In The Five Stages of the Soul, author and executive director of the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College, Harry Moody, describes an exercise he periodically asks his students to complete. First, he requests that students compile a list of the significant problems that currently confront them. Next, students are asked to number the problems in order of severity, and then to read each problem while asking themselves the following questions as they move through the list:
"Is this problem really as dire as I imagine it to be? What are its potential good points? What is the worse that can happen to me? What is the best?
How can I use this problem, these feelings of dejection or loss or futility, to understand myself better? What are these feelings really telling me? Suppose I were to think of this problem as a messenger standing at my front door with a letter. What does the letter tell me about my life, my needs, my possible course of action?
Think back to previous similar problems. Now that the pain and suffering associated with them is past, would you avoid the suffering that they brought if you knew you would be deprived of the insights such experiences provided? If so, why? Or why not?
What hidden messages are there in this for me to learn from? How can I take the suffering that life has handed me and use it as a tool for spiritual growth?..."
These are extremely helpful questions to ask when one is attempting to gain perspective, harvest experience, and formulate a course of action.