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It may not be easy, but choosing growth is the way to go. If we must struggle, find a way to gain something in the process

There is always something – something to challenge us, worry us, harm us or push us out of our comfort zone. Nobody goes through life without facing some sort of adversity. If you are currently enjoying a respite from difficulties, cherish it because at some point, the next challenge or trial will hit.

These words are not intended to paint a doomsday scenario for life. Although it may seem bleak, this is not a glass-half-empty message. Instead, it is a reminder that life is comprised, from birth to death, of moments that challenge, push and ultimately have the potential to mold us into stronger and better people.

Consider students who are pushed to the brink mentally and psychologically as they advance from one grade to the next. They are regularly fed new information, taught how to process it and then tested on their mastery of the subjects before they can move onto the next and more complex episodes of their education. It's tough, it's mentally draining and straining, but when they march up to the stage, donning a cap and gown and get that diploma, it's all at once worth the pain.

Athletes get pushed to their physical limit, suffering through grueling practices that leave them exhausted. But once the competition begins, many find that the preparation, difficult as it may have been, pays dividends and leads to success.

Currently, life seems to be running our community and our society through the wringer. There is much to complain about, and it has come out in public forums, social media posts and media reports. The COVID pandemic rages on, Oregon is facing significant drought concerns, and it seems that people and leaders in the country have become more divided than ever.

Admit it, if you had a magic wand and could make all these large-scale problems disappear, you probably wouldn't hesitate. These past couple years have been especially tough. Why stick with it? What could we possibly gain? Let's just wipe the slate clean, right?

But alas we don't have a magic wand – and maybe that is for the best. The fact is, these challenges, substantial as they are, give everyone facing them the opportunity for personal growth. There is a certain benefit and satisfaction that comes with overcoming obstacles, and people tend to learn from trying times. How many times has someone endured the fallout of a mistake and later summarized it as "a good learning experience?"

In fact, a published author, Mark Manson, went so far as to suggest we should embrace challenges and trials and welcome negative moments. Why? Because that is when growth happens. We are not shaped by the good times when things are easy, he said, so we should embrace the tough times and the improvements that follow.

Of course, this is a very tough way to approach life, especially while dealing with a worldwide pandemic, escalating political strife, drought, homelessness, drug abuse and more. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to learn from and grow from the adversity we face. What good would it do anyone when we come out the other side of the pandemic having learned nothing nor gained any new insight or problem-solving skills? The whole experience becomes an unpleasant waste of time.

Might we come out of this with a better view on personal hygiene – maybe we all do a better job of avoiding colds and flus. Perhaps we will learn the value of social interaction or time with family. Maybe some of you have learned how to get more politically involved and rally around a common cause.

And while we are thinking about a post-pandemic world, it should be mentioned that other unforeseen challenges and difficulties will follow. It doesn't matter what your political persuasion is or what your personal background or core beliefs happen to be. Decisions will continue to get made by leaders, present and future, that make one group of people happy and upset another. Adversity will continue to strike each of us as well as our community and country. There is always something.

And with that comes an important choice: embracing the adversity and growing through it or continually wishing it away and just enduring the misery in vain. It may not be easy, but choosing growth is the way to go. If we must struggle, find a way to gain something in the process.


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