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


  1. Debbie2 says

    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 :)


    • chasity says

      My dad passed unexpectedly 11/29/11. My mom and dad were together for 28 years. We were both so lost. I even lost my faith in God! But one day we went to a Christian grief counseling and it helped tremendously with my grief. I still miss him very much and the pain is still grand but this class helped me deal with grief in the proper way. I will keep you and your daughter in my prayers.

  2. says

    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 😀

  3. Joy Jarman says

    @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!

  4. MaryAnn says

    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.

  5. Rrajeshh Rathod says

    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…

  6. says

    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.

  7. Patty Stout says

    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

  8. Jane says

    When the going gets tough, I make sure that I have support from other people. I have learned to be extra kind to myself when I need some shelter. I use positive language to overcome my negative thoughts.

    Here are the phrases from this post that spoke deeply to my heart.

    No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.what others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.You are not what you have done – you are what you have overcome.But there is only one risk you should avoid at all costs, and that’s the risk of doing nothing.Today, the only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.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.Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a tough one that leads to greatness.

  9. Michelle says

    My life so far has always been a fight. My father passed when I was in college, my career isn’t going in the direction I would like, and now my husband and I are separated and we have a 3 year old. Wonder when things will ever get better. and if I’ll ever be able to smile again. Thank you for this article, I really needed to hear this and will keep it whenever I feel down.

  10. says

    It is normal for us to have trials, struggles, and problems in life. Life will be boring without this. First and for most you should know the root of the problem. You can never solve a problem if you kept on complaining and blaming. Second, relax your mind. You can think well if you are bombarded with different thoughts. You should clear up your mind. Third, make a plan on how you could solve it. Analyze the problem. It’s just like Science and Math. Maybe you have different ideas on how to solve it but there is only one way to get lost of it. You cannot run away from your problem. No matter where you go it will always be with you. Never let that problem destroy you and control you. There is something waiting for you after that storm. Just don’t give up.

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