Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,
it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
— Vivian Greene
Over the past decade Marc and I have dealt with several personal hardships of varying degrees, including the sudden death of a sibling, the loss of a best friend to illness, and an unexpected, breadwinning employment layoff.
These experiences were brutal. Each of them, unsurprisingly, knocked us down and off course for a period of time. But when our time of mourning was over in each individual circumstance, we pressed forward, stronger, and with a greater understanding and respect for life.
Here are some vital lessons we learned – ways to maintain peace of mind in tough times:
1. Learn to trust yourself.
“It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. As you heal and grow, it will all work out. Relax and trust yourself.”
Repeat that in your mind every morning. Because the truth is, it all works out in the end. Put your full trust in yourself by following your intuition and doing your best, and then move forward one step at a time with faith and confidence in the future. Life will not forsake you. Love, persistence and hard work combined rarely lead a person astray in the long run.
If you have faith in your abilities, if you stay true to the path that feels right, if you channel your passion into action, you will ultimately achieve a breakthrough. In other words, as soon as you trust yourself you will know how to heal and grow.
2. Focus on what you’re learning.
Mistakes and setbacks are simply a form of practice.
If the road is easy and free of bumps, you’re likely going the wrong way. The bumps in the road teach you what you need to know to progress down a path that is all your own. Sometimes things have to go wrong in order to go right. Sometimes you need to change a flat tire or two before you can move on.
Bottom line: Your journey isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it. To never struggle is to never grow. There is no perfectly smooth road to anyplace worth going.
3. Ease your expectations.
Life is under no obligation to give you exactly what you expect. Whatever it is you’re seeking will rarely ever come in the form you’re expecting. Don’t miss the silver lining because you were expecting gold.
You must see and accept things as they are instead of as you hoped, wished, or expected them to be. Just because it didn’t turn out like you had envisioned, doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly what you need to get to where you ultimately want to go.
4. Open up to someone you trust.
You aren’t alone; let someone special in when you’re in a dark place. You know who this person is. Don’t expect them to solve your problems; just allow them to face your problems with you. Give them permission to stand beside you. They won’t necessarily 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.
Above all, the important thing to remember is that you are not alone. No matter how bizarre or embarrassed or pathetic you feel about our own situation, there is someone in your life who has dealt with similar emotions and who wants to help you. When you hear yourself say, “I am alone,” it’s just your insecurities trying to sell you a lie. (Read Daring Greatly.)
5. Use hope to drive positive action.
Only in the dark can you see the stars. The stars are hope. Look for them.
The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope as you work for what you want. Do not admire what you hope for from a distance, but live right in it. Get deeply involved with the thoughts and activities that keep your hope alive and your intention possible.
No, hope alone will not save you from despair. Hope empowers you to strive and grow even when your circumstances are in shambles. The road that is built with hope is more pleasant than the road built in despair, even though they both may seem to lead you to the same place in the short-term. But it is the positive growth you attain on your way to this temporary place that will benefit your final destination.
It’s all about balance – accepting reality without giving up on what needs to be done to reach your desired destination in the long run.
6. Move TOWARDS something instead of AWAY.
“Don’t think about eating that chocolate cookie!” What are you thinking about now? Eating that chocolate cookie, right? When you concentrate on not thinking about something, you end up thinking about it.
The same philosophy holds true when it comes to freeing your mind from a negative past. By persistently trying to move away from what you don’t want, you are forced to think about it so much that you end up carrying it’s weight along with you. But if you instead choose to focus your energy on moving toward something you do want, you naturally leave the negative weight behind as you progress forward.
Bottom line: Instead of concentrating on eliminating the negative, concentrate on creating something positive (that just happens to replace the negative). (Read Learned Optimism.)
7. Take a few steps back.
Everything seems simpler from a distance. Sometimes you simply need to distance yourself to see things more clearly.
You are more than whatever is troubling you. A very real part of you exists beyond your worries, beyond your doubts, independent from the troubles and frustrations of the present moment. Step back and observe yourself as you experience each moment. Be present. Watch yourself as you think, as you take action, as you experience emotions. Your body may experience pain, and yet that pain is not you. Your mind may encounter troubles, and yet you are not those troubles.
Think of the most difficult challenge you face right now. Imagine that it’s not you, but a close friend who is facing this challenge. What advice would you give her? If you could step back and, instead of being the subject, look at your situation as an objective observer, would you look at it any differently? Think of the advice you would give your friend if your friend were in your shoes. Are you following your own best advice right now?
Don’t allow your current troubles to cloud your thinking. Take a few steps back and give yourself the benefit of this distance, and then give yourself some great advice.
8. Give yourself time.
Take all the time you need. Emotional healing is a process; don’t rush yourself through it. Don’t let others force you through it either. Moving on doesn’t take a day; it takes lots of little steps to be able to break free of your broken past and your wounded self.
Take today breath by breath, one step at a time. Never let trouble from the past make you feel like you have a bad life now. Just because yesterday was painful doesn’t mean today will be too. Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us. Today you have a choice to explore these parts of yourself. Give yourself the needed time and permission to explore and heal. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Adversity and Growth chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
9. Look for the beginning in every ending.
A wise man once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Today is a new beginning; treat it that way. Stop thinking about what might have been and starting looking at what can be.
Say to yourself: “Dear Past, thank you for all the life lessons you have taught me. Dear Future, I am ready now!” Because a great beginning always occurs at the exact moment you thought would be the end of everything.
The floor is yours…
What’s gives you peace of mind when times are tough and stressful? Please leave a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Martina Photography