A key to success in this game called life is playing the hand you were dealt as if it was the hand you wanted.
In life, we are not always going to have the most perfect conditions. Every day will not always be a sunny, picture perfect day. You will have some gloomy, cloudy days as well as some brutally rainy, cold days. But it’s how we perceive and respond to these so-called “set backs” that really determine whether these bumps in the road propel us towards where we want to be or if it keeps us in the exact same stagnant place that we were in from the beginning.
Just as a flower is able to grow through a crack in the concrete, we must decide to make the best of our situations and bloom exactly where we have been planted.
I am a flower planted right underneath the concrete, fighting to make it through that one crack. My vision is clear and I may not be exactly where I want to be in life, but I know I am much closer to that goal now than I was a month ago, or better yet, even a few days ago.
Every step I’ve taken is a step closer. Closer to my vision, closer to my destiny, closer to pushing through the crack in the concrete to reach out and bloom.
I want you to understand that great things take time. Our dreams take time. In fact, anything worth pursuing calls for patience. So instead of complaining about the situation you are in, choose to embrace the challenge –
to learn from it. Allow it to sharpen your character, and you will see yourself gradually blossom to your fullest potential.
One. Step. At. A. Time.
Maya Angelou, Usain Bolt, Neil Armstrong, Warren Buffett – what do all these people have in common? Yes, they have all been very successful in life, but why? If you were to ask any one of these people, they would tell you that there is no one, giant step that gets you to where you want to be in life. In fact, quite the contrary! They will tell you that getting to the top of the mountain required a lot of patience, boldness, vulnerability, bravery, and discomfort going against the grain. At the end of the day, it’s all really very simple. One step at a time. Nothing more, nothing less. Each step you take, however tiny it may be, is one that draws you closer and closer to greatness.
I like to think of these steps as stepping stones. If you don’t get past one step, you can’t move on to the next. This is because, whether you believe it or not, that one step you are currently on has something valuable to teach you. It is to prepare you for the next chapter in your life. Every step you take is not done in vain. And when I say every step, I mean every step. Have you ever found yourself in a situation, and are constantly asking yourself why God is putting you through it?
When you find yourself in such a situation, I want you to ask yourself three simple questions:
“What can I learn from this? What area in my life is this situation challenging me in? How can I handle it better next time?”
I am one to believe that everything in life happens for a reason. We may not know the exact reason now, but soon enough it will reveal itself to us.
In my life, I have found this to be true so many times. I never knew I was going to end up in dental school, or better yet dental school in a third world country! However, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I went back and forth on the idea of going to medical school, but the little steps I took and the opportunities that came my way revealed to me that God had a different plan for me. Quite honestly, if you would’ve told me two years ago that I’d be going to a different country to study dentistry, I would’ve laughed, rolled my eyes, and not for one second believe it.
Two years ago, however, I was a completely different person. I was unsure about which path I was eventually going to take, and I wanted to be sure that the path I chose was the path that God wanted for me. When I had just graduated from high school I decided that it was time to get a job while going to school. So the first step I took was to become a dental assistant. After learning the ropes and being a dental assistant for quite some time, another opportunity then presented itself to me: to teach at a dental assisting school. I thought it would be an incredibly valuable opportunity, so of course, I took it! Now fast forward a year after, and here I am! Not only in dental school, but also in the Dominican Republic, flourishing and thriving to my best ability in every aspect of my life.
So what am I trying to say?
You see, it’s the principle of the matter. Each one of those little steps I took was not done in vain. At the time, I didn’t know why I was a dental assistant, or a dental assisting school teacher. But in every season I was in, I was like a sponge – I absorbed everything I could possibly learn from my experiences. Each experience prepared me for my next adventure and shaped me into the person I am now, and I wouldn’t ever change that for the world.
No Whining Allowed!
This is something I am constantly having to work on. But I have learned that changing my attitude towards my obstacles changes my response to them. Perception is everything. The more obstacles that come my way allow me to simply sharpen my ability at handling them.
I know it is much easier said than done. But the moment you even think about complaining, challenge yourself to stop and acknowledge what you have. Appreciate the birds in the trees, the bees on the flowers, the wind as it rushes through your hair, the finely detailed sky above you, the family and friends beside you, and God’s love wrapped around you.
I am saying this because I speak from experience.
This past month has been exceedingly challenging, but when I stood back and looked at the world through a different colored lens I was mesmerized by the beauty that surrounded me. I knew I absolutely had not one thing to grumble about. I am living in a town surrounded by people who struggle on a daily basis just to eat, sleep and shower (amongst other things), and yet, they somehow STILL manage to have some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. Instead of moping around at what they don’t have, they are enjoying their lives and rejoicing in the little that they do have. Witnessing such things breaks my heart, yet fills it with inexplicable joy all at once. It impulses me to cherish every little thing around me that much more. It makes me stop and realize, “Hey, I may not be in the most glamorous town in the world, but I do have a roof over my head. I am able to cook myself dinner every night. I am getting an education. And best of all, I am here to bless those that aren’t as fortunate. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”
I am telling you, the moment you decide to cease complaining about the petty things in life, you begin to discover yourself on a deeper level. Your happiness turns into joy, your smile gets a little brighter and your laughter begins to get a little louder. And I believe that is how we are to live our lives…beautifully, passionately, abundantly.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude towards it.” -Maya Angelou
You are blessed to be a blessing…
When I had decided I was going to the Dominican Republic for dental school, I knew I wasn’t just going for the education. I had been planted here for something much greater than just becoming a dentist. I am here to touch the lives of those around me even if it’s as small as bringing a smile to those I encounter on a daily basis; to shine so bright to draw out the darkness that surrounds me.
Within these past two months, I have come to the realization that what I perceive as tiny, worthless things, the people here see as big things. One morning, I was driving through the town to get to school, and I noticed some children on the side of the road that looked extremely hungry. I felt as though something was tugging at my heart to do something about it. So I did. The following day, I made sure to pack some zip lock baggies stuffed with crackers and a small note that said “Dios Te Ama” (God Loves You). Instead of driving past these children that everyone saw as a “problem,” I took the opportunity to perceive it as a miracle; an opportunity to truly bless those precious souls with something so little, yet so big.
There are so many ways you can be a blessing. It doesn’t have to be anything huge and you really don’t have to travel across the world to reach out. You can simply start right at your own home, at your school, or maybe even at your workplace. Offer a helping hand to those in need. Share a smile with someone you pass by. It is so simple, yet yields a reward beyond measure. I must say, until you have blessed the lives of others you have not begun to genuinely live an abundant life.
Romans 5:3-5 says…
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
When facing discomforts, remember that God is using those hardships to transform you. Why? Because it produces character. It shapes you. It molds you into who He has created you to be. And as we endure these times of difficulty, we become more and more like Him. We become more loving, patient and compassionate.
So I’d like to just remind you all to not shy away from imperfect circumstances. View low points as an opportunity for growth and as a refinement of your character. The easiest thing we can do is to be complacent with any situation that life throws at us – good or bad. But the reality of this is that complacency breeds mediocrity. Instead of remaining in the dark where it’s cozy and quiet, choose to be like a flower that blooms through the cracks. Don’t let a little bit of resistance deter you from where you need to be. Embrace it. Choose excellence one step at a time.
There is no time like the present.
Now is the time to rise up and step into all of you – including your God-given gifts and talents; the complete you, who is born to bloom. Shine bright into your fullness, wherever you are planted. Light up the way. Expand. Reach out to those who need to grow, for although we may each have different lives and circumstances, we are all connected by this: life has something to teach us ALL. Your time has come. Your time is now. Your vision is clear. Keep pressing towards your goals. Let’s get to work and bloom, bloom, bloom!
Your life is but a garden, plant it well
The seeds you sow reap a lesson quite swell
Just as a flower
You are destined to bloom
A priceless work of art
To serve a purpose as great as the moon
Far from easy it might be
For the light you will emit is for all to see
Whether in brightness or in gloom
Spread beauty wherever you go
Bloom where you are planted
There is much room to grow