Want to be a leader of extraordinary proportions and world changer for something better? Don’t limit yourself — and your potential — to a life of comfort, security and untested ease.   

To illuminate a simple truism borne out by history, I’m employing the wisdom of C.S. Lewis: “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.” 

When I was growing up, we openly acknowledged life’s challenges and hardships. We heartily endorsed them as rites-of-passage to building character and promoting personal growth. Adults back then were often viewed as such because they had braved dangers, overcome difficulties, innovated beyond limitations or acquired an inner resolve to stand up time and again after several failures and falls.  

Surprisingly, we’ve lost sight of that simple, age-old wisdom.  

We are no longer reminded of the value of hardships. We’re not encouraged to learn how challenges help refine untested egos, expand our capabilities or fortify our personal constitutions.  

Today’s all-pervasive media culture continually promotes just the opposite. We’re sold concepts like easy credit, instant gratification and personal entitlement. Most curious and undermining, we’re repeatedly offered the notion of blame apart from responsibility. The unfortunate outcome is a false sense of self and a tenuous sense of our common reality.   

Those bound by an aversion to hardship today cannot be counted on to stand up during hard times or demonstrate higher ideals in moments of crisis. A weakened, blame-focused culture can hardly expect the extraordinary in themselves — or in others.  

Denied an awareness of the building blocks to character, civic responsibility and short-term sacrifice that leads toward greater long-term gain, people remain small, fractured, frail — and frightened.  

Looking back on life so far, I wouldn’t want to revisit the hardships I’ve come through. I’m not misty-eyed about being bullied, undermined or sabotaged in my past. I don’t wax nostalgic over health issues, personal setbacks or the times I’ve been socially ostracized. Like others on the path to self-growth, I’ve swallowed the fears, sustained the blows and endured the humiliations. With much of it in the rear view window, I’d prefer not to dwell on such personal trials.  

However, facing rather than avoiding those “hardships” has strengthened my mettle and matured me into something more equipped for today. Unlike my former self, I can now walk through doors, approach authorities, confront injustice and petition for change. I can be counted upon by others who need a voice like mine, but have yet to discover their own.      

Back to the original words of C.S. Lewis, it’s time we again tell the truth about life and share it without apology.  

If we expect an extraordinary society, extraordinary people and extraordinary destinies, we need to remind ourselves that hardships are building blocks toward that end.

The next time hardship knocks at your door, think twice before running for cover. Consider it instead as your catalyst to step up, speak up and grow up.

Be encouraged and know that testing helps each of us thrive and, ultimately, find true peace and happiness in this world.

 Maura is an International Speaker on Self Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

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