Initially the title of this article may seem as if it runs contrary to your common sense. After all, we all hate to struggle. Dealing with difficulties in life can be scary, frustrating and exhausting. No one looks forward to going through one of life’s rough patches, but we should. I haven’t mastered this yet, but I’m certainly trying. I’m trying to embrace the challenges I face in my life rather than curse them. The reason for this is simple. I’ve found over and over again that it’s my struggles against the obstacles I face that are my biggest teachers and offer the greatest opportunities for self-improvement.

Like all of us, I have many struggles in life. One of my biggest struggles is living with the knowledge that my transplant will not last forever. I live each day with the knowledge that someday, probably sooner rather than later, my transplanted organs will fail. The average lifespan of transplanted lungs is somewhere between three and five years. I just celebrated the five-year anniversary of my transplant.

If the statistics are accurate, I am not likely to live to see my fortieth birthday. That said, I realized a long time ago that I couldn’t lead a productive and happy life if I was constantly worrying about when I would die and so I do my best not to think about it, but sometimes I fail. Every once in a while it hits me that if my wife and I have children I probably won’t be around to see them graduate high school. I won’t live long enough to retire. I won’t have grandchildren.

The way I deal with this is by remembering that every obstacle in our life can teach us something. There is something to be learned from every seemingly negative experience. So I look at my shortened life expectancy as an opportunity to remember to live each day more fully. Life is a journey, but not in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike the wise men’s journey to Bethlehem, or a runner’s journey to a finish line, life’s journey is not about the destination, it’s about the journey itself.

Life’s journey is like a vacation to a foreign country or a great meal at a five-star restaurant. We don’t do these things for what we get at the end; we do them for the experience. Life’s isn’t about getting from Point A to Point B, unless Point A is one state of being, and Point B is a more evolved state of being.

Rather than thinking about life’s hurdles as obstacles that we have to leap over or find a way around in order to get to the finish line, try thinking of them like the waves of an ocean that crash on the rocks and slowly shape them into what they will become. It is your struggles, not your successes that make you who you are. Cherish them.

Action Item
You will face challenges in your life. You will struggle. These are facts of life. It’s important to understand that struggling isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a side effect of being alive. If you’re struggling it’s because you’re being shaped into a better, more compassionate human being.
Spend some time this week making a list of the three things that you’re struggling with right now. Examine each problem to see if you can find some hidden opportunity. Ask yourself:

• What can this issue/problem teach me about myself?
• Why am I facing this problem? Was there something that I could or should have done to avoid it?
• Do I face this problem (or something similar) often? What does this tell me about me?

Author's Bio: 

A heart and double-lung transplant recipient and marathon runner, Mark Black is the founder of Mark Black Speaks, a company helping people to realize their potential and "Live Life with Heart" since 2003. In the past three years Mark has had the opportunity to share his inspirational message with thousands of people from across Canada.

Born with a life-threatening heart defect, Mark underwent two open-heart surgeries before the age of one. But it was twenty-two years later when Mark faced the greatest challenge of his life. His doctor informed him that his heart was failing badly and at just 23 years old, that he had only a few years left to live. His only chance, a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant.

In October 2001, Mark moved thousands of kilometres from home and was put on the transplant waiting list. After just four months on the list, Mark's condition grew worse and he was placed in the hospital where he stayed for SIX MONTHS. Finally after almost a year on the list, Mark received his second chance at life.

Since receiving his second chance at life four years ago, Mark has worked tirelessly volunteering his time to promote Organ Donation Awareness so that more Canadians can get a second chance at life. His work has included free speeches to educate people about donor awareness, as well as volunteering as the Vice-President of the Canadian Transplant Association. Mark's dedication to the cause of organ donor awareness earned him the prestigious YMCA Peace Medallion in 2004.

In his 29 years of life Mark has worked in a coffee shop, as a teacher, an actor, and a call centre representative. But after putting his life on hold for over a year waiting for his transplant, Mark realized that life is too short to work at something you're not passionate about. Mark has a deep desire to help others live every moment of life to the fullest because as Mark says, "Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone". So, in 2002 Mark became a motivational speaker and has been sharing his message and his passion for life with audiences ever since. His ability to inspire an audience has made him a regular guest speaker and motivator for the Running Room. His programs are in high demand for high school assemblies, university orientations, and corporate conferences. His past clients include insurance companies, professional associations and branches of government.

For more information about Mark's programs, or his new book, "Live Life from the Heart" go to