You start your day, and you’re immediately worried about all the things on your plate, all the things you have to do, and all the people you will see.
You’re anxious about what other people – family, friends, colleagues and strangers alike – might think of you. You pass people on the street and, without even realizing it, you worry about how you look in their eyes.
You worry about your responsibilities at work (emails, meetings, paperwork, etc.), and all the obligations you have in your personal life (family, meals, bills, etc.). And you have this constant aching feeling that you’re not doing enough… that you’re not as good as you ‘should’ be, and you never will be.
You worry about how you compare to other people, about how far behind you are, about how good or bad you’ll be going forward, about all the things you don’t have, about what you’re missing out on, about how guilty you feel for not being better, skinnier, stronger and smarter than you are right now.
And so it goes…
But you’re not alone. We all get caught up in our own heads sometimes.
What you need to realize is that, regardless of what’s going on in your life, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine.
The world will keep turning, and life will be OK.
We’re always obsessing over things that might go wrong, about the disheartening things people might think about us, and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, we’re focused on the negative possibilities only.
But those negative possibilities are just a few small possibilities out of a pool of many. So the chances of them becoming a reality are slim. And even if one of them does become a reality (let’s say somebody thinks poorly of you), the negative impact of this reality is rarely as disastrous as we imagine.
The truth is, even if our fears transpire, 99% of the time we’ll be fine.
Try to envision all the little things you’ve worried about recently. You survived every single one of these possibilities, right? Life didn’t fall apart, and even when you were forced to struggle for a while, you learned some useful lessons that ultimately made you stronger.
If you simply make a positive ritual of telling yourself that you’ll be fine – and that you are fine right now – you can gradually let go of your worries the moment you notice them arising.
You can think better and you can ultimately live better…
You can start your day with a sense of peace in your mind, a genuine smile on your face, and then you can put your best foot forward.
All of this is true and worth practicing.
What about the tough times when a disaster actually does strike?
How do you cope then?
Let me share a quick, relevant story with you…
“Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide note I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend, Carol, showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’ Her words were honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it. Suddenly I felt I had something to live for, and I started making positive changes. It’s been a journey, but Carol is now my wife and we’ve been happily married for 19 years. And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old university student pursuing a degree in medicine, has two younger brothers. I re-read my suicide note every year on the morning of my birthday as a reminder to be graceful – I am grateful I got a second chance at life.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received recently from a course student named Kevin. His words remind me that sometimes you have to die a little on the inside first in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger, happier version of yourself.
Circumstances and people will occasionally break you down to the lowest of lows. But if you keep your mind focused on the positive, your heart open to love, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you can recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger and happier than you ever would have been otherwise.
Angel and I have dealt with our fair share of adversity too – losing siblings and best friends to death, financial and business turmoil, etc. – and we’ve written a lot about it over the years. But today, let me remind you of some clear signs that you will be just fine, even if you don’t feel fine right now…
1. Right now everything is changing again, nothing is certain, and you are free.
Everything in life is temporary. Nothing lasts. Every moment gives us a new beginning and a new ending. We literally get a second chance every second.
Every time it rains, it stops raining. Everything that goes up comes down. After darkness there is always light – we are reminded of this every morning, but somehow we don’t see it.
People all over the world are constantly telling their one heartbreaking story, about how their entire life has turned into an exercise in coping with one particular unfair event from the past. Every present opportunity they have is then burned at the stake to fuel a fiery obsession with something that can’t be changed. The key is to realize that YOU don’t have to be one of these people.
You are a product of your past, but you don’t have to be a prisoner of it. You become a prisoner when you cling to what no longer exists. So remember that if you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. It may be hard, but you CAN let go… and to a certain degree, you must.
You have to let go and accept the feeling of not knowing exactly where you’re going next, and train yourself to love and appreciate this freedom. Because it is only when you are suspended in the air, with no destination in sight, that you force your wings to open fully so you can fly. And as you soar around you still may not know where you’re traveling to. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is the opening of your wings. You may not know where you’re headed, but you know that so long as your wings are spread, the winds will carry you forward. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
2. You have some incredible choices to make.
Oftentimes we yearn for just a tiny range of life experiences – the good times, the comfortable situations, the experiences that make us happy. And yet, the reality we’re faced with every day is quite different. Life gives us a broad range of very different experiences that gradually wrap our emotions up in anger and love and heartbreak and joy and frustration and excitement and loneliness and confusion… one after another. These are all part of our reality – our collective human condition.
The question is: How will YOU choose to respond?
You can revolt against the unfairness of having to deal with not getting everything you want. You can be angry at the world for the pain and struggle you’re faced with. You can attempt to resist and deny the experiences of sadness, frustration, confusion, and so forth. Just beware that all of these choices will ultimately lead you in spiraling circles of deeper and darker despair.
A more effective choice, perhaps, is to fully embrace reality and the broad range of life experiences you encounter, taking the good with the bad. This includes all of your emotions, all of your ups and downs, all of your blissful moments and painful ones, and the entirety of everything in between. Life is not just rainbows and butterflies. It’s intricate and remarkable.
Fully embracing life in this way means opening yourself to unimaginable possibilities, being vulnerable to unexpected changes, being compassionate with yourself when times are tough, giving yourself some extra love and kindness no matter what happens, and being grateful for the opportunity to experience it all.
It means not expecting to always be the perfect human living the perfect life, but instead accepting reality as it is, and accepting yourself as you are, and then making the best of it.
3. There is at least one tiny, positive step you can take right now (because there always is).
Don’t build mountains in your mind. Don’t try to conquer the world all at once. When you seek instant gratification (big, quick fixes) you make life unnecessarily painful and frustrating. When you choose instead to treat each moment as an opportunity to make a tiny, positive investment in yourself, the rewards come naturally.
When everything is broken, it’s easy to find plenty of little things you can fix. When nothing seems to be going right, even the most fundamental positive effort can make a significant difference. Times of great adversity are also times of great opportunity. When there are problems in every direction, there is also great value waiting to be created. When everything is going well, it’s easy to get lulled into a routine of complacency. It’s easy to forget how incredibly capable and resourceful you can be. Resolve to persevere one small step at a time.
Small steps, little leaps, and tiny fixes (very small repetitive changes) every day will get you there, every time, through thick and thin.
If you’d like to get started now, challenge yourself to do so. Choose a specific area of your life that you want to improve, and then…
- Write down the specific details about your current circumstances. (What’s bothering you? What’s wrong? What do you want to change?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily rituals that have contributed to your current circumstances? (Be honest with yourself. What are you doing that contributes to the situation you’re in?)
- Write down the specific details about your ideal circumstances. (What would make you happy? What does your ideal situation look like?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily rituals that will get you from where you are to where you want to be? (Think about it. What small, daily steps will help you move forward?)
The bottom line is that every moment of your life builds upon the next. This moment is the bridge between the reality of where you are and the vision of where you want to be.
Reality is indeed approaching you every second. And the great thing is, you’re able to alter it as it arrives. You just have to decide what you want to do with it. The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing simply because you can only do a little right now. And again, it is far more productive to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a giant leap only to stumble and fall and never get up again. The path to what you want most in life requires a ritual of a thousand small steps spread out over time. Figure out where you want to go, take the first step, and keep on stepping. Diligence and persistence will get you there. (Angel and I build daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Afterthoughts… On Being Fine & Loving Yourself
Most of us are familiar with the practice of loving and caring for our parents, children, or significant others. And although we do so imperfectly, we do our best to practice this love for them on a daily basis.
But do we attempt to practice the same level of love and care with ourselves?
Oftentimes the answer is NO. Think about it…
- How often to you criticize your physical appearance?
- How often to you tell yourself you aren’t good enough?
- How often do you unfairly compare yourself to others?
- How often to guilt yourself into doing things?
- How often do you put your own needs last?
- How often do you berate yourself for making mistakes?
I’ll be the first to admit that I still struggle with all the above. And I know I’m not the only one. For many of us, there’s an underlying feeling of being less than we think we should be. This isn’t something we consciously do to ourselves, but it happens, again and again. And we CAN choose differently!
YOU can choose differently!
Today, what if you started practicing a little more self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance? What if you took a good look at yourself, your body, your feelings, your situation, and told yourself, “You are perfectly fine! You are enough! You are worth it”?
How would doing so change your attitude and life?
Seriously think about the possibility of accepting everything about yourself, just as you are right now, without yearning to change yourself in any way.
It’s important to note, too, that accepting yourself the way you are is not about complacency and inaction. It’s about realizing that you can’t hate and berate yourself into a better version of yourself. Positive growth is built on a foundation of love and acceptance. The person who loves herself (or himself) is more likely to take positive actions that move things forward for all the right reasons.
In the end, you will change no matter what. Nothing lasts. You simply can’t avoid changing with the times. The question is whether the change you experience in life comes from a place of love and acceptance, or a place of self-loathing and resistance.
I vote for love and acceptance.
But the choice is YOURS to make.
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Another post from you dropped into my email inbox right on time today. I’m not suffering from any major disasters in my life right now, but I certainly second-guess myself and constantly fear what others think of me. I resonate with all three points you’ve mentioned, but I especially appreciate the ending about loving yourself more and not pushing yourself to be someone other than who you are.
Self-acceptance is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, and your emails and book have gradually helped strengthen me. Thanks!
Marc Chernoff says
I’m happy to hear you resonated with this post, Caroline. And it’s inspiring to know that you appreciate our book too. Thank you for supporting our work. 🙂
Jean Larson says
Marc and Angel, THANK YOU!
Number 3 in this post is exactly why I became a student in your happiness course, and I’m so grateful I did. Through your work and coaching, I finally realized what I had been ignoring for almost a decade — I was overwhelmed by the idea of changing my life, I was accepting far less than I deserved, and I had resisted taking small necessary steps forward. But you got me stepping, one day at a time, and one positive ritual led to the next, and although I’m not there yet, I’m now a long way from where I started. I’m making progress every day, and I’m so proud of myself. Anyway, I wanted you to know that your work has improved my life tremendously over the past year, and this post is such a beautiful reminder of some of the progress I’ve made.
Marc Chernoff says
You have made incredible progress, Jean… one step at a time! Angel and I are proud of you, and we’re here to walk beside you again, whenever you need us to.
The four questions on changing your rituals! So spot on! Thank you for the reference material. I attended your live seminar in Austin last year, and the tools and lessons on building daily rituals were game-changers for me.
Keep the emails and blog posts coming!
When approaching the end of a career defined by passion, which end is being mandated by others after almost 40 years, can cause one to question the worth of the life lived. All patterns are broken and the unknown must be faced again. When living a chosen life of passion and that life is halted, will typically elevate the opinion of others and create a false reality of dispair. It is important to have gratitude for each moment lived that brought the present moment. Acceptance of “now” coupled with the courage to continue to walk forward with the same good intentions and passion as have accompanied the past can eliminate the depression caused by an unexpected life course change imposed by others. If I view the situation as another fork in the road with excitement, a youthful vision of the unknown can be a positive experience. But this takes love and acceptance of oneself. Thank you for your insights.
Gail Griffin says
I retired 2 years ago after 41 years of teaching special education Resource students. Teaching was, and still is, my passion. I have struggled with the loss of my identity as a teacher. Thank you reminding me how important the attitude of gratitude is in keeping my spirits up.
I really needed this reminder, cuz I’ve been struggling with a lot recently and I blamed my self for not being enough when everyone seems to be happy and I’m alone in college with no friends cuz I lost by best friend, but I’m starting to feel better and I hope that my situation will change soon ,thanks
I am starting to wonder if you have bugged my life. How do you manage to email the precise details of my current life train wreck?
When I am at a point of just giving up and allowing the life force to drain away, I can’t trust anymore and I find my your emails to close to be a coincidence.
For me what resonates the most is the acceptance of the good times and the bad times and it is all about how you react. As you have written before, it is facing into these challenges rather being delusional that there won’t be tough times. Thanks for a good reminder to start the week.
This came just at the right time! Thank you so much!
Rebecca Johnston says
“Every present opportunity they have is then burned at the stake to fuel a fiery obsession with something that can’t be changed.” I don’t want to fall into this pit after the recent death of my son. He was pure love and light and I want to honor him. Every day. Especially on the toughest days.
This same sentence resonated with me! I need to stop dwelling on past things that can’t be changed, and move on…positively. I’m so sorry about your son. Thank you for choosing to honor his memory with love and light. Hugs to you.
This blog has become a sort of “working bible” for me. When the student is ready the teacher appears…I find inspiration and true meaning in so many things you write about. Thank you for providing some clarity, practicality and insight into this thing we call life. I always come away feeling better.
Hello Marc and Angel,
Thanks for your post. It is remarkable. I am going through what would be possibly the hardest grind in my life right now- no exaggerations. I mean sleep and wake sometimes feels so scary for me.
Then I read your posts. And remind myself of the 30 things I need to be doing. Frankly I start to see some light. But I always still wake with that lightheadness- a sign of worry.
Am new to your website and blog. But it has helped me from one point,taking a step to another. Slow but progressive.
I hope to make it through this period. Please keep writing; I am reading.
This post resonated with me more than any other. Instead of asking what you can do to achieve what would make you happy, you asked for the daily rituals that got you where you are today……that totally made me accept my part in where I am at the moment. Also, every moment is a new chance to change how something is going…..”reality is approaching every second and you’re able to alter it as it arrives”. Those little things you can do might change everything in time.
I loved the post….thank you!!!
BTW, I am a course student.
I can’t believe how timely this is. You have saved my life as I was seriously planning on ow and when to end my life. I have hot rock bottom and was surrounded by darkness. Now I see some light…one minute at a time. And i know I am not alone.
melinda f kline says
Last night i sat at the computer.I think i was past a broken heart.We have had job losses.Serious health problems.People could not believe everything that has gone on. I have to sit back and say wow.Is this really happening. I for some reason seen this on the computer.Last night i read it.This morning i read it.And will cont . The battles get to be so much at times.But ill keep reading these words.And keep trying.All i can say is thank you for doing this.
Pat Cole says
Your articles are wonderful and very timely. Since we can only have one thought at a time, we must make them positive thoughts. Your words of wisdom are so helpful. Thank you for sharing! And thank you for reminding us that we need to keep loving ourselves and be grateful for our blessings.
Nancy Arndt says
I didn’t get much sleep last night because my 6-year old had a sugar rush and he kept me up. Sometimes fatigue makes you feel sad so the only thing I could do was read my email. I got your letter and the point that resonated so much was that small steps are good enough! When I was sad this morning I felt overwhelmed. But then I read your points about small steps and I was able to refocus my energy. I have this dream to write great books that change the way people see things and help them to have answers that I didn’t have as a young wife and mother and American. I dream every day of making a difference through what I write. I am writing a book on segregation right now. I started studying segregation because I have always been ashamed of it as a Chicago-raised person. My inner voice tells me to keep hoping and your email helped me to keep on track! Thanks! I’m glad I am subscribed to your emails!
Just awesome and perfect timing….wire words that sends.me back to my feet, RE do, RE start, rewind, unwind, and forward again….Thanks
Every word! Only since yesterday after watching a video on negative thinking I began to feel good and get some sleep.That everything about my past is OK and I began to appreciate myself for what Iam. This article again revived positivity in me and every word resonates with me as if you were answering to my questions.
Dr.Shiva Bharani says
Great words. I realised self love and acceptance of who you are is the beginning of the success.
Thank you so much for sharing you practical experience. I am sure many more would have been awaken by your words.
I am so thankful to have found Marc and Angel. I don’t even know how I came upon their blog. Everything you write has helped my new world. Last July I suddenly lost my husband, had to sell the 4 bedroom home and relocate with small dog to one bedroom apt. Not enjoyable. Then was in car accident, and now being sued by the person that hit me. I have been honored the No Fault with my insurance. With out the writings of Marc and Angel and God, despair set in. This writing has SHOWN me my reactions have made a MOUNTAIN of negativity worse. That’s all I can see. But, I have to take small steps in loving myself, BELIEVEING it WILL be fine and this WILL pass. My reactions have to change from darkness and walk in the light of opportunity of positive change. Reflect on the good Mountain of love in life and baby steps in it WILL be fine. Your post help so much with relieving the weight of pain from my shoulders.
Thank you for this post Marc and Angel
Leah Wilson says
This article came right on time! Everything you wrote in this article spoke to me! Thank you so much Marc and Angel! 🙂
Cathryn Lane says
All I can say is WOW, when I began to read your words I was like you hit the nail right on the head of my thoughts and life. I struggle with all the above every day of my life. Praying to God on how to deal with it and look and behold my answer came through you. I do accept me for who I am but I struggle on pleasing everyone eles before I please myself. Then I beat myself up even more. Thank you for your words of encouragement.
D Vargas says
Well said. Embracing the fact that everything changes and is in constant motion. This is our reality. When things are really not ok because of disaster or trauma, knowing that every second the situation is changing, I’m changing, and life continues. It’s up to me to envision incremental change and open myself to love and healing.
Been reading your work & following you for years now — each time builds upon the next. I’ve recently resigned from my past job/career after 14 years with the same nonprofit. It’s a time of change & chance. Nerve-wracking, yet absolutely exciting.
This totally spoke to me tonight “You become a prisoner when you cling to what no longer exists. So remember that if you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. ” Such PERFECT timing. Thank you ?
Rachel H says
this message is so important <3 I'm saving this post for a rainy day. Thank you for posting 🙂
Been reading your work and it is definitely so inspiring. Life takes us through so many moments and while some may be exhilarating while some absolutely disastrous, not exactly so but our thinking makes it and then as you buck yourself up, count your blessings and continue to be grateful for the positives which the self does not see, and read your posts or of those who continue to live despite obstacles of various kinds, that should give us enough reason to keep going.
Leke sonde says
It seems like these was written just because of me. I was struggling with this daily. What others think about Me, have so much to do but doing less than my capacity, comparing my self with others. But thank God am getting better daily.
That’s why whenever am depressed I like to visit these blog to read articles that would lift my spirit up.
Beginning stuff didn’t resonate at all (because I’m not sweating the small stuff and don’t compare myself to others); blog almost lost me as a reader. Got better with the suicide survivor and (finally) the 3 “signs,” which are good reminders to shift one’s brain when things feel too heavy. Then the last part didn’t apply again since I’m just fine with self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance. Glad there were a few takeaways for me… and I understand why you might cover added topics to help more readers.
Thank you so much for this post. I read it just on time. This is what describe my current situation. ‘ You have to let go and accept the feeling of not knowing exactly where you’re going next, and train yourself to love and appreciate this freedom. Because it is only when you are suspended in the air, with no destination in sight, that you force your wings to open fully so you can fly. And as you soar around you still may not know where you’re traveling to. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is the opening of your wings. You may not know where you’re headed, but you know that so long as your wings are spread, the winds will carry you forward.”
Kwasi jackson says
Good piece; in all things be positive
Kwasi jackson says
Good piece; in all things be positive. The sun will surely rise tomorrow.
Lydia Noble says
Thank you, Marc, for the reminder that baby steps are positive and leaps and bounds can land with a risk of being counter productive and negative. I have been living in fear of publishing articles on LinkedIn for fear of looking like a fool and not being taken seriously. Or better still the readers saying “what makes her think she is an expert in this field or specialty?” Well I am an expert. I think taking one article at a time will eventually prove credibility. Thank you again.
The timing of this post couldn’t have been any better!! Thank you!
Dan Stelter says
Spot on! As a person with social anxiety, my mind does this to extreme. It’s programmed to do this more than the average person’s mind.
Not an excuse. Just a fact. For me, it came down to:
“What’s life gonna be? Misery and hell for 60 – 80 years? Or…maybe I can do something different and enjoy it.”
It’s tough when life gets difficult. Sometimes I slip back into that useless thinking. But yes…”one foot in front of the other.”
Living successfully really is that simple.
Helen Bairstow says
Hi Marc and Angel
Well said, written and researched.
I’m grateful to be a naturally (or did I learn this?) optimistic person. Even when diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Six years ago. Healed now. Not to me but I hear peeps say to someone depressed stuff like “there’s always someone worse off so cheer up” but it’s irrelevant.
This article is relevant. Even to someone freshly diagnosed. I’m in the process of setting up a blog to inspire others who are just starting, or in the the middle, of their healing journey. Would love to share this with them.
aka Joy Sprinkler
Hello, just joined. Found this site googling around. Read the part on not being enough and it really hit home. I’m nearing the end of my work life and I’m finding my career job so difficult to cope with now. This 24/7 rat race is not for me – employers demand so much now. Feel like my time has passed. Trying to find entry level work till I can retire in about 3 years or so. I have such a short fuse at work and I just hate going in there. Work has become my eternal nemesis – but the money is good – that’s all that keep me there now, until I can get out. I’ve spent my entire life with one company and it’s turning into a bitter finish. I can struggle similarly with personal events… Enjoying reading this site…I’ll continue to read it! David