Three Things We Can Appreciate About Problems

(ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. Try the exercise at the bottom after! 🙂 )

Hello, fellow human being!

Since you’re old enough to read this, I’m guessing you’ve already lived on this planet for a decent number of days, and statistically speaking, at least one of them probably didn’t go the way you thought it would. I’m also guessing that this resulted in a fair bit of mental discomfort.

If I’ve got that right so far, then this post is for you.

I’ve been on a few trips recently, and several of them didn’t go the way I wanted them to in at least one way. My brain being the analytical addict that it is, I’ve been giving this quite some thought. I always try to find a reason to appreciate a bad experience, so that I don’t have to just settle for being unhappy with it for the rest of my days.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a page about how annoying things aren’t really annoying, inconveniences are actually the best thing ever, and changes to your plans are the secret key to your life happiness. I’m not saying that we should smile when bad things happen to us, but there are at least three good things that can come from them.

They Make You Adapt

Whether it’s the capricious weather, a bus that just pulls away as you arrive panting to the station, or annoyingly loud flatmates, trips usually offer at least one opportunity for you to adapt. I say “offer” and “opportunity” because, even though we are creatures who like to plan meticulously, we are also only who we are today thanks to all the times we had to throw our plans out the window!

Think about it: which experience do you think would shape you more? A day when everything is perfect, there’s sunshine and rainbows and everyone says and does exactly what you want them to, or a hodgepodge of spilled coffee, lost reservations, and broken umbrellas?

We don’t like to admit it, because we’re perfectionist beings. We want to have it all together, and therefore no mishaps should happen to us. But if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably at least a little interested in personal development, and the truth is that progress never happens when everything goes well. So you don’t have to jump for joy when things go wrong, but in hindsight, appreciating those moments for making us into better people is the best way to get rid of the bitter aftertaste.

They Keep Things Interesting

I try to be as thankful as possible for the unexpected and unforeseen things that come up, not just when traveling but also in everyday life. After all, a Netflix show where everything goes smoothly for the hero/heroine without any hiccups is not a show that we would watch for long. Imagine your favorite romantic comedy without the misunderstanding, the betrayal, or the fight! We would leave the cinema scratching our heads and wondering what the point of the movie was. The same goes for every fiction book out there. And as much as we strive for perfection, the same goes for life too.

It may feel harder to accept when it’s you who’s inconvenienced, but problems and obstacles are precisely what make our stories interesting. I know this is difficult to realize in the heat of the moment, but think back to all the problems you had last month, big and small. Chances are, nearly all of them got resolved long ago. The problems you’re having now almost surely will too, so we might as well try to enjoy the bumpy ride. At the very least, you’ll have more to share with your friends back home.

There’s Always A Silver Lining

I started writing this section, then I realized that I basically already covered it in the previous two, because becoming better humans and having a more “adventurous” experience are already a pretty thick silver lining, if you ask me. But to dumb it down, everything bad has a small bit of good in it. Sometimes this is a lesson learned, or the opportunity to bond with someone who helps you out. You just have to want to look for it. Whether everything happens for a reason is up for debate, but I think if you’re growth-oriented, you can find a reason for nearly everything that happens.

Well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far! Do you have any other helpful lessons from trips gone wrong? Share it in the comments and let’s help each other grow! 🙂


ESL Notes (20 words / expressions)

fellow: this word was also used in the post called How to Stop Wasting Time. Fellow is used to refer to someone who has the same job or interests as you, or is in the same situation as you. (In this case, saying “fellow human being” means we are both human beings — obviously). Another example from Cambridge dictionary: “our fellow travelers were mostly Spanish-speaking tourists”. (Back to the text).

a decent number of: on its own, “decent” means socially acceptable or good. In this case, a decent number means a fairly large number. Meaning, the number is not huge, but it’s not small either — it’s something in the middle, which could be considered a large number, but not too large. (Back to the text)

quite some: to be giving something “quite some” thought means giving something a lot of thought. Quite some is a polite-ish way (of course depending on tone as well) to emphasize a quantity. Another example: “I’ve been waiting for quite some time” (meaning, I’ve been waiting for a long time). (Back to the text)

settle for: if you settle for something, it means you accept or agree to it, even though it is not what you wanted or not good. In my example, of course being unhappy is not what anybody wants and is not good, so if someone accepts being unhappy, they are settling for it. (Back to the text)

capricious: changing suddenly or unexpectedly. If the weather is capricious, it might be sunny one minute, then rainy the next. (Back to the text)

pull away: if a car/bus pulls away, it means it was parked or stopped and then starts to move (in other words, it starts to drive). (Back to the text)

panting: breathing very heavily, from heavy exercise. (Back to the text)

meticulously: in a way that shows great care and attention to detail. (Back to the text)

shape: to influence the form of something. If an experience shapes you, it changes you — it makes you into who you are. (Back to the text)

hodgepodge: a confused mixture of different things. Another example: “Rob’s living room was a hodgepodge of modern furniture and antiques.” (Back to the text)

have it all together: have everything under control; everything goes well for you. (Back to the text)

mishaps: a mishap (pronounced mis-hap) is an accident or unlucky event. For example, “A series of mishaps led to the nuclear power plant blowing up.” (Back to the text)

come up: to happen unexpectedly. For example, “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to come to the party this evening, something important came up at the last minute.” (Back to the text)

hiccups: hiccups literally are the loud noises you involuntarily make (look it up in the dictionary because it’s difficult to explain without demonstrating it). It can also mean a small problem, which is how I used it in this text. Note that a hiccup is a *small* and temporary problem, not something that has serious consequences.  (Back to the text)

the same goes for: the same rules applies to someone else. For example, if two children called Mary and Joe were fighting over a toy, the parent might tell them, “Mary, you have to respect other people and share your toys so everybody can play. And Joe, the same goes for you!” So, she told Mary she has to behave a certain way, and then told Joe that he has to as well, the same rules apply to him as well. (Back to the text)

as much as: you’ve probably heard this in comparisons before: “my textbook costs as much as yours does”. It can also mean something like “even though” – “as much as we strive for perfection” is similar to saying “even though we strive for perfection”, but as much as sounds a bit stronger. (Back to the text)

strive: try very hard to achieve something. (Back to the text)

think back to something: remember something that happened in the past. (Back to the text)

silver lining: “every cloud has a silver lining” is a popular expression that means that every bad situation has a little bit of good in it. (Picture a very dark storm cloud, but a little bit of sun shines from behind it which makes a beautiful line of silver light appear at the bottom. The dark storm cloud represents the bad, the “silver line” the beauty / good that comes with the bad). (Back to the text)

dumb it down: to say it in a very simple way. (Back to the text)

bond: to strengthen a relationship. (Back to the text)


Want to start using these words and make sure you don’t forget them? Try this exercise! Think about these questions (discuss them with someone) or write down your answers, using the word or expression in your discussion or answer.

  • Do you have a lot of books? Movies? Shoes? Watches? Ties? Do you drink a lot of coffee? Do you take a lot of photos? Try to answer some of these questions, or make other sentences using “a decent number of…“.
  • What’s something you’ve been waiting quite some time for? (a promotion, a vacation, a reply from someone…). Could you say that you haven’t seen a movie or read a book in quite some time? How about made a cake, gone to a concert, gone to a club, etc.? Make some sentences.
  • Do you know anybody who is highly qualified and skilled, but who has settled for a mediocre job?
  • Do you have children, or know anybody who has children, who are capricious? (meaning they change moods or behavior suddenly and quickly).
  • Has a bus ever pulled away from the bus stop just as you arrived there? (therefore making you miss the bus?)
  • When you climb lots of stairs, do you arrive at the top of the staircase panting for breath, or do you have great stamina?
  • Do you clean your house meticulously? Do you know anybody who does? Do you plan your vacations meticulously?
  • Do you believe that bad experiences help to shape us into who we are?
  • Do you tend to wear clothes of a particular style, or is your closet a hodgepodge of very different styles? Do you know anyone whose house is a hodgepodge of different furniture colors and styles?
  • Do you have any friends who seem to have it all together?
  • Can you think of an event where any mishaps happened? (the microphone or sound system didn’t work, the presentation would not load, etc.)
  • Did you ever have to cancel plans with a friend because something important came up?
  • Did any hiccups happen during your last trip?
  • Can you think of any person that you don’t particularly like? Make a sentence where you say something good about them, using “as much as“. For example, “As much as I don’t like John, he is a very hardworking employee.”
  • Do you always strive to do your best? In school, did you strive to get the highest grades?
  • Do you always try to find a silver lining in every bad situation?
  • Did you have to read any difficult literature in school? (for example, Shakespeare, or books comparable to Pride and Prejudice). When you read them, did your teachers dumb them down for the class?
  • At your job, do you do any team bonding activities? Do you think traveling with friends is a great way to bond?

Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply! 🙂

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