Paddy Upton

6 Lessons From Shovelling Shit

Resilence building

On Christmas weekend, I visited my sister and parents, who I hadn’t seen for a number of months due to touring with the Indian cricket team.

I had asked my sister, Nicky to arrange some different or interesting activities around the Stellenbosch/Paarl area where she lives.

For the first morning‘s activity, I was told me to bring old clothes for a ‘Boot Camp’ type activity. She woke me early, and at 7 AM the two of us headed off on our first outing.

It turned out that the grooms at the local horse stable were on holiday, and my ‘different’ activity was to spend three hours cleaning the stables. I literally spent my Christmas morning shoveling horse shit.

Of course Nicky found this very funny.

It got me thinking about the fact that we all get to shovel shit in our lives. Difficulty, testing and unfortunate situations happen, often when we least expect or want them.

We have no choice about whether shit happens to us, but we can chose how we deal with it.

Here are six lessons that came to me that morning, at least one of which will most likely be relevant for you, and hopefully useful.

Resilience building 2

1. Acceptance.

When you fully except that “shit happens“, then it’s no longer shit – nothing’s actually ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ – it’s just life happening. Smile – welcome to being human.

2. Humility.

Sometimes when life’s going really well, shit happens as a necessary dose of humility. Consider that maybe it’s your turn to shovel some shit. This was my lesson that Christmas morning.

3. Empathy.

There’s always people around us who are dealing with difficulties. Know this, and have some empathy. You don’t have to feel bad for them, guilty because you’re ok, or to try and rescue them. Everyone gets to shovel shit in life – it’s an important part of learning and getting stronger. Let them know you’re there for them, but let them shovel their own stuff.

4. Gratitude.

It’s easy to be grateful for all the good things in our lives. This is ‘soft’ gratitude. Meaningful gratitude happens when we are grateful for the challenges, difficulty and shit that happens, and for the important lessons and growth that this adversity provides. When you can be truly grateful for this, then what started as bad shit becomes good shit.

These last two are particularly relevant for when we it feels like our life has become one of constant struggle and difficulty. When it feels like we’re stuck.

5. Perspective.

When your difficulty lasts longer than expected, we can lose perspective, thinking that our entire life has been consumed by adversity, and that it will never stop. This happens when we focus only on the bad. Pick your head up look around and ask, honestly, where are things actually working in life.

Review your relationships, your family, your health, your brain functioning, your physical body functioning, and notice how the sun still comes up every morning and the birds keep chirping. Don’t ignore difficulty, but hold it only in one hand, and look at all the good stuff in the other.

6. Take action.

Stop shovelling. Change your thinking, change what you’re doing, change your situation, actively do stuff differently, and keep doing this until change happens.

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