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I didn't sign up for this! Where'd my happiness go?

We’ve all found ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming. We’re alone as a result of a relationship that’s gone wrong, or we suddenly find ourselves unemployed because our employer downsized or closed, or we sit across from the doctor who’s breaking the news to us about a life-altering diagnosis.

Genetics, pollution, or some other thing outside of our control can produce lung cancer in a person who has never smoked. Other life-altering diseases can strike people who have always made healthy life choices.

The person who ran the red light and hit us has now impacted our life although we did nothing wrong. We were following the law, minding our own business, yet here we are, sitting in the middle of the intersection in the wreckage of what used to be our car.

We try to be good people. We try to make good decisions. Yet, despite our best efforts, the decisions of others can change our lives.

Despite the fact that we have free will, even when it feels like we’re in control, we’re really not. We’re on this big, blue ball with billions of other people, some of whom have the ability to make decisions that directly or indirectly impact our lives. And as much as we might try, we cannot always predict or prevent the actions of others that effect our lives.

It sounds dark and hopeless, but it is not.

The good news is that we always have control of the way we choose to respond to the things that happen that we didn’t cause, didn’t plan for, didn’t want, and that we wish hadn’t happened. And even better, we have the ability to find meaning and purpose in everything.

As my good friend, Amber Jewell, LMSW, author of Finding Hope--the art of healing from hardship, hurt & sorrow, says, “life is tough, but so are you.” We have more strength inside of us than we think we do. We are more resilient than we think we are. (Amber should know because she survived severe child abuse and grew up to become an awesome wife, social worker, foster and adoptive parent, author, speaker, and good friend.) And as long as we’re still alive, we’re still in the game! There is a purpose for every life—even when we can’t understand the WHY of the adversity we’re facing.

It usually doesn’t help to ask “why questions.” Of course, we all want to know WHY, but spending much time on this is usually a waste. Asking the driver who hit us why he did it won’t get us very far (especially if he didn’t survive the crash). Asking why someone doesn’t love us anymore is never going to result in a satisfying answer. Asking our former employer why we were chosen for the layoff is probably not going to result in us getting another paycheck.

The best response to the inevitable times in our lives when we’re faced with something that we didn’t see coming is to somehow, some way find hope. Hope empowers us to find our resilience. Resilience helps us find our courage. Courage helps us take the next step, and the step after that. And those steps will eventually lead us right into our new life. And here’s the best part—your new life may be happier, more peaceful, and more fulfilling than anything you experienced before your personal “planet shift.” Why? Because you’re wiser now than you’ve ever been before.

Successfully navigating through a painful situation and figuring out how to find hope and meaning has a way of making us more empathetic, more compassionate, and kinder. This experience gives us a different perspective and outlook. Our expectations and aspirations are different. We’re far better focused on what’s truly important after we’ve grieved our loss, found hope, and moved forward.

When you find yourself in the messy middle of something that you didn’t sign up for, remember to find hope and hold on to it for dear life. My friend, Amber’s book, FINDING HOPE—12 keys to healing hardship, hurt, and sorrow, can help.

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Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because Of What You've Been Through (featured on The Today Show), as well as 14 other books, used the coping skills from her abusive childhood to create personal and professional success.

She built two successful businesses, then turned her attention to helping others to find their purpose and their authentic success. Rhonda is the founder of the Successful Survivors Foundation, and she is the national champion of the Love Is Action Community Initiative. More info can be found at


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