How Problems Can Lead to Happiness

Problems Lead to HappinessProblems result in happiness?

Say what?

Sounds crazy, I know, but just hear me out for a second.

Think about it. If you were happy, content, and secure all the time, then you wouldn’t grow, learn, or change. You wouldn’t discover who you are and become a stronger person.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

A life well lived does not mean an easy life without any problems. Real happiness comes from loving and helping others, learning life lessons, personal growth, and a sense of achievement from reaching worthwhile goals. All those things come with problems, challenges, and obstacles that are meant to be overcome to help us become better persons and, yes, to help us find happiness.

Learning Life Lessons from Problems

Problems 2When you’re going through a challenging experience, why not ask yourself how the experience will make you a better person, stronger, or more loving? If you can adopt a more positive attitude about your problems and stresses and what you learn from them, you just might discover happiness along the way.

For example, as readers of my blog know, I am caring for my mother who has a form of dementia that is a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Without a doubt, this has proven to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done so far in my life. You can read about some of my struggles in my blog, Grieving for a Parent with Dementia.

What has this experience taught me and how is it making me grow as a person? Caring for my Mom has shown me how to depend on God more fully, to be more empathetic and patient, and helped me develop the important quality of endurance. To be sure, this is a journey and I am still learning all these things and there is plenty of room for improvement. But the fact remains, I’m learning some important life lessons along the way even though it is a tough and painful path.

Maybe you’re going through an agonizing divorce. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that divorce is a blessing in any way. As I’ve personally witnessed from my son’s divorce, it is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Divorce takes a devastating toll, ripping families apart, adversely impacting the lives of children, shredding self-esteem, and ruining finances. I also believe that all marriages except those involving repeated infidelity and abuse can be saved if both partners are motivated and willing – which admittedly in some cases may be lacking.

So, if you find yourself getting a divorce despite all your efforts to save a marriage, what can you learn from this painful experience? Plenty. While helping your children get through the divorce, maybe you become a better and more loving parent and come to value your time with them even more. Perhaps you’ll realize that you lost your own identity in your marriage and divorce allows you to find yourself again. When you find happiness again – and you will – you will be a stronger and more resilient person for surviving the experience.

If you’re unhappy or stressed by a situation, maybe those feelings are telling you that it’s time for a change. If a situation cannot be changed, allow navigating and overcoming problems to mold you.

Happiness Can Be Achieved Despite Problems

Problems 3

Remember that problems can’t hold your happiness hostage. It is your life and your choice. Your life can be great, no matter what problems you’re facing, because you opt to see it that way. As I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, happiness depends on your outlook, not on your current situation.

Even if things aren’t perfect right now and problems abound, you can still enjoy those small moments of joy everyone experiences in every day. As I suggested in my blog, Savor the Day, stop, take a deep breath, and take note of everything around you – the beauty, the people, the smells, the sounds. Take time to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, the laugh of a child, a hug from a friend, the sound of a bird singing, or the smells after a rainstorm. Savor simple things like the first spring day in your garden, the kindness of a stranger, or that first sip of coffee.

A good reason to smile is always one thought away. Think that thought. As a quote I saw says: “Sunshine is good for your teeth.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, patpitchaya, and Feelart at


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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10 Responses

  1. This: “Happiness depends on your outlook, not your current situation.”


    Thanks for the clear reminder.


  2. It’s called emotional resilience and you’ve provided several excellent examples Julie. We may not be able to control our life circumstances, but we will always have the ability to control our attitude and how we respond to those circumstances. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Thanks for a nice reminder of something so, so important, Julie (and something that can be difficult to access “in the moment”). Brings to mind a meditation I sometimes use with patients–the theme is “Where is the blessing in this?” (A helpful question to ask myself during rough spots too!)

    • juliegorges says:

      “Where is the blessing in this?” is a great question to ask ourselves when we are encountering problems and challenges. The answer is not always apparent, but it’s there! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for a great reminder that out of every challenge or tragedy comes a life lesson we can learn if we are open to it and have a positive mindset. Attitude sure is everything! Enjoyed your thoughtful words! -Stacey

    • juliegorges says:

      Yes, attitude is everything, as you said. Reminds me of this quote I saw on Pinterest: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.” Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing a comment, Stacey! Much appreciated.

  5. Julie, sometimes it’s very hard to see the lesson when you are in the middle of the problem and trying to figure out your immediate gut reaction. When it’s gets too overwhelming is when it’s so important to step back and see what lessons are coming your way – and understand your strength for getting through it – and how you are growing because of it.

    • juliegorges says:

      So true, Diane. Sometimes when you’re in an overwhelming situation, you need to remove yourself long enough to gain perspective, calm yourself, and regain your composure so you can move forward, as I wrote in my blog, Recovering From Stressful Events.” As you said, only then can you understand the inner strength and endurance you have and the personal growth that will result. Thanks for your insightful comment!

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