“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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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