You are not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even yesterday. You are always growing… stronger!
Sometimes life slams us in the gut, dealing us such a devastating blow it literally takes our breath away.
A pandemic hits, a loved one gets ill, we lose a breadwinning job, someone we know dies, money gets tight, feelings of depression and despondency overwhelm our better judgment… everything just seems to be going wrong.
So, what can we do when the world around us shatters, and we can’t seem to pick up the pieces?
The times when things are falling apart are precisely the best times to practice presence and mindfulness. These are the times we’re always preparing for, in a way, when we pray, meditate, self-reflect, and generally invest in our personal growth during the good times.
Truth be told, when the world seems to be crumbling, there is immense opportunity. But we must be willing to do some tough things. We must be willing to change our perspective and our response.
First, let’s practice laying a solid foundation…
Be patient with the pain you feel. Don’t hide from it, don’t rush to cover it up or fix it immediately. Just start by acknowledging its presence and facing it with courage.
Then, challenge yourself to sit quietly with what you are feeling for a full minute, with compassion and gentleness. Be at peace with the source of your pain—find the braveness to just sit with it like you would with a close friend who’s hurting. Practice this a few times a day, whenever you feel the pulse of your pain surging. And notice when your mind wants to run, hide or rebel. When this happens, take a deep breath, re-center yourself, and begin again.
Eventually, you will see clearly that what you feel is just a feeling, and that you can stay with what you feel without the world ending. You will see that you are in control of your feelings, and not the other way around. And you will begin to take them less seriously, hold them lightly, and give them some much-needed space in your worried brain.
When the world is shattering, this is the time to practice.
Practicing Right Now is Tough
Of course, I’m certainly not downplaying the real nature of our present circumstances with COVID-19. The virus is still spreading around the world right now, and we are all facing a very difficult reality. These are not “good times.” I’m not suggesting we should rejoice at living though this disappointing and painful life experience. But it is absolutely prudent to consider the impact this event is having on our collective behavior.
So, let’s build off the foundation we just set above. Let’s look at some tough yet necessary things we can do for ourselves right now to ease our pain and experience a little more happiness in the days and weeks ahead…
1. Be fully present in each moment.
Life is not lived in some distant, imagined land of someday where everything is perfect. It is lived here and now, with the reality of the way things are. Yes, by all means you can hope for and work toward an idealized tomorrow. Yet to do so, you must successfully deal with the world as it is today.
Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on past experiences, that it is not where we should be or want to be. But the truth is, where you are now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow. So practice appreciating where you are.
Your family members are too beautiful to ignore. Call them. Text them. Take a moment to remember how fortunate you are to be breathing. Take a look around, with your eyes earnestly open to the possibilities. Much of what you fear does not exist in the space around you. Much of what you love is closer than you realize. You are just one brief thought away from understanding the blessing that is your life.
Remind yourself that happiness is a mindset that can only be designed into the present. It’s not a point in the future or a moment from the past, and yet this misconception hurts the masses more often than we realize. So many young people seem to think all their happiness awaits them in the years ahead, while so many older people believe their best moments are behind them. COVID-19 is only exacerbating these kinds of mindsets right now. Don’t let it get the best of you.
2. Bring gratitude and passion into the little things.
Over the years, Angel and I have guided hundreds of friends, course students and Think Better, Live Better conference attendees through a process of finding sincere gratitude and passion in tough times—a process of stepping forward gracefully, no matter what…
A couple short years ago, on the second to last day of her life, a friend of mine, who I was coaching daily, told me her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the last two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently—so much inner growth—and truly appreciated every moment of it,” she said. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.”
Her words made me cry and smile at the same time. What was truly miraculous was seeing the genuine gratitude in her eyes at that moment. She was immensely grateful for actually being able to accomplish the little things she had accomplished in her final two years. And her sentiment has always remained with me, and sits at the top of my mind right now. While I agree that dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is disheartening, and that it can be very painful and debilitating for some people, the pain for most of us can still be mediated by a sense of gratitude and passion for being alive. For still having a chance to do the little things that bring us joy. For still having a life worth living, from moment to precious moment.
Honestly, you’re doing it right when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to breathe deep and appreciate your life instead. Because there is always, always, always something to be thankful for and some reason to take another step forward. Just invest your heart and soul into whatever you have right in front of you. Bring gratitude and passion into otherwise ordinary moments…
What if you woke up tomorrow with only the little things you were thankful for and passionate about today?
3. Be consistent with healthy daily rituals.
About a decade ago, when I was intensely focused on weight lifting and physical strength training, I gradually learned that you can’t be truly committed to anything worthwhile if you have a weak mind that’s unwilling to do tough things. To combat this, I wrote two simple questions on two different post-it notes and stuck one on my bathroom mirror and the other inside my gym locker:
- How many daily workouts have you missed because your mind, not your body, told you that you were too tired?
- How many daily workout reps have you skipped because your mind, not your body, said, “Nine reps is enough. Don’t worry about the tenth”?
To this day, the answer to both questions is surely hundreds for most people, including myself. Weakness of the mind can easily get the best of us, especially when the going gets tough. And the only way to fix this weakness is daily practice.
Far too often we think inner strength is all about how we respond to extremely dire circumstances, like actively coping with Covid-19: Can we keep our lives together even after suffering from a major illness, or losing our livelihood?
There’s no doubt that extremely dire circumstances test our bravery, determination and inner strength, but what about less dire, daily circumstances? Perhaps just passively coping with Covid-19 from a distance, when it’s not directly and personally debilitating us.
What we need to remember is that the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength. It needs to be worked consistently in healthy ways to grow strong. If you refuse to push yourself forward a little bit every day, of course you will feel completely stuck when the going gets tough.
But you don’t have to feel that way right now…
Choose to do some sit-ups in your bedroom every morning when it would be easier to sleep in. Choose to do the ten reps when it would be easier to quit at nine. Choose to create something special (like a new journal entry, drawing, or family highlight video) when it would be easier to consume something mediocre on TikTok or Instagram. Choose to send loving texts to family and friends when it would be easier to watch another show on Netflix. Prove to yourself, in dozens of little ways over the next few weeks, that you have the discipline to get in the ring and wrestle with life.
Inner strength is always built through lots of small, daily victories. It’s the individual choices we make day-to-day that build our “inner strength muscles.” We all want this kind of strength, especially in tough times, but we can’t simply think our way to it. If you want it, you have to do something about it ritualistically. It’s your positive daily rituals that prove your mental fortitude and move you in a positive direction.
The bottom line is that as times get tougher over the next few weeks, many people will find something easy to do—they will find an easy distraction. But when things get tougher for YOU, you can join Angel and me, and find a way to stay on track with your healthy daily rituals. 🙂 (Note: Angel and I build positive, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course.)
Now, it’s your turn…
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point discussed above resonates with you the most today?
Anything else to share?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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I printed out the Serenity Prayer and posted it next to my bathroom mirror. Many times a day I can read it and breath knowing that there are things I cannot control, and that is just life, and things that I can control , and that is where my strength lies. Thank you for this email. I’m passing it along to my niece who is struggling to help her 2 year old cope with not seeing his grandparents, his daycare friends, and his neighbours. Your ideas will undoubtedly resonate with her so she can find her strength to help her son.
Thank you so much for your words of “hope”! Yes, we are being tested, and reading your blog helps to put things into perspective and push me forward to take positive steps daily! Thank you!
Thank you so much for helping us to think in the positive way inspite of the present anxiety and confusion and unpredictably that is continuing to prolong ,and the only thing that can help us focus is mindfulness and gratitude. Thank you once again. Bless you guys. Vathsala
Dear Marc and Angel,
Thank you again for the beautiful words. They came right when a realisation about my own life dawned on me. In the midst of it all, I feel my life was perfect. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I can see that so clearly. I can see that life storms have not managed to toss me away from what I love most. I have realised that through it all I was always consistently choosing things that are sure to give me happiness and support. I wasn’t tossed about, as I thought, but fighting to swim in the right direction – and I won. It is an unbelievable joy to realize that. For a very long time I have felt I was a victim of circumstances and fate and I felt a constant desire to get away from the place I was in. Suddenly, over the last couple of weeks it has all passed. I wake up to a day full of small rituals and pleasures, surrounded by loved ones. I still worry a lot about the future, but every day I appreciate what I have and I know I don’t want more. Even my imperfections seem ok to me. I don’t mind having achieved this and that. I think have achieved enough. This is all quite new to me but I enjoy this attitude immensely.
I wish you all much love and resilience.
Yes I enjoy your article this morning kind of needed that.
The first paragraph referencing being present in the moment is brilliant, especially the bit about that to work for an ideal future, one has to deal with the world today. The present shapes the future so it makes sense to prepare for it.
I will never unsubscribe from your E mails. You speak a lot of sense.
Diana Contreras says
Everything in this letter resonates with me. We all have our own stories but I really needed to read this today so I can get back on track. I’ve done so much work already but lately I’ve been slipping and don’t have that push in me. Thank you for all you have done to put me in a better mind set and to recognize these things about myself.
Thank you for today’s message. When I was feeing like not following my rituals and not practicing a better exercise and diet routine, you inspire me to keep at it!
Linda Miller says
“Choose to do sit ups in the morning
Instead of just languishlng in the
Comfort of the comfy bed”
Very helpful reading!
Yi Ting says
A very encouraging piece for reading to reach Mindfulness, your writings in the tine of this is resonating with me. Thank you for sharing this wonderful passage.
I am most definitely letting my feelings guide my days and I feel like I’ve been through a war some days. I am blessed by my life in where I live, my husband who is awesome, and the fact that at this point, we are “ok” financially. So why do I “feel” awful? Because I get stuck in “non-motion”. If I sit watching court shows on tv, news, dosing off, eating junk, that’s when I feel my worst. But actual movement, even washing dishes, makes me feel so much better.
Working on a daily ritual/routine which keeps me moving, at least most of the day.
Thank you for the wonderful read. Definitely needed it today 🙂
Loved the paragraph on inner strength. Reminded me of Admiral McRaven’s “Make Your Bed,” message, so true in times like this! Thank you!
Angela Sontheimer says
Thanks – I really needed to read this today. Feeling at such loose ends and with out a purpose. Trying to identify something to be grateful for each day and keep up my healthy rituals – reading this made me I need to do that for my mind not only my body.
I have always been grateful for the great friends I have. Since all this began, they have proved to me how great they truly are by calling and e-mailing me to make sure I am doing well. Even though I tend to be introverted, I am making an effort to reach out to others more than I ever have before, because I know that not everyone is as comfortable as I am with being alone. I guess if there is a bright spot to this pandemic, it’s that we are finding out there really are a lot of very kind, thoughtful people in the world.
Keep sending your updated posts, they are needed now more than ever. I try to live positively, and set good habits. Yet we still have to sit with the negative and experience it to be fully human. Around me I see people not coping well and if I don’t sit with the negative everyday I can’t support them, and I can’t support myself long term.My teenaged son is in an unspoken downward emotional spiral and my husband lives in fear and anger. I see that my good habits are all a house of cards if I cannot acknowledge and experience the negative. It is hard being human at this time, so PLEASE keep the posts coming, they make a difference. Thank you for your posts.
“What we need to remember is that the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength.
It needs to be worked consistently in healthy ways to grow strong. If you refuse to push yourself forward a little bit every day, of course you will feel completely stuck when the going gets tough.”
Great inspiration. Thanks for the good work
Carol Gary says
Let go …. Let God
Every day list three things you are thankful for.
Mirror Love – Love the person you see in the mirror.
By loving …. you become move loveable.
Just asked God to help me to think of the positive instead of instant negative and your piece turned up. Thank you.
Evans Agbenyegah says
‘Inner strength is always built through lots of small, daily victories. It’s the individual choices we make day-to-day that build our “inner strength muscles.”’
In as much as I’ve so much enjoyed reading the whole article, the above lines have struck me like the floggings of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
Thank you Marc & Angel for your inner-strength-building write ups.
Barbara Kennedy says
Extremely encouraging and uplifting words! I have a habit of saying, “I’m so Happy!” Others enjoy hearing me say that and many have chosen to express their own happiness.in this same way. Of course, I am not always feeling happy but I notice when a good moment is happening and I express the happiness and the acknowledgment brings me joy. Thank you.
Peggy sue says
I like to just be grateful for whatever I think of at that moment.
I also believe very strongly of the law of attraction and what we think about we bring into our lives
I do understand the pain and afraid of being open to criticism but as you get stronger the criticism just rolls right off your shoulders because you’re just that strong of a person and you’re right about….. how
Your soul needs daily mental challenges to get strong as you would physically in a gym
Look forward to your next blog
Thanks for encouraging us all to keep living in the present. I was diagnosed positive this week and keeping a healthy attitude is healing me along with other natural remedies. I truly believe inner strength and daily growth through spiritual practice and gratitude has helped me and the people I have shared my journey with. The most helpful part for me was saying continued positive daily habits continue to push us forward when in crisis. It’s not the easy thing to do but it is the needed thing I strive to do.
Dear Marc and Angel,
thank you for this beautiful blog and this post, that i liked very much. I think that it is precisely in situations like these that we realize how lucky we are and how beautiful life is when everything seemed boring. We realize that life is a beautiful gift, and that every day we should feel happiness, to say “today I am and I am well”, to smile.
I have found my happiness in this period, my girlfriend who is in another country and every day I feel happy, even if distant, even if there is covid-19, also thanks to what I learned from this course when I thought that I would no longer have feelings for anyone. Because at the basis of aphelicity, there is always love: for yourself but also for the person you have next to you.
I hope it will be as useful to you as it has been for me, and that it will bring you happiness in your heart.
Leah Wanjiru Kamau says
This is the morning dose that I needed. I believe it will be one of the cure for the fear and uncertainty that surrounds the Covid-19. Today I am grateful that I bumped into your journal. Keep writing, you are a blessing to us.
presence in the moment, gratitude, & sit ups. thank you for this guiding post!
John Sclocco says
Thank you for this. Normally I read your emails once and move on. This piece really spoke to me especially the part which talks about being where you are now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to be tomorrow. I have health problems and have just lost my job and have little money to survive the next few weeks of lockdown and will be applying to wherever to get work asap.
For the first time I have read this piece three times and will print out these comments and put it on the wall. This article brought me peace where very little has recently.
Another very well thought out written words of encouragement and expression of what, why and how. I appreciate the simplicity and practicality of your message. I am yet again inspired and know what I can focus on. Thank you for making a difference in my life today.
I admit, I thought I was going to read “and here’s how you fix _____” in the opening paragraph….
Instead you’ve allowed me to feel ok, that I haven’t been feeling ok…and that there’s no timeline for feeling hurt that my life fell apart, due to covid-19 closure .
And yes, thank you for reminding me it’s the little things ..
My mind needed the pep talk, I needed to read words I can now use each day 😉
CBSE Schools in Mumbai says
The most important thing is to keep all negativity out of your mind in order to achieve happiness in life.
Much appreciated post. Thank for sharing this.
Thank you so much for this. I am an 18 year old student leader who has been in quarantine fir almost a month from school. I have been feeling very down lately. I am tired most days and I cry myself to sleep most nights. I’m not sure what caused it but I try to set a daily routine and try to engage my brain and to just get in as much positivity and knowledge as possible during this time.
I appreciate your article, I’ll definitely be reading more and making this a part of my daily routine!
Sending love from Jamaica ????
repipe . says
nice article , thanks for sharing
Thank you so much for your words of “hope”! Yes, we are being tested, and reading your blog helps to put things into perspective and push me forward to take positive steps daily! Thank you!
Jennifer M says
Thank you for this article!
I caught myself thinking that I listen to my mind, not my body, very often. Because of this weakness and lack of inner strength, so many moments have already been missed, and then the only regret comes.
I realize that only I am responsible for my life and my well-being.
I am also still learning to appreciate all the opportunities that life offers. It is important at any time, but especially now, in this period.
Joanne Reed says
Great point about being consistent with daily rituals! Being strong is not just about getting through the tough life events it is the daily battle of Body & mind.