The difficulties and challenges of life are like grindstones. Whether they grind us down or polish us up depends on us.  One day a farmer's donkey fell into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the donkey but decided that neither the donkey nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. He called his neighbors together, told them what had happened, and enlist them to help shovel dirt to bury the old donkey in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old donkey was hysterical. But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he would shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old donkey fought panic and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up. It wasn’t long before the old donkey, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well! What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him all because of how he handled his adversity.  

Lessons for self-improvement 1

Choice, not circumstances, determines your success. A path with no obstacles would undoubtedly be most people's dream come true. But an anonymous author once said, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.” Obstacles refer to the challenges of life. They come in the form of problems, disappointments, loss of a job, opportunity, or relationship. They are an inevitable part of life. But contrary to what most people think, obstacles are necessary for everyone's path. When you examine the story, you will notice the very thing that threatened to bury the wearied donkey was the same thing that served as footholds for it to use to step up and be saved. There are importunities in your struggles, crisis, and very circumstances that seem to destroy you. There are examples of people who have overcome obstacles to live their dreams. Look around, and you will find scores of people who have gone through this phase before eventually succeeding. The difficulties we face will either defeat or develop us depending on how we respond to them. Winners use the difficulties they encounter and the struggles they face as stepping stones to climb up. They have the attitude of the donkey in the story. Losers, on the other hand, allow their struggles in life to embitter them. They complain and whine about their circumstances. Life is going to shovel dirt on you. But you also have a choice when it happens. Become a victim of your circumstances, or use them instead to grow and become victorious.  

Lessons for self-improvement 2

“You may not be responsible for getting knocked down, but you’re certainly responsible for getting up”- Jesse Jackson. When faced with adversities, some people grumble while others seek to dodge them. Others too choose to pretend that the problems do not exist. They behave like desert ostriches. It is said that when there is a sandstorm in the desert, the ostrich buries his head in the sand hoping that the storm will go away if he ignores it, and finally gets buried under a heap of sand and dies. This ostrich attitude has caused many people to always miss out on opportunities. Let's think outside the box a bit. Is it possible the donkey prayed out for help as we sometimes called out to God to save and help us out of our situations? The donkey expected his master to let down ropes and pull him out. But that was not what the master did. He instead responded to his prayers with shovel loads of dirt to bury him. Is it possible the farmer's approach to the donkey’s plight was not to bury it even though it seemed like it? Maybe his mindset was by letting down enough dirt, the donkey can convert the shovel loads that landed and bruised his back into stepping stones and be able to step up and be saved. God sometimes answers our prayers the same way the farmer responded to his animal predicament. That is why often the answers to our prayers don’t always come in the manner and directions we expect them to come. When you pray to God and ask for bread, sometimes he sends you a stone. He knows when he gives you bread, you will again ask for another tomorrow. In that stone, he has placed in it a precious mineral that can feed you a lifetime. Just like the donkey played a part in his own rescue, God also expects us to act by uncovering the treasurers in the challenges and difficulties he sends us. A poor man is someone who Passes Out Opportunities Repeatedly. There are abundant opportunities in our struggles, challenges, and setbacks but not until you respond positively toward them you will never see the blessings in them. Most of what we think are challenges and setbacks are actually opportunities in disguise.  

Lessons for self-improvement 3

Focus on solutions. Problems may knock you to the ground. If it doesn’t destroy you, don’t let it define you. If you’re facing a setback or working on picking your way up off the ground embrace the attitude of the wearied donkey. Instead of lying there helpless, blaming everyone else, focusing on the problem or overtaking by the circumstances and letting the winds of life push you hither and thither, focus on remedies. Fix whatever can be fixed, learn whatever lesson you can take away from the ordeal, and then move on. This simple shift in mindset can spur you on towards success. None of us want to face problems. But it is your ability to solve problems that determine your potential for success. Poor people and losers think every problem has a spiritual undertone. Something must be responsible for their troubles. And because they view problems as insurmountable obstacles, negativity always clouds their visions, and blocks out potential solutions. That is why they always want to run away from their problems. Forgetting that running away from their problems is a race they will never win. Some pray away their troubles. Forgetting that when God takes away their problems, he also takes away the opportunities those problems bring. The surest way to conquer your challenges is to develop a solution-oriented but open mindset. Just like the donkey, you have to anticipate your breakthrough with an open mind as it may come in a direction you did not expect.

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Jude Aziz

Physician Assistant, Author, Entrepreneur, Medical Blogger, Life and Business Coach, Founder / CEO peFHEW and Telemed Consult