"If life gives you a lemon, make a lemonade" goes a wise old adage.
Easier said than done! At least not as easy as holding a half cut lemon between your fingers and giving it a good squeeze or running it on a citrus juicer until all the juice up to its core is squeezed out to its last drop.
The lemon that is handed over by life comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and shades. It is never as straightforward and round and plain yellow as a lemon. The lemon of life could be as huge and devastating as lost job, failed marriage, severe and sudden financial loss or as small yet severe as a moment of embarrassment, cancellation of an important appointment, unexpected delay of flight or just being stuck in a traffic jam! And the worse thing is that there is no invention that can help you squeeze the juice out of such lemons.
I have developed a method of my own from my own experience that I have had of making lemonades of so many lemons that I was handed by my life. So many that at one point my life seemed to me like a whole orchard of them!
Recognize the Lemon by its Juice
Oftentimes, when problems arise and we are in the midst of it, we become pre-occupied with its real or imaginary consequences. Hence it is easy to forget and even accept that the problem we are going through is in fact the proverbial 'lemon'. This happens because once in the midst of the problem our mind is more focused on the negativities and the devastating consequences of it. In fact, many times it is only natural that this happens when we are actually experiencing and going through the negative consequences. However, it is possible to train the mind even when it is experiencing the worst, to look for the potential for something positive in the very circumstances and situation that is a problem. Unless and until you are able to see the potential for its juice, there isn't any lemon and therefore there also isn't any prospect of making lemonade.
For example, you lose a job for whatever reason and immediately your mind starts thinking and self-questioning and criticizing -
'How long am I going to be sitting unemployed?'
'How am I going to pay my bills until I find another job?'
'Will I find another job as good as this one?'
'What will my family and friends think of me?'
While you are pondering and brooding over all these questions, most of which are not invalid and are indeed very much relevant and justified, just pause and stop and in addition to questions of worry, also ask
'What opportunities does this situation (that of being out of job) provide to me?' Or
'What are the benefits of being out of job?' Or
'How can I turn this into an opportunity for something positive'.
Your answer to the suggested questions may be something like -
'I can spend more time with my family'
'I can do the personal project that I have been putting off due to lack of time'
'I can go and pay a visit to my parents/loved ones living away'
'I can get myself into shape'
With such thoughts, the idea of being unemployed and jobless will suddenly not appear as bad as it was when you first faced the truth. You will be amazed to find how many benefits there could be however painful and problematic may the situation be. As soon as you realize and recognize the potential opportunities - the proverbial 'juice', you will also recognize and begin to see the problem as the 'lemon' that hides beneath its skin the opportunities that are waiting to be tapped.
Focus on the Juice not on the Skin
Having made the effort to recognize the 'juices' - the opportunities, it helps to keep yourself focused on them rather than the negative effects until you are ready to start the actual process of making the lemonade. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it helps you cope with the problem by minimizing its negative impact on your state of mind and secondly it enthuses the mind and prepares it to turn the potential opportunities into real. In other words, when you focus on the 'juice', the problem is no more a problem. It becomes a situation with opportunities. The moment you begin to realize this, that's when you are ready to make the lemonade.
Apply twist of creativity and imagination to squeeze the juice
Now to the actual process of squeezing the juice out of the lemon. Focus on the potential opportunities hidden within the situation and start thinking about how can you make them real. In other words how to make the lemonade. Creativity and imagination are to real life problems what a citrus juicer is to the lemon. Use them to think of all types of ways in which you could realize the potential - conventional ways, non-conventional ways, ways that are absurd, not so absurd, wild, even those that seem impossible and outright outrageous! Just remind yourself at the moment - you are only thinking and coming up with ideas - not actually taking action or doing. Therefore at this stage, do not put any barriers on your thinking process by limiting yourself to think of only do-able ways and also try not to pass any judgment on the ideas that you come up with at this stage. That's what thinking creatively and using your imagination is all about. Once you have given a free-range thinking - you will most certainly be able to see a way or combination of ways in which you can turn the potential opportunity into reality. And when that happens you will realize the truth about problems being blessing in disguise.
Let me share with you some examples of how ordinary and laypersons like my friends and me made lemonade of life's lemons and used our creativity and imagination to turn a problem into an opportunity for something worthwhile '-
A friend of mine suffered from 'bipolar disorder' - a mental illness that is difficult to handle as well as carries a social stigma. However, he did his best to deal with his illness in a positive manner and became an activist and spokesperson for mentally ill people. Whatever he learnt from his illness, he shared them with others with similar illness. Whatever negative he experienced, he worked towards dispelling the myths associated with mentally ill people.
When I was doing the first year of my engineering degree, I very badly flunked in a core subject called Applied Mechanics even though I loved the subject and had worked hard. One of the reasons of my failure, apart from my own weakness, was that the lecturer who taught that subject was although a brilliant engineer but he was a very poor communicator (which was not an uncommon finding in the faculty of engineering at the time until more women began to be recruited on the teaching staff). I felt frustrated and also could not afford to join expensive coaching classes like my other fellow students did as a solution to the problem.
Consequently I failed miserably. It felt terrible as 'failing' a subject was considered something very shameful and unthinkable by my fellow students. As I had to repeat the subject, I mastered Applied Mechanics and became more thorough in it than I ever was. Taking advantage of my mastery I began giving tuitions to the first year students and I enjoyed it so much that at the end of my final year, I even produced the entire course of Applied Mechanics in a video format and sold the videos to interested students and engineering colleges. The day when it was screened following which I received positive feedback from students and academics as well as my first order for the video, I realized my 'failure in the subject' was indeed a blessing in disguise. It was a lemon waiting to be turned into lemonade and thankfully I was able to see the hidden juice and recognize the lemon and with some creativity and hard work also managed to make one heck of lemonade.
I am sure if you look around yourself or look back on your own life you will find many such small and big examples where you or someone you know may have turned a lemon into lemonade. Keep these examples in mind when faced with challenges and problems of life, follow the technique I have suggested and I bet not only will you become an expert at making lemonades but will heartily welcome a lemon in your life as well as you welcome life's mangoes or strawberries (or whatever happens to be your favorite fruit).