For six months in 2019, I drove around Europe. It’s been an incredible experience and one that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do.
However, to say it has been without its difficulties would be wrong.
When we were driving into Valencia, as we were about to park the car, a funny thing happened.
The steering wheel became very hard to turn. Instead of the easy motion, it took to normally park the car, we had to work the steering wheel to get the car parked.
We put two and two together and deduced for whatever reason the power steering had failed. Upon further inspection of the car, we discovered a belt close to the engine was snapped.
In the heat of the moment, we thought it was the timing belt that powered the engine, and there was a real possibility the engine was beyond repair.
As we got to Valencia on a Friday night, no mechanics were open until Monday. We would have to spend longer in the city than we intended.
We were in an unfortunate situation, but there was no point wallowing in our misery. We decided to make the most of a bad situation and enjoy ourselves while we were in Valencia.
Bad circumstances crop up in life all the time, but every time they do we have a choice about how we approach them. Do we wallow in self-pity, or do we accept that these situations are a part of life and make the most of them?
Make The Most of Every Situation
After we discovered the issue with the car, I was disheartened. If the timing belt was broken, the car would not be going anywhere in a hurry.
We could potentially be stuck in Valencia for quite a few days. Although I liked the city, I didn’t want to be there for a week or longer!
After an hour or two, I accepted the situation. There was no point being down about the car, it was now out of my control. There was nothing we could do until Monday. We might as well enjoy ourselves in the meantime.
It turns out that we had a great time despite the car being out of action. The hostel we stayed in at Valencia was very lively, and we met a lot of great people there.
We could have easily wallowed in our pity, but we took it upon ourselves to have a good time regardless. We went on a few night outs with people at the hostel, we explored the city, and we had fun.
This was all despite the cards we were dealt with. It wasn’t the worst thing that the car broke down, as it allowed us to have such a good time. Had it not, we may have only been in Valencia for a day or two, and we would have missed out on some fun experiences.
Life is too short to wallow in your misfortune. There will be unfortunate circumstances throughout all of our lives. This is something that we can’t avoid. No amount of money or preparation can prevent this.
It is not the circumstances themselves that matter it is how we react to them that matters. It’s easy to get down and grumpy, but it’s a lot harder to accept the situation for what it is and move on.
In the end, our car was not as broken as we thought. It was not the timing belt that was broken, it was the auxiliary belt, which powers the air conditioning and power steering.
We got the car to a mechanic on Monday and by Tuesday morning it was fixed. After thinking the car was almost beyond repair on Friday, it was back to normal on Tuesday.
We often think things will turn out worse than they do. It’s just a normal reaction for some of us to jump to the worst conclusion. Sometimes, in situations like these, all we need is a clear head and a bit of perspective.
No matter how bad we think maybe, and however bad they become, we can always make the most out of these situations if we choose to.
The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius is one of the most respected and revered of Rome’s emperors. Despite these posthumous accolades, he probably didn’t want to be Emperor if he had his choice.
He spent the majority of his reign away from home engaged in wars. It’s unlikely this was how we would have wanted his reign to pan out, but pan out this way it did.
However, it was from these lengthy wars that Marcus was to write one of the most important and influential books of all time. The funny thing is that this was never his intention. The notes, which became known as Meditations, were intended to be private notes for himself.
In one of these notes, Marcus wrote a profound passage that is essential advice for anyone that finds themselves in unfortunate circumstances.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
The proof of Marcus’ words is in the fact that they exist at all. Had his reign gone the way he would have liked, in peace and at home, he may have never written a word. We may have never had access to the thoughts of the most powerful man in the world at that time.
The only reason they exist is that he was stuck somewhere he didn’t want to be and he needed something to occupy his time. Marcus decided to study his conscience to keep himself occupied, in normal circumstances he might not have bothered.
Marcus’ story is a reminder to us all that life never goes the way we intend. We all experience unpleasant moments where we have lost control, or where circumstance conspires against us.
It’s important to remember that is how life works. The perfect life cannot exist in an imperfect world. We have to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
While we cannot control the circumstances that arise we can control our response. We can turn what is in the way into the way. When faced with adversity, we should run, instead, we should embrace it.
For it is in our most difficult moments that we find out who we truly are.