post written by: Marc Chernoff

25 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough

25 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.  Because it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
―Maya Angelou

Oftentimes things have to go wrong in order to go right.  In fact, if the road you’re traveling is always easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.  Some part of you knows this is true.  Nevertheless, when life gets especially rough, it can be hard to remember.

So print this post out and let it remind you that, in the darkest moments, every failure is only a necessary step toward success, every discovery of what is wrong directs you toward what is right, every arduous trial today exhausts some tempting form of future mistake, and every adversity will only hide, for a short time, your ultimate path to happiness and success.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when life gets rough:

  1. It is your resistance to “what is” that causes your suffering. – Remember, happiness is allowing yourself to be perfectly OK with “what is,” rather than wishing for and worrying about “what is not.”  “What is” is what’s supposed to be, or it would not be.  The rest is just you, arguing with life.  Think about that for a minute.  This means your suffering only ever occurs when you resist how things are.  You cannot control everything that happens to you; you can only control the way you respond to what happens.  In your response is your power.
  2. Where you are right now is a necessary step. – Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on our ideals, that it is not where we should be or want to be.  But the truth is, where you are right now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow.
  3. Not getting what you want can be a blessing. – Yep, not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of good luck, because it forces you to reevaluate things, opening new doors to opportunities and information you would have otherwise overlooked.
  4. Things will change (again) sooner than you think. – You’re not going to avoid change.  Change is the process of life itself.  In fact, everything is changing every single minute of our lives.  However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.  That’s the one thing you can count on.
  5. You have to be specific about how you intend to move forward. – Don’t be someone who goes through greater lengths to avoid change than you do to obtain what you desire.  Your life will begin to improve when you define precisely what “improve” means to you.  The agonies and frustrations will start to ease only when you have something real and positive to replace them with.  Be specific.  Happiness is not a goal, it’s the result of a life well lived.  The question is:  How do you want to live going forward?
  6. You can’t change situations you don’t take responsibility for. – Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  Don’t let this be you.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you surrender power over that part of your life.  (Read Awaken the Giant Within.)
  7. Your attitude can improve your situation, or degrade it. – No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.  Remember this.  You can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude.  When negativity controls your thoughts, it limits your behavior, actions, and opportunities.  If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, you would never think another negative thought again.
  8. Other people’s negativity isn’t worth worrying about. – Truth be told, what others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.  Don’t take things too personally.
  9. Anger is poison. – Always forgive people and move on, even if they never ask for your forgiveness.  Don’t do it for them – do it for you.  The best medicine is a strong dose of love, laughter and letting go.  Just like we would never allow even a tiny bit of poison to be in our food, let us not allow even a tiny bit of anger to live in our heart.
  10. You are strong enough to rise above this. – Don’t allow your temporary wounds to permanently transform you into someone you aren’t.  A strong person is not one who doesn’t cry; a strong person is one who cries for a moment openly, and then gets up and fights again for what they believe in.
  11. Your struggles are the path. – You are not what you have done – you are what you have overcome.  Your struggles aren’t found on the path – they ARE the path.
  12. You have to rough it and risk it sometimes. – Life is inherently risky.  But there is only one risk you should avoid at all costs, and that’s the risk of doing nothing.  Get out there and make something happen, even if it’s just a small step in the right direction.  Strive for progress, not perfection.
  13. Failure you learn from is always a step forward. – When he was working on inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  In other words, he believed he never once failed at inventing the light bulb, he just first found thousands of ways that it didn’t work, which led him to the one way that did.  So take your so-called “failures” and learn something from them.  Learn how to do it better next time.  That’s what’s important.
  14. Finding the lesson is the key. – A happy, effective mindset is really dependent on perspective.  If you think something is a problem, then your thoughts and emotions will be negative.  But if you think it’s something you can learn from, then suddenly, it’s not a problem anymore.  In almost every case, nothing is stopping you, nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts and ideas about yourself and “how life is.”
  15. Everyone has their own challenges… everyone has their own journey. – It is meaningless to compare one with the other.  We all need our own time to travel our own distance.  It’s perfectly OK to be different.  Today, the only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.
  16. You really are pretty amazing. – Even when life gets rough, you need to be willing to bet on yourself.  It’s the one investment in the world you can control better than anything else.  YOU are worth it!  (Read Choose Yourself!)
  17. Being kind to yourself is the best medicine. – Your self-worth has nothing to do with your craft, your calling or your success, and everything to do with how you treat yourself.  Always be kind.
  18. Being kind to everyone around you is imperative too. – Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.  Be kind whenever possible.  And realize that it is always possible.  What goes around comes around.  You know this.
  19. Letting others in when you’re in a dark place helps. – No, they won’t always be able to pull you out of the dark place you’re in, but the light that spills in when they enter will at least show you which way the door is.
  20. Gratitude improves every situation. – Even in the most peaceful surroundings, the ungrateful heart finds trouble.  Even in the most troublesome surroundings, the grateful heart finds peace.  Remember this.  There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.  Life is better when you’re smiling.  Being positive in a negative situation is not naive; it’s a sign of leadership and strength.  You’re doing it right when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.  Ask yourself: What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for today?
  21. Rough times help you appreciate the good times. – If everything was always smooth and perfect, you’d get too used to that, you know?  You have to have a little bit of chaos and disorder in your life now and then.  Otherwise you will never really enjoy it when things go right.
  22. All the small victories are worth celebrating. – Sometimes we forget to pause and appreciate all our little victories.  Remind yourself: It’s the small things done well that make a big life.
  23. It’s OK to give up on things that aren’t getting better. – Move forward with no second-guessing, no guilt trips, no hesitation.  Your purpose is to let go and then recreate yourself anew in each moment.  There’s a big difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.  Sometimes we have to move on to move forward.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  24. You are not trapped; you just need to re-learn a few things. – We all have doubts that make us feel trapped at times.  If you doubt your ability to make a life-altering decision, to take on a new chapter in your life, or to fend for yourself after years of being overly-fostered, consider this:  Surely if a bird with healthy wings is locked in a cage long enough, she will doubt her own ability to fly.  You still have your wings, but your muscles are weak.  Train them and stretch them slowly.  Give yourself space.  You’ll be flying again soon.
  25. Great things take time. – By all means, find ways to be more efficient in your work.  But make no mistake that it takes diligent effort through good times and bad to build something worthwhile.  There are certainly some success stories out there about people who excelled rather quickly, but you will often find they had put in years of related work long before anyone was paying attention to their seemingly rapid success.  In other words, their current state of achievement is simply all those years of work coming together flawlessly in the present.  So start every morning ready to run farther than you did yesterday and fight harder than you ever have before.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.


One of life’s greatest gifts is the fact that life is difficult.  Because in dealing with life’s difficulties, we build invaluable strength.  This strength enables us to successfully fulfill our deepest, most meaningful purposes.  It is precisely because life is difficult that we are able to make it great.  It is because life is difficult that we are able to rise above the difficulties.  We are able to make a difference and we are able to truly matter.

So keep this in mind:

When times are tough, you must be tougher.  Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a tough one that leads to greatness.

The floor is yours…

What do you try to remember when life gets rough?  What thoughts, beliefs, quotes, etc. give you the strength you need to take another step forward?  Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Photo by: Jack Fussell

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  • The thing that always helps me is remembering that we have the ability to choose and control our thoughts and everything really starts there.

    It can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by emotions. Sometimes there seems to be nothing I can do to move on. This is where physical techniques like changing your physiology tend to help — getting up, walking around, speaking loudly in an excited tone, etc.

    Thank you for this article. It is something that I will use as a tool to help me find a way through the darkness when it sneaks up on me.

  • The most empowering thing to realize is that no matter what you have been through in your life…as an adult, you have the power to make a healthy choice and not let any person or situation get the better of you…you are stronger than you think and the human spirit is capable of the impossible! Believe it!

  • One way of totally cutting out the noise when life gets rough - because mental noise is the plague of positive, productive thinking - is to simply meditate and be present. To remember that this moment is all I can control. I used to think it was woo-woo and kind of lame, myself, but after going through insanely rough times, I can say that presence is the best medicine. Everything afterwards is like seeing in HD. Reality as it is, and not what your mind would like to see.

    As I’ve said before, your “1,000 Little Things” book has been instrumental in getting my mindset right. I’ve used it religiously for quick daily reminders (reading or re-reading a page or two). And “The Power of Now”, which you often recommend on this blog, is what helped me learn to practice presence. So thank you, again.

  • One of my favorite things to remember when life gets rough is that when one door of opportunity closes, another opens. So I focus on not trying to beat down that closed door, which gets me nowhere, but instead to look around and see where there’s another one opening…

    As J.J. stated, this is based on keeping the right mindset. You really have to maintain a conscious level of thinking to see that door opening. Which is precisely why articles like this and books like yours (and the ones you recommend) are so important for self-improvement and wellness.

  • We like to keep in mind that things, states, thoughts and feelings are only temporary! We also like to remind ourselves that there is a greater will and design that goes beyond what we see before us. This helps put our circumstances into context. We firmly believe that life happens FOR us and not to us. Thank you for this post and these great reminders!

    Tasha and Tanika writers for A Beautiful Patience

  • Thank you for this article, it reminds me and assure me that I’m going the right way, trying to make life more positive and happier for my family and myself. :)

  • Beautiful! Thank you for sharing all of these tips! I love them all!

    Lennae xx

  • The bird example in 24 is most impressive. Oftentimes, we get used to a bad behavior not because of our weakness, but because of fake fear at the beginning. This wrong panic, gradually, roots a wrong believe in our mind that we can’t do that.

    I love you both. Thanks for your precious effort.

  • Raziuddin Shaikh
    August 18th, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Many many thanks to you for such a brilliant article. I really needed these re-assurances to give me a boost.

  • Thank you for this, it couldn’t have come at a better time!

    A quote that I turn to often is one by Nelson Mandela. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

  • One thing that makes the difference for me in rough times is the believing deeply that it will never last forever. The attitudes one cultivates during these times are very important and crucial to making it through. Wonderful piece of writing

  • Thank you for all the great reminders! The Maya Angelou quote at the beginning of the article was one I used to have printed and pinned to the wall of my cubicle at work while going through a divorce a couple of years ago. I think that gratitude has been a really revelatory one for me to learn and also that nothing lasts forever - good or bad. Thank you for all the suggestions!

  • Thanks for the great post. Everytime I come to your site, I get my pen and pad ready, because I know I am going to take some notes!!

  • Americans spend a lot of time on “winning.” Sports, work, home, and even religion. It’s a high focus on being successful on someone else’s terms, perceptions, checklist or scorecard. We all want the shortcuts, the quick and easy way, and immediate gratification.

    Thanks for all the reminders!

  • Another great list, guys. When things get hard I just try to remember that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. I just try to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts or feelings get the best of me. That’s easier said than done sometimes but it does get easier with practice.

  • I appreciate these words and I’m truly thankful. These simple reminders free my mind from the negativity and doubts. You have really remarkable lessons for me to think about whenever I start doubting myself or my ability to succeed at anything.

  • Thank you for these words of wisdom. They came at a good time for me.

  • I just wanted to say that probably one of my biggest mistakes was to revolve all my world and happiness on one person who I thought was my “soulmate.”

    You can’t force someone to love you the way you love them, and most important…never lose yourself in the process of loving someone else.

    It’s been 2 months now since we broke up and the pain is still there…but I feel stronger and have hope of finding love and happiness again.

  • I have seen similar lists, but never so comprehensive and put together so clearly. This is so impressive to me, it will be something to read over every morning as I begin a new day. I need to form new habits, vs sittin, thinking and contemplating. It is totally up to us. We certainly need to be doers.

    Thank you for your continuing inspirational expressions that are so meaningful to so many.

  • These tips are great. I definitely will read this every morning before work.

  • Very powerful post, it has added such value to my day. I thank you for this.

  • I am going thru a rough patch right now and this article has helped me. Thanks.

  • Very inspiring..great work..

  • All of these spiritual truths were understandable and helpful until I lost my daughter unexpectedly a few years ago. I try to read back these truths, but it is hard to be grateful..with the exception that I had her 28 years.

  • I always look forward to your e-mails and your posts. This one hit home. A lot is real common sense, but life surely does get in the way of us seeing clearly. One item that makes each of us struggle as individuals or in a group is lack of information. In the absence of “facts”, i.e. what you or the group accepts as the truth, usually the worst case scenario rises.

    I have Autoimmune Disease which ultimately resulted in the loss of my thyroid due to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I was diagnosed 2 years ago although I had suffered with the disease and misdiagnosis (very common) since 2008. There is no cure for autoimmune disease nor is there anything that can be done for my thyroid. I will be on medication for the rest of my life. Because my autoimmune system has been permanently compromised, I have a much higher probability of getting other diseases such as cancer and it is very likely that other glands, organs, or tissues, will be destroyed. I have lost another gland since my initial diagnosis and will be on lifelong replacement therapy for it as well.

    My point: When I received my diagnosis of “chronic autoimmune thyroiditis” as it is now called I asked my doctor how? He said it was genetic. What he did not say was that it was a symptom of a much bigger issue I had. Why? I have to ask him next time I see him. I have to have questions based on facts so that we can have an open discussion. However, had I not wanted to know everything I could about what I was diagnosed with I would still be in the dark. Unfortunately, for any of you that are suffering from this disease or have a loved one who is you know that there are no answers. In fact, what you find is that there is a lot of controversy on how to best manage autoimmune disease, on what the cause is, why doctors continually fail to diagnose it correctly, and most importantly what you can do. It is not a high quality of life to be frank. However, the more knowledge you have the better you can prepare yourself mentally for the rode ahead.

  • i loved number 19, 24, and 25….if u work hard today, work harder tomorrow and make it worth….

    thanks a lot

  • Inspiring. Will read this over and over as I continue to pray for divine strength as I face my challenges and trials in life.

  • I LOVE this! Thank you so much for this post.
    Blessings xx

  • Loved it! The last line of #20 is fantastic!!!

  • Beautifully written! I, too, will print the list and read it every morning. Each list item is a helpful tool to get through the day. Having just made a major household move, I’m currently in a state of chaos. I get through the day by opening one box at a time and putting each item in its new place. Such as my boxes…I open one door and close another in an effort to find where I belong.

    Thank you!

  • I just want you guys to know, you are touching and helping improve a life in Nigeria (Africa). This words of wisdom go farther than you can ever imagine. I love and appreciate you guys. I’m always on this blog, I never joke with the posts I receive in my e-mail. Please keep it up. We need you.

  • While I do enjoy reading M&A, I do find it at times ‘absolute’ in content. The comments section is often nothing more than a woo woo cheering chorus. Is there room for some specific Discussion and idea sharing? There are many stories out there about people who have suffered immense and unfair tragedy, while others do not. I read this morning about someone in my city, Toronto, who has lost two sons in separate years in separate accidents. The list could go on. Also to mention ongoing and specific trauma such as mental illness, chronic poverty, disadvantages in life because of one’s looks or abilities etc. Any ideas to share?
    David J

  • Abdallah salum massoud
    August 19th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Hi, fantastic post!!! one thing I remember when life gets rough is that gratitude improves every situation - there is always something to be thankful for. The postive thoughts, beliefs, quotes, etc gives me strength I need to take another step forward And failure that we learn from always is a steps forward.

    And yes, I really i am pretty amazing. :) Thanks.

  • Thanks for the unusually inspiring posts each time! I actually had been having a tough time and these things you write here manage to cheer me up every time.

  • PS: In fact I actually have a shortcut icon to this website on my phone!

  • This is an interesting and inspiring article, although it might be more encouraging if I hadn’t had a temporary setback today.

    Although I work to live positively every day despite adversities I’ve had, it’s difficult sometimes to accept the continual commentary that failure is good for you and will lead to something else. I’m still trying though.

  • thanks for such inspiring thoughts….
    this will help me to get out from the frustration

  • I have always said; I am resilient because of the life I have lived. Our experiences are just that experiences and have allowed be the ability to see things from many different perspectives.

  • I am so grateful for all the support and advice you share with us… so many I want to write in my journal. God Bless You Both…

  • I really needed to read this today. Mainly number 25 and 19. I’ve been having some dark depressed moods lately and have been wanting to give up. It is always a good reminder to keep going and realize that all good things take time. I am also trying to learn how to let people in during these times but it is so difficult to trust people. One step and one day at a time though.

  • Choose beliefs that serve you. (Hint: Yes, you can [and do] choose your beliefs; and beliefs that serve others, serve you as well.)

    What you focus on expands and becomes your reality. Be careful what you focus on and focus on what you want to create and become. If you focus on what you don’t want, that is exactly what you will get.

  • Attitude of gratitude. The only people that need a doormat are people with dirty boots.

  • Thank you guys, reading this article helps a lot. I’m going through a rough patch now. The man I thought was my soul-mate broke my heart I was full of bitterness, but now I feel better and am trying to thing more positively about the future.

  • When life gets tough, I think about my ancestors who survived slavery in the United States, back in the 1800’s and Jim Crow racism in the U.S. in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s. I also think of my grandparents who were children during the U.S. depression of the 1930’s. According to the history books, those times were very, very “hard” times for people and families. I realize that if they were able to survive those times, I can make it through any of these hard times. I have an Internet connection, cable TV, 2-3 computers, a place to live, transportation and food. I try not to complain with a loaf of bread in my hand. If they were able to survive during excruciating circumstances, I can survive anything. Thanks.

  • What always helps me whenever I’m feelings overwhelmed or stressed or stuck in a pit, is to ‘believe in the flow.’

    Which basically means to remember that everything will be alright in the end, and not to stress or worry over every little thing that goes wrong, or is not how you anticipated.

    Life is random and unpredictable, but it’ll inevitably take you to an amazing place if you simply stay positive and believe.

  • Wow, I can’t believe how closely this resembles the stuff I talk about on my show. My friend pointed me to your site, and I’m so glad he did. Excellent post. I may have to credit you guys in future episodes, because there’s a lot to expand upon here. I love talking about this stuff.

    Again, great stuff.

  • @Cheryl: Death of a loved one unexpectedly is one of the hardest challenges to accept. It’s not a matter of overcoming the pain but appreciating the memories. Like you said, you’re grateful for the 28 years. As Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

    @David Johnston: Remember, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Don’t assume the stories behind the “woo woo cheering” comments are any less devastating than those who choose to share their personal experiences. Regardless of the tragedy, all these strategies are helpful in bringing you back to a happier place.

    @Linda: Way to put it in perspective. :)

    @All: Lots of food for thought. So many quality take-a-ways to help with the inevitable “tough” days. Thank you, as always, for sharing with us.

  • This is going to sound ridiculous most likely but this is what I do. Whenever I’m faced with something that’s hard on me, and life seems more difficult than normal through no fault of my own, I just ask what is the worst thing that could possibly happen? Obviously the worst thing would be dying, so… the real question is, will this kill me if I try this new thing to get out of the slump? Likely no, unless it involves jumping from a high place sans parachute, or something else equally unadviseable. So yeah it goes back to that old saying, “That which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger” and I think to a point, that is true. If we don’t persevere through the tough times, we cannot enjoy the peace thereafter.

  • Check out this book “Shift Happens” by Robert Holden.

    I was really struggling with depression and it really helped reading this book.

  • A great, well thought-out article, especially like #11. Your struggles ARE the path.

  • I LOVE what you two write! Thank you for being you. My life has never been easy and it continues to get harder, the older I get. Yet you put it so simply in this one statement, “Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a tough one that leads to greatness.”

    I sent that quote to my 19 year old daughter whose Dad died in December unexpectedly (my husband) and we are really struggling in every way possible. Thanks for giving me hope :)


  • So many awesome points! Loved the article especially #20 Gratitude improves every situation. When the moments is tough there is always someone worse off… just push on and be grateful you can!

    Thanks for this great post :D

  • @David Johnston: David, thank you for your insight. I would welcome any sharing of ideas, stories, or discussions on any topic if you would care to post. I agree with what you said about the real difficulties of life and I believe those things should not be overlooked. By sharing or discussing real struggles or tragedies, you may be helping someone like myself who is experiencing life struggles, and who oftentimes has difficulty talking about them. For me, reading other people’s posts helps me to identify what I need to work on and change, and most importantly, open up about. Thanks again. I hope you got something out of this!

  • I’ve had 8 years that have been very challenging for me - sometimes things were okay and other times immensely painful. I’ve lost a significant family member or friend every year for the last 4 years. Now after 10 years at the same job, I just found out that it’s ending in December - and for reasons that i can’t understand or explain.

    I’m trying to be in a place where I’m thankful for the experience and also for the opportunity to get a better job. I’ve needed to leave my current job for a few years now and have been stuck due to fear and inaction, frankly.

    I can’t tell you how much your posts mean to me as i go through this time. You are a blessing in disguise and I hope you, Marc & Angel, know that.

    Anyway, I needed this today because I find myself sliding back into lots of negative self talk which makes life seem like I’m walking through molasses in those moments. I bookmarked this article (and should print it out) and plan to read it every time i start to feel down. It reminds me that I’m not the only one going through hard times and also that I have gone through many hard times and still can smile and laugh.

    That has to mean something.

  • One of my favorite things to remember when life gets rough is that when one door of opportunity closes, another opens. So I focus on not trying to beat down that closed door, which gets me nowhere, but instead to look around and see where there’s another one opening…

  • When I was a lot younger and sometimes would complain about how tough things were, or how my life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, my grandma used to say something to me that I still remember well.

    “Tommy,” she’d say, “you’re not dead yet.”

    My wonderful old grandma has been dead and gone a long time now, but her words of wisdom still stick with me. As long as I’m not dead, I’m still alive, and I can change, things can change, good things can happen.

  • This is a wonderful article! Quotes I love are:

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

    “There is no need to run outside for better seeing…Rather abide at the center of your being; for the more you leave it the less you learn. Search your heart and see…The way to do is to be.” –Lao-Tzu

    “We all have within us the ability to move from struggle to grace.” –Arianna Huffington

    “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort and letting it be there until some light returns.” –Anne Lamott

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