Vintners (wine makers) know the best wine is made from grapes that have been the most stressed. Some vintners deliberately plant in bad soil, restrict water usage, plant the vines too close together, and prune frequently. There seems to be a lesson there. Or, as my Dad – an old minister- used to say, “That’d preach.”

Life started being difficult the minute our lungs took in fresh air. Babies only start crying when they are exposed to the “real world.” They leave their nice, warm cocoon into rubber gloves, bright lights, cold air, and a swat on the butt.  Welcome to life, junior.

Because life can sometimes be difficult, 60 Minutes stays on the air. So while difficulties make the news, it is certainly nothing new.  We’ve been told, “In this world you will have much difficulties.” However, if you’re like me, you do whatever you can to avoid them.

But difficulties come. We lose a job. Our spouse walks out. Our kids call from a jail cell. Illness strikes.  As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while we are making other plans.”

So what do we do with them? Belt out the song with Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive?”  Or will we thrive?

Survive means to exist; Thrive means to grow. Survive means to endure; Thrive means to prosper. I don’t want to merely survive: I want to thrive!  I don’t want to be “under my circumstances,” I want to be on top of them.

Here’s how to thrive -not just survive- life’s difficulties:

  • Interpret your own story

Imagine that someone is writing a story about your life. What will they say about this difficult time? Will you have turned it into something positive? Or is it the one thing that destroyed you?  Go one step further: Imagine you are the writer. How do you want this story to end?  People can take a lot of things away from you, but never can they take away your power to interpret your situations.

  • Grow your faith

My faith is important to me and have learned that difficult times are opportunities to grow my faith

Core to my faith system are anchors that keep me tethered

I believe God deliberately turns bad things into good. Death on Friday gives way to resurrection on Sunday.

I believe God’s spirit will give me strength at my weakest point.

  • Release your grip from things you have no control over

Too often, we expend energy on things we can’t control; the rumor mill, other people’s actions, or the laws of nature.  Expensive energy is wasted on attempts to manipulate.

  • Strengthen areas of weakness that were exposed

Difficulties have a way of exposing weaknesses and leave us a choice: Do we excuse them or strengthen them?

  • Learn something new

Take a class, develop a new hobby, apply yourself to areas so when you look back, you can associate something positive with a difficulty.  For example, I learned to play the guitar after my father died.

  • Examine core values

Difficulties have a way of taking us back to what is really important in life.  When our world crumbles, we find out whom we can trust and what matters most.

  • Tough-out the pain

There is no remedy to ease pain other than time to heal.  Embrace each stage of pain and grief; knowing that some day the pain will leave. The scar will be there, but not the pain.

I don’t want to just survive: I want to thrive.

What ways have your learned how to thrive? How are you writing the outcomes of the difficulties of your life?  I’d love to learn from you how to thrive!