lining.

Gifts from Tragedy

Just last night, I heard of the death of a former classmate and old friend. He died of a sudden heart attack. This was sad enough but it came on the heels of the death of another classmate just a few weeks ago. Both cases are sad in their own way, and although I hadn’t seen one of them in many years, I still felt the loss.

Yet right along with the sadness of his death came a deep appreciation for the fact that I get to be alive. I mean, I’m alive! How cool is that?

If not for this tragedy,  I wouldn’t be experiencing my aliveness to the extent that I am this moment. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about or appreciating it at all.

And so, this new-found appreciation is a gift of this tragedy.

So this was one example, which just happens to be related to someone else’s misfortune. We easily gain new awareness of the blessings in our own lives when we notice how difficult life is for someone else, including many across the world.

More Hidden Gems

But there is also a benefit to considering our own tragedies and our own difficulties.

For hidden within them are deep and precious gifts.

I can say without a doubt that my most profound blessings have been borne of difficulty. And often the most trying situations bear the greatest gifts. They’re not all in the past, either. There are ongoing challenges, too, that are leaving little gifts in their wake, some I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet.

The Discovery Process

One of the ways to spirit them out so we can avail ourselves of what they have to offer is to consider these questions and see if they reveal themselves. Some, if not most, are gifts not only to us but to others as well.

Here’s an exercise you can do:

Think of one major difficulty you’ve had, or something you’re going through now.

Got it?

Ok, now, go through these questions one by one with that experience in mind.

For any one situation, most of the questions will not apply. When that’s the case, just move on to the next question.

But there will probably be a handful of questions that will give you pause, and you will see that something new and wonderful entered your life when all you saw at the time was something that you just wanted to get rid of.

And if you have the time, take that moment to explore that question further in whatever way makes sense.

And now, may you discover some gems. 🙂

  1. What did you learn that you are using to this day? Would you have learned it without that experience?
  2. Did you develop new skills that you benefit from, share, or enjoy?
  3. Did you become a better person? Did you discover or strengthen a part of your character that has been of value?
  4. Did you have to learn to ask for help? Was a new friendship developed because of that?
  5. Did anyone else benefit from what you went through?
  6. Were you able to help others in similar situations because of your experience?
  7. Did you discover new resources? Or friends you didn’t know you had?
  8. Did you let go of something that was not good for you, even if painful or disorienting at the time?
  9. Did you develop a new perspective on what’s good and what’s bad?
  10. Do you have a new set of values that feels better?
  11. Have you gained compassion and/or a more open heart?
  12. Have you learned how to let go of resentments, or to not develop them in the first place?
  13. Did you have the rug pulled out from under you, only to eventually land in a better place?
  14. If this was a loss of some sort, did something new and wonderful move into your life to fill the empty space that wouldn’t have been there otherwise?
  15. Have you learned how to let go of things when called for?
  16. Do you find any benefit to the impermanence of things? Does it give you an appreciation for things in the moment that you might not have had otherwise?
  17. Did you discover a different apparent source, or a new kind of flow? Is there less fear?
  18. Were you disillusioned? Do you have a new clarity about things, a new realism?
  19. Have you had a shift in your reality? A paradigm shift in what’s meaningful?
  20. Did you discover that you are okay no matter what?

You can repeat this as often as you’d like with any difficult situation.

Do you feel a little more blessed than when you started this exercise?

This exercise could easily include more questions. This set is subjective based on my experiences. I’m certain you have your own list and your own unique blessings that have come from your own difficulties as well. You can always add to it or replace questions as you see fit.

And of course, a few of these things may enter our lives even without difficulties, but it’s been my experience that difficulty is a sure catalyst for tremendous growth.

I dare say that without challenges, life wouldn’t be nearly so rich as it is.

Do you have any questions you’d like to add to this list? Or gifts you’ve gained from what felt like an unredeemable situation at the time? We’d love to hear.

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  12 Responses to “20 Questions to Turn Hardships into Blessings”

Comments (8) Trackbacks (4)

    I am a strong believer that without darkness there is no light. Without muck and icky gooey compost there is no growth. Every cloud has a silver lining, yes, but more importantly, every pile of stinky manure is nurturing the seed of beautiful vegetation.

    Once again, Patti, you and I are on the same page 🙂


      Hello Eliza!
      Icky gooey, yes, you do have a way with words. I like the manure analogy and funny — I had the word “seed” in there at some point but took it out. If I’d had a little more BS in there, it mighta fit better!
      Thank you again, it’s always a pleasure.


    These are all excellent questions and yes, I do feel more blessed after thinking about them!
    I feel blessed generally all the time – I’m one of those eternal optimists.
    There is so much good in the world and in our own lives if only we would just stop and really look.
    Thanks so much for this terrific post!


      You know, Angela, as I read your comment with all this talk of blessings, I found myself thinking YOU are a blessing! It’s always such a delight to see you here and your blog adds a lot of light to the world as well.
      Thanks for coming by, and for commenting.


    I’m going to do this exercise not only because it’s helpful…I think I’ll get an entire post from it. Thanks for the inspiration. Also I think you’ll like this post I discovered this morning. Simply amazing:


      Hi Tess,

      First, it’s so nice to see you here! And I have to say that your comments in our forums helped me zero in on what I was trying to do here (albeit “too much”) and sculpt this post to be a little more to the point and managable for readers. So thank you for that. And I’m so glad it inspired you somewhere along the way. (I take that as a big compliment considering how inspiring your blog has been to me.) And I’m sure I’ll have a few spin-off posts, myself.

      And that post you pointed me/us to? My goodness! I am going to give it its due when I have a little more time. It looks just amazing, you are right. And I already subscribed to her. What quality. Thanks so much for that.

      Thanks for coming by and sharing your good stuff. 😉


    I love your questions, Patti! These are powerful perception-shifting prompts. PPPs? 🙂 I have stumbled over each of these questions at some point or another in response to what I all “splats,” but I love the idea of being a little more on purpose about it. I’m printing this list to have on hand. Thanks!


      Hi Ande,

      Welcome! Nice to see you here. And glad you like the PPPs 🙂 I can imagine you’ve had experience with these, given the topic of your blog. (Love the way you present what could be a real downer of a topic. Great sense of humor!)

      I developed this list from many of my stumblings also, and figured that the benefits of difficulty that we can see in hindsight might serve us several times over.

      So glad you came by.

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