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Approach Tragedy with the Right Questions to Find Happiness

Benefit-finding and the resulting happiness is the result of asking yourself the right questions about the impact of tragedy on your life. It requires some introspection, some self-analysis, and a connection with your inner self. You have to decide if there is something beneficial about a negative life situation — others can’t do that for you.

What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?

Loss, tragedy, and adversity leave people changed in some way. So when tragedy strikes, the first question you need to ask yourself is: “What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?”

Tom suffered a heart attack and found that he could do a number of things he couldn’t do before:

  • He learned that he could delegate responsibility more at work and still run a highly successful business.

  • For the first time in his life he was able to trust in someone other than himself.

  • He was a better husband and parent, because he knew that it wasn’t just about being a provider and a care-taker.

  • He was able to communicate more openly with family and friends.

  • He was more emotional — he hugged more, cried more, and laughed more.

  • He was able to reset his priorities, making his family number one and putting work in second.

Think about some misfortune you’ve encountered in your life and ask the same question of yourself. Give it some serious thought before you answer. If you’re not sure, ask someone close to you if she’s noticed any positive change in you since that event. The changes may be there — you just may not be aware of them.

Why have you been given this opportunity?

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Opportunity? What opportunity? How do tragedies and challenges give me opportunity?” Perspective is all about choice. And with choice comes opportunity — opportunity to choose how to respond.

The question is why you and why now? These questions are not simple. Sure, people say, “God doesn’t give you anything he doesn’t think you can’t handle,” but usually it’s more complicated than that. Maybe Tom got the opportunity to rethink how he was living his life at age 45 because, by that time, he had lived long enough to appreciate the patterns in his life that were destroying him.

Patterns — good or bad — take time to emerge. Maybe his opportunity came then because he was still young enough and otherwise healthy enough to survive the event, whereas, as he himself suggested, had it occurred later on he would have died. Or, it could be that he’s been given this opportunity because there is some greater purpose to his life that he has not yet discovered.

You don’t have to believe in God or fate or destiny to believe that you’ve been given this opportunity for a reason. All you have to do is decide on what that reason is — you get to choose.

Are you up to the challenge?

Most ordinary people are capable of surviving difficult — even monumental — challenges. Most people are much tougher and hardier than they realize. Remember: Hardy people have a strong sense of internal control and they are actively committed to life before tragedy strikes. They’re also more likely to be happy than less-hardy people are.

Past history can be a clue to the future. When faced with some bad circumstance, ask yourself: “How have I dealt with other misfortunes in the past? I managed to survive, didn’t I? What did I do to cope that helped? Can I use those same tools now?”

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