My husband, Yuri, likes to say that life is either a celebration or a lesson. I think that this is one of the best philosophies, because then we can truly see life as the gift that it is.
Yuri and I have been married since 2010, and we used to argue so much in those first few years. At the time, we didn’t know that it was possible to disagree without arguing. We knew that it was common for couples to argue, so we honestly thought that having arguments in a relationship was normal, even healthy.
In a way, we weren’t unhappy with each other. We were unhappy with the problems; the frustrations we felt toward each other indicated that we must have felt that the other person was the source of the problems. There were differences that created friction every time we tried to talk about issues that arose.
It was only when Yuri and I started to see our disagreements as opportunities to learn more about each other that the way we communicated changed. We stopped fighting when we viewed the differences not as problems, but as welcome opportunities to learn more about each other.
Not fighting doesn’t mean we have no problems in our relationship. It means that we can actually talk about what is wrong without accusing the other person of being at fault.
When things are going well in our relationship, it is a celebration. When things aren’t going well in our relationship, it is a lesson. Either way, we win. This small but subtle shift in perspective gave our relationship a solid foundation on which to base our work—because we stopped feeling frustrated when we were unhappy, and we started to instead see our disagreements as a way to help us learn more about ourselves and about each other.
This perspective applies to everything in life.
We all know that life is never perfect. To be born into this world, to be alive, is to experience challenges and difficulties. We know this, yet we often despair when life isn’t going well.
We know that people are not perfect, that to be human is to err. Yet when people behave badly and show us their imperfections, we can get really upset.
When we really think about it, we start to wonder what it is that causes us so much unhappiness. Is it people? Is it the circumstances? Or is it our reluctance to accept the reality of what being alive means?
If we can accept that life is either a celebration or a lesson, then our perspective toward our personal challenges and difficulties will shift. This doesn’t mean that we will never feel sad or upset, it means that when we do have problems, we are able to see them as opportunities to learn something valuable about ourselves.
When I was producing and hosting on a radio station, I would often come home really upset from the challenges that I was facing with the people at work. One day, Yuri said to me, “Didn’t you say that one of your goals in life is to grow as person? Well, the universe must have heard you, because it has given you this challenge to learn from and grow.”
That stopped all my moaning, complaining, and feelings of self-pity. It got me thinking. He was right—if life does not present us with challenges, how are we to grow as people? If we are never tested, how will we know the level of our strength?
My challenges with my co-workers didn’t disappear overnight, but my perspective on those challenges completely changed. My problems were not problems anymore, they turned into welcome challenges. The situation had not changed, yet my feelings toward the situation had shifted, which made such a difference in my happiness.