Dealing With Circumstances

Bill Abbate

The world is chock full of circumstances of every kind. Circumstances that work for or against you and affect your life. Let’s examine some of these effects and how to use them to your advantage!


Few words are as fascinating as circumstance and its plural circumstances. It is a word rich in meaning because it is all-encompassing, touching every area of life. Circumstances are a key element that affects who you are and where you are going.

Before diving into the effects and opportunities in circumstances, let’s gain more clarity on this powerful word. Its definition is:

circumstance (noun) — a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action. Oxford Languages

Beyond its definition, similar words can help us further understand its meaning. A few of these include situations, conditions, happenings, state of affairs, incidents, and occurrences.

While some circumstances remain constant, others shift and change, and new circumstances come and go. Such is life. The decades between birth and death contain countless circumstances created by you, others, and events in the world.

Some fundamental types of circumstances include:

  • Favorable & Unfavorable
  • Internal & External
  • Foreseen & Unforeseen
  • Changeable & Unchangeable
  • Controllable & Uncontrolable
  • New and old (existing)

The above twelve variables create thousands upon thousands of possible combinations. These variables allow you to develop many perspectives, which are crucial to dealing with the wide variety of circumstances in the world.

“Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881)

The greatest lesson from circumstances

The wonderful thing about a given circumstance is you can learn from it and, more importantly, about yourself.

Learning about yourself is the most valuable and life-changing thing you can do. The better you know yourself, the more you can change. As you change, your world changes, which affects your circumstances. These changes change who you are, what you create, and what you receive.

Everything starts with learning more about yourself and becoming more aware of who you are and your limitless capabilities.

As you examine your circumstances, consider the most important question to ask yourself:

What does this circumstance tell me about myself, who I am, and who I’m becoming?

“Circumstances do not determine a man, they reveal him.” James Allen (1864–1912)

Let’s look at a few scenarios from different perspectives of what you can and cannot control.

Unfavorable, external, foreseen, and unchangeable (weather, severe illness)

Much of what occurs outside of our life is unchangeable. It happens TO us. It is outside our power to do anything about it from an external perspective. This can include things like the weather. What can one do to change the weather or similar circumstances? Not much!

But we can cope with these circumstances. When a hurricane is approaching, we can get to a safe shelter. When a blizzard hits, we can stay in a protected environment. In each of these situations, we control how we protect ourselves.

Another thing that falls into this category includes when a person is diagnosed with a deadly illness. When it is someone we love, there may be little we can do about the circumstances of the illness itself. However, as with the weather, we can prepare for it. We can prepare ourselves and do what we can to help the person in this situation.

When faced with such definite outcomes, our perspective and attitude are important. Do we fall victim to the situation, allowing it to control us? Or do we find a way to deal with it, even if it is only in our minds? Another way to say this is, do we allow it to make us hopeless, or do we take control of ourselves and deal with what we can? If you have been or are in such a dire situation, ask:

What does this circumstance tell me about myself, who I am, and who I’m becoming?

We can change our view of the weather from unfavorable to favorable, so it can help us become more resilient, mature, and better protect our family. We can change it from only externally affecting our life to helping us grow internally through the good it can create in us.

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.” Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

Unfavorable, external, unforeseen, and unchangeable (job loss)

External factors often intrude on our lives. In today’s environment, things such as losing a job can happen anytime to almost anyone. While such occurrences usually seem to catch us by surprise, we may have noticed something happening had we paid attention.

Let’s say the job loss was due to factors beyond our control. The opportunity to remain employed with the company is limited at best.

Do we take it personally or as an opportunity to find a better job? We can wallow in self-pity as a victim if we want. Or do we stand upright and forge ahead into the future and the new possibilities that lie before us? This is a good time to ask:

What does this circumstance tell me about myself, who I am, and who I’m becoming?

Can we change the perspective of our job loss from unfavorable to favorable? Of course, we can. We must only desire it enough to find the good in it and learn from it so it can benefit our future!

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” James Allen (1864–1912)

Favorable, internal, foreseen, and changeable (lack of progress or advancement)

What can we do if we recognize that the workplace offers little in the way of advancement? First, determine if it is our lack of skills, attributes, or behaviors. Each of these are areas of opportunity we can work on and improve. One thing of note here is never assuming to know the answer without asking or having been told we could use some work on a particular area of life. The failure to ask occurs far too often. If we don’t ask, how do we know for sure?

You will notice I picked the term favorable above rather than unfavorable. When we recognize something internal is holding us back, we can do something about it. Such recognition can be highly favorable to your future if we correct or change whatever it is. Now is the time to ask:

What does this circumstance tell me about myself, who I am, and who I’m becoming?

We will remain stuck until we discover where and how we can improve. There is always the possibility of other companies and opportunities we can go after that may be better suited for our career. It is up to us to choose our path forward. Or not.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Stephen Covey (1932–2012)

Final thoughts

You can always make more than one choice for any circumstance in life. If you can’t change it, change yourself. Never allow any circumstance to make you a helpless victim. Find a way to go over, under, around, or through it. Or create a new situation that makes it irrelevant.

“He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper, but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to his circumstance.” David Hume (1711–1776)

You have made it this far in life, so why stop now? You can accomplish whatever you desire if you want it bad enough. All you have to do is keep learning, changing, and growing.

May the world become your oyster!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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