“There’s a saying in Tibetan philosophy, “Tragedy should be used as a source of strength.” My grandmother always repeated this line to me when I was growing up. Every time I dealt with some kind of adversity, she would graciously remind me that my current struggles were helping me grow stronger.
Sometimes, though, in the midst of chaotic stress and hardship, it’s almost impossible to maintain such a positive perspective. That’s where the five reminders below come into play. I review them from time to time to remind myself that my struggles are giving me an opportunity to grow, and to use what I’ve learned to make a positive difference. Today, I pass them on to you in hopes that they help you find some extra inner strength and peace when you need it most.
1. Your troubles are gradually improving you.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, 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.”
Someday when you least expect it life will blindside you with necessary chaos. And once the chaos has ended, you won’t remember exactly how it all transpired, how you made it through, or where you found the strength you needed to carry on. You won’t even be sure whether the chaos has completely ended. But there is one thing you can be sure about: When it does finally come to an end, you will be a much stronger person than who you were before it happened, which is precisely why it was necessary.
So let your scars remind you that you did indeed survive your deepest wounds. This in itself is a major accomplishment. And let them continue to bring to mind the fact that the damage life has inflicted on you has, in many ways and places, left you stronger and more resilient. What hurt you in the past has actually made you better equipped to face the present.
2. You are strong enough to cope with life’s necessary ups and downs.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”
? Nelson Mandela
Although it may be hard to see, the human capacity for pain and hardship is like bamboo – far more flexible than you would ever believe at first glance.
Sadly, we are often taught at an early age that all pain is evil and harmful. Yet, how can we ever deal with real life and true love if we’re afraid to feel what we really feel? We need to feel pain, just as we need to feel alive and loved. Pain is meant to wake us up. Yet we try to hide our pain. Realize this. Pain is something to carry willingly, just like good sense. Because you can only learn how strong you are when being strong is the only choice you have.
And remember that it isn’t just the big struggles in life that require this kind of strength of character and resilience. With the right moral support behind them, almost anybody can rise up for a short time to face a crisis or a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty troubles and unexpected hazards of each day with a laugh – that requires a strong spirit.
This is the kind of strength you should strive to develop daily. Realize that that all of life is simply a game that you must play as skillfully and fairly as you possibly can. If you lose a round, learn to shrug your shoulders and laugh, and do the same when you win. (Read The Last Lecture.)
3. Your fears only exist in your head.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Fears are thoughts, not realities. And courage is the cure.
Can you be courageous even if you are scared to death? Of course – in fact, that’s the only time you truly can be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is being fearful and doing it anyway.
You must be daring enough to dare. Taking no chances means wasting your dreams. Yes, it will be nerve-racking at times, but don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to stop you; they’re there to let you know that your dreams are meaningful and worthy of the effort and personal growth required to achieve them.
When times are hard it can be difficult to follow your heart and take another step, but it’s a tragedy to let the lies of fear stop you. Although fear can feel overwhelming, and defeats more people than any other force in the world, it’s not as powerful as it seems. Fear is only as deep as your mind allows. You are still in control. So take control!
The key is to acknowledge your fear and directly address it. Fight hard to shine the light of your words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless, obscure darkness that you avoid, and perhaps even manage to briefly forget, you open yourself to future attacks from fear when you least expect it. Because you never truly faced the opponent who defeated you. (Read Daring Greatly.)
4. You are in control of your present thoughts, actions, and reactions.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength.”
What you might think of as your destiny is really just your circumstances, and these circumstances can be modified. Understanding that you are fully responsible and in control of your circumstances through your actions and attitude is crucial. This realization does not need to be a discouraging either, because it simply means you are free to make changes as you see fit.
Regardless of what has happened in your life, you are not chained to the past. It may have shaped your feelings toward yourself, your abilities, and what seems possible based on your background, but all of this can be modified if you are willing to examine how the past has shaped your present thinking. In other words, you can change your life by changing your thoughts, provided you have the courage to dissect the origins that created them.
So do not let the pain of a situation make you hopeless. Do not let negativity wear off on you. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Even though others may disagree with you, take pride in the fact that you still know the world to be an amazing place. Carry on accordingly.
5. YOU are worthy of YOUR love, attention, and respect.
“To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”
Love is the force of life. Where there is love inside you, there is life inside you.
When you are unsure and unwilling, you pull back from life. When you are loving and accepting, you open yourself to all the greatness life has to offer. You need to learn to love yourself first, with all your eccentricity and imperfections. If you can’t open your heart and mind to yourself, you can’t possibly open them to love others or any passions buried inside you.
When self-love is present, you can take risks and experience curiosities, astonishments, sudden joy, or any occurrence that reveals the beauty of your growing spirit. Even if things don’t turn out as planned, you still have a foundation of love and acceptance within you to fall back on. Because when you continue to love yourself even when it hurts, eventually there will be no more hurt, only more love.
Too many people overvalue what they are NOT and undervalue what they are. Don’t be one of them.
Self-respect, self-worth, and self-love. There’s a reason they all start with “self.” You can’t receive them from anyone else. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
“Tough times don’t last – tough people do.” Repeat this to yourself as often as you need to.
From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story – a story that says, “I learned and I survived.” There are moments when troubles enter your life and you can do nothing to avoid them, but they are there for a reason. Only when you have overcome them will you understand why they were there. So be brave and press forward. You will not see the light at the end of the tunnel until you walk through the darkness.
What would you add to the list? What little reminders (wisdom, quotes, lyrics, etc.) do you review to find inner strength and peace in times of grief? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights?