It’s time for a quick story about life, gratitude, and inner strength…
Once upon a time there was a woman in her mid-sixties who noticed that she had lived her entire life in the same small town. And although she had spent decades enthusiastically dreaming about traveling and seeing the world, she had never taken a single step to make this dream a reality.
Finally, she woke up on the morning of her 65th birthday and decided that now was the time! She sold all of her possessions except for some essential items she needed, packed these items into a backpack, and began her journey out into the world. The first several days on the road were amazing and filled with awe—with every step forward she felt like she was finally living the life she had dreamed.
But a few short weeks later, the days on the road started taking a toll on her. She felt misplaced and she missed the familiar comforts of her old life. As her feet and legs grew more and more sore with each new step, her mood also took a turn for the worse.
Eventually she stopped walking, took off her backpack, slammed it on the ground, and sat down beside it as tears began streaming down her cheeks. She stared hopelessly down a long winding road that once led to an amazing world, but now seemed to lead only to discomfort and unhappiness. “I have nothing! I have nothing left in my life!” she shouted out loud at the top of her lungs.
Coincidentally, a renowned guru and life adviser from a nearby village was resting quietly behind a pine tree adjacent to where the woman was sitting. When the woman began shouting, the guru heard every word and he felt it was his duty to help her. Without thinking twice, he jumped out from behind the pine tree, grabbed her backpack, and ran into the forest that lined both sides of the road. Stunned and in complete disbelief, the woman started crying even harder than before, to the point of near breathlessness.
“That backpack was all I had,” she cried.” And now it’s gone! Now everything is gone in my life!”
After about ten minutes of much-needed tears, the woman gradually collected her emotions, stood up again and began staggering slowly down the road. Meanwhile the guru cut through the forest and secretly placed the backpack in the middle of the road just a short distance ahead of the woman.
When the woman’s teary eyes fell upon the backpack, she almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing—everything she thought she had just lost was once again right in front of her. She couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. “Oh, thank heavens!” the woman exclaimed. “I am so grateful! Now I definitely have what I need to continue onward…”
As we journey through our personal and professional lives, there will inevitably be periods of incredible frustration and despair. During those tough times, it will sometimes appear to us that we’ve lost everything, and that nothing and nobody could possibly motivate us to move onward in the direction of our dreams. But just like the woman who stumbled across the guru, we are all holding with us a backpack of support that comes in many forms—it can be a simple email or text message from someone we respect, inspiring blog posts, insightful books, helpful neighbors, supportive communities, and so much more.
When the going gets tough—when we’re feeling utterly down and discouraged—we need to remember…
- To trust the journey, even when we do not understand it.
- To accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in the road ahead.
- To start exactly where we are, use what we have, and do what we can, one step at a time.
- To look for the blessings hidden in every struggle we face, and be willing to open our hearts and minds to them.
- To recognize our backpack of support—our external sources of hope and motivation—before a random guru (or someone with far more crooked intentions) has to steal it from us so that we can finally see what we have always taken for granted.
- To be present and tap into our own hearts and minds—our internal sources of hope and motivation—which have the power to push us back up on our feet and guide us down the road to our backpack of support, even when it appears to be lost forever. (Note: Angel and I cover this process in detail at our annual Think Better, Live Better conference.)
- To laugh at the confusion, live consciously in the moment, and appreciate the lessons found at each twist and turn.
- To not compare our progress with that of others, and accept that we all need our own time to travel our own distance.
- To see how many of the things we never wanted or expected, ultimately turn out to be what we need.
- To be OK with not ending up exactly where we intended to go, while opening ourselves up to the possibility of eventually arriving precisely in the right place at the right time.
If you are struggling right now, you’ve got this!
No matter your circumstances, you always have what you need to take the next smallest step.
Or as Epicurus so profoundly said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Be mindful. Be present.
One day at a time, one small step at a time.
(Note: Angel and I build small, life-changing daily steps/habits with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
What’s one source of hope, motivation, or gratitude you sometimes turn to when you need it most?
Anything else to share about this article?
We would love to hear from YOU. 🙂
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