Happy People Seem to Do This Well

Donald Miller

Recently somebody asked me to help them redeem their negative turns.

Redeeming our negative turns is a major concept in the Storyline process. The question was coming from somebody who was creating their life plan using our book and my guess is it was also coming from a place of pain.

Negative turns are events that happen in our lives that shut us down or cause severe setbacks. Every great story and every great life has plenty of negative turns and they’re no fun to live through. A negative turn can be as simple as losing our job or as tragic as losing a child.

It’s important, however, to find something redemptive about every hard thing that happens to us.

In the Storyline book we give readers a huge, blank map so they can actually chart their positive and negative turns. We then ask them to circle their negative turns and find some way each painful event has benefited them.

For me, this single act of reflection was transformative. In fact I’d say it’s one of the most healing exercises I’ve done.

Viktor Frankl says when we find something redemptive about our suffering it ceases to be suffering. And he’s absolutely right.

The idea behind finding a redemptive perspective toward our suffering isn’t about becoming an optimist. In fact, it’s not about turning a negative event into something positive at all. There are very real tragedies that strike us, and there is no reason not to call them what they are: tragedies.

Finding a redemptive perspective, though, is simply about creating two lists rather than one.

Normally when something hard happens we start a running mental list of all the negative consequences. And that’s fine and normal. Finding a redemptive perspective, however, is about creating a second list, a list of the benefits of a given tragedy. And there are always benefits.

For instance, if I lose my job my mind immediately starts counting the costs. I won’t be able to make rent, I’ll be embarrassed in front of my friends, I’ll come off as needy. That’s a real list and it really hurts. But alongside that, I can also make a positive list: I hated my job but was too afraid to quit so being fired forced me to look for something better, and I also can use this time to adjust my budget so I make better financial decisions in the future.

Whether it’s a breakup, a finacial crisis, an ethical mistake or a death in the family, making two lists rather than one changes everything.

If you take each of the hard things that have happened to you and make two lists rather than one, I promise your perspective on life will change. This is what it means to find a redemptive perspective on the hard things that happen in life.

If you like, there’s a worksheet in the Storyline book that will help you do just that. That said, you don’t need the book to do this exercise. Simply write down the five hardest things that have ever happened to you, and make two lists. You’ll find, over time, your focus shifts from the negative to the positive and some people, myself included, now claim what I used to see as tragedies as honest gifts from God. Still painful, but redeemed.

I hope this brief explanation on how to redeem your negative turns helps.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is a student of story. He helps people live a better story at Storyline through this blog and the Storyline Conference. He helps leaders grow their businesses at StoryBrand, where they get an entire marketing education in 2 days at his Workshop. Donald lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Betsy, and their chocolate lab, Lucy. For regular updates, follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller) and Instagram. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.