4 Habits that will Make Your Every Day Experience More Valuable than College

Growth and learning from your most challenging experiences can help you to excel

This article is part of my series on growth after trauma or other difficult experiences. For other related articles, see the links at the bottom of this article.

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If you have faced trauma or other difficult experiences, more than likely you have learned to take away something from your experience. It’s not that trauma, depression or anxiety, addiction, or crippling shame make you a better person, but when you can learn from your experience you will come away stronger than you were before. According to Richard Tedeschi, PhD, estimates are that about one-half to two-thirds of people show grow from their experience.

“People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life,” says Tedeschi

Growth and learning from your experience may feel like it happens outside of your conscious control, but there are several things that you can do to make growth come more naturally.

According to PTSD United, 70% of us have experienced at least one trauma. If you dig into the statistics, you soon realize that trauma is not without its impacts. According to the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, trauma is compounded. If you experience more than one trauma, then you experience greater impacts:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Greater susceptibility to stress
  • Increased risk of mental health issues, addiction, aggression and family violence
  • Increased stress in your approach to parenting, and as a result…
  • Potentially passing on unhealthy coping strategies to your own children
Growth and learning from your experience may feel like it happens outside of your conscious control, but there are several things that you can do to make growth come more naturally.

4 Habits that will make your experience more valuable than attending College

1.Acceptance and being flexible rather than being angry or upset when things don’t go your way – allowing yourself to face your experience as it is rather than how you wished it could be is one of the most important habits that you can cultivate. This includes:
  • Being honest with ourselves about what we have lost or about what we have experienced – the good, the bad and the really, really bad
  • Being able to name and notice our feelings and whatever else we are experiencing
  • Appreciating areas of personal strength, skill and competence learned through our life experiences

If we have grown from other experiences, we will find a way through whatever we are facing today.

2. Openness to your present experience – This can also include bringing a sense of curiosity or wonder to your life. Difficult experiences, challenging people, trauma, setbacks and failures are unique. No two are alike. It may be easy to fall into thinking how “I always, I never, I cannot…” but bringing a sense of curiosity can help us to expand what we see or notice, what we feel and think.
  • Awareness of how other’s respond differently to similar experiences
  • Appreciation for how they find their own unique ways to cope and to grow
  • Being compassionate and finding ways to give back to others
  • Learning that you are not alone
  • Reconnecting with what is important to you
It may be easy to fall into thinking how “I always, I never, I cannot…” but bringing a sense of curiosity can help us to expand what we see or notice, what we feel and think.
 3. Willingness to reach out – If you are an extrovert, you have an advantage because you are naturally social. However, us introverts can also learn to be socially attuned even though we are quiet. Even if it is reaching out to one person, whether they are a friend, a family member or a professional doesn’t matter. The more likely that we are active in response to our challenging experiences, the more we seek out connections with others – the more we will grow.
  • Finding commonalities with others who have experienced similar things
  • A willingness to share your experience
  • Practicing empathy and compassion to others
4. Understanding how your mind works – After a difficult experience your mind will ruminate. Rumination  means a few things: “Thinking deeply” and “Mentally rehearsing or rehashing your experience.” After any difficult or traumatic experience, your mind will rehearse, rehash or think deeply. Ruminating about your experience does not have to take you deeper into sadness or a negative, closed mindset. Our minds look for something to think about, so giving our minds something to do can involve:
  • Acceptance of intrusive feelings or memories without being deterred by the content
  • Getting help if the feelings, memories or thoughts are disturbing or unrelenting, effecting sleep, health or well being.
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Maintaining a focus on the present, on what is actually happening right now. Even for a few minutes, several times a day can make a difference
  • Engaging your life as it is with a sense of acceptance
  • Looking for what is rather than rehearsing what used to be

Take a moment to ask yourself what habits or practices help you to learn from your difficult experiences? Maybe you journal or travel or engage in causes that matter to you? I would love to hear about how you learn through challenging setbacks, experiences and other difficult situations.

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Collier, L. (November 2016). Growth after trauma: Why are some people more resilient than others—and can it be taught? American Psychological Association. Vol 47, No. 10. Print version: page 48

Cryder, C., Kilmer, R., Tedeschi, R. &  Calhoun, L. (2006). An exploratory study of posttraumatic growth in children following a natural disaster. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 76, (1), p. 65– 69.

Harris, R (2015) ACT for Mindfulness and Trauma. Psychwire.

Taite, R. (March 13, 2014)Posttraumatic growth: Addiction as positive transformation. Psychology Today.

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You may want to read some of my related work on the subject:

Being Inflexible is the Most Unhealthy Response to Your Situation

How Men Face Their Trauma

How to Heal from the Victim Mentality

This is where I am supposed to write some serious stuff about myself. But in reality, I just hope that you enjoy what I write. I hope it makes you smile, makes you feel a little lighter and enjoy your life a little more. Nope, it’s not therapy, but I am sharing the good stuff… the stuff that helps me.

If you like it, sign up for my blog and share my work. And if you want to go the extra mile, click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photo by Agnes Scott College

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