As you struggle forward in the days and weeks ahead, remind yourself, it is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort, learning and growth, than it is to be tired of doing absolutely nothing.
In 1914, the great inventor Thomas Edison experienced a devastating hardship. His entire laboratory burned down to the ground, and several years worth of his work was ruined.
Newspapers described the situation as “the worst thing to happen to Edison!”
But that wasn’t true, because Edison didn’t see it that way at all. The inventor instead chose to see his circumstances as an invigorating opportunity to rebuild and re-examine much of his current work. In fact, Edison reportedly said shortly after the fire, “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start again fresh.” And that’s exactly what he and his team did.
Think about how this relates to your life.
How many times have you heard it was the end, when it was really the beginning?
How many hopeless labels have been slapped over your inner hope?
Probably more often than you realize.
The truth is, life’s “fires” happen to all of us. We all go through circumstances, big and small, that deeply effect us, and…
- We worry.
- We are disappointed.
- We feel overwhelmed.
- We feel like giving up.
- We don’t feel good enough.
- We wish we had more resources.
- We wish our jobs were different.
- We wish our personal lives were different.
- We think everything in life should be easier.
Yet, a great deal of our pain exists entirely in our minds. When we attach ourselves to ideals and fantasies about how reality has to be in order to be good enough for us, we only make matters worse.
So, are you ready to follow Edison’s lead and live better despite your circumstances?
It’s time to…
Notice your story, then practice letting it go.
You can have a heartbreaking story from the past without letting it rule your present.
In the present moment we all have some kind of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, regret, etc.
Notice this pain within yourself, watch it closely, and see that it’s caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened in the past (either in the recent past or in the distant past). Your mind might insist that the pain you feel is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head about it), but what happened in the past is NOT happening right now. It’s over. It has passed. But the pain is still happening right now because of the story you’ve been subconsciously telling yourself about that past incident.
Note that “story” does not mean “fake story.” It also does not mean “true story.” The word “story” in the context of your self-evaluation doesn’t have to imply true or false, positive or negative, or any other kind of forceful judgment call. It’s simply a process that’s happening inside your head:
- You are remembering something that happened.
- You subconsciously perceive yourself as a victim of this incident.
- Your memory of what happened causes a painful emotion in you.
So just notice what story you have, without judging it, and without judging yourself. It’s natural to have a story; we all have stories. See yours for what it is. And see that it’s causing you pain. Then do your best to change your response.
Start by simply bringing your attention to the present moment. Focus on what’s here with you now—the light, the sounds, your body, the ground under your feet, the objects and people moving and resting around you. Don’t judge these things against what they should be—just accept what they actually are. Because once you accept reality, you can improve upon it.
See life as it is, without all the ideals and fantasies you’ve been preoccupied with…
Step forward without painful judgments.
Recently, COVID-19 has been one of the primary reasons so many of us are preoccupied. The new normal we’ve been forced to live through has been quite confining both mentally and physically. Everything basically changed overnight, leaving us yearning for the good old days.
Yes, so much has been postponed, closed or canceled recently. But not everything. And it’s important to bring this into your present awareness.
Love has not been postponed, closed or canceled. Hope has not been postponed, closed or canceled. Self-care has not been postponed, closed or canceled.
Right now there are plenty of opportunities to invest in the little things that matter most. The key is to not let life’s difficulties cloud your vision.
Think about the most gut-wrenching situations you’ve endured in your past. Doing so likely brings up some very uncomfortable feelings. And the associated attachments you have may stir anxiety, anger or sadness. This is a predicament many of us face.
Now imagine how you would feel if you were able to get over these feelings. By “get over” I mean no longer suffering over something that can’t be controlled. I know this is possible because Marc and I have both personally come to peace with extremely difficult, heartbreaking, uncontrollable situations in our past, and we’ve witnessed hundreds of our students and Think Better, Live Better seminar attendees do the same.
So what’s the secret? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but all of the possible answers start with releasing your judgments.
The truth is, it’s impossible to get over a difficult situation—to let it go—if you’re still obsessively judging it and comparing it to something else. Let’s revisit one specific gut-wrenching situation from your past again—choose one that still stirs negative emotions. And then ask yourself:
- Do you believe it should not have happened at all?
- Do you believe the outcome should have been different?
- Do you take what happened personally?
- Do you blame someone else for what happened?
- Do you blame yourself?
- Do you believe the situation is impossible to get over?
If you caught yourself thinking “yes” to one or more of those questions, then what’s prolonging your suffering and preventing you from getting over it is judgment. Your judgments about what “should have happened” continues to postpone the love, hope, and self-care you know you are capable of practicing.
Now you may be thinking, “What happened was unbelievably horrible! I can’t conceive of ever getting over it!” But releasing your judgment does not mean you’re pleased with what happened, or that you support it, but rather that you are eliminating the negative burden you are carrying by perpetually judging it.
When you let go of your negative judgments, you automatically replace the victim mentality with acceptance and presence. And acceptance and presence together will free your mind and move you forward.
This very same principle applies to our present challenges with COVID-19, especially for those of us who are not ill.
When we think better about our circumstances, we live better in spite of them.
And there is no reason to postpone. Now is the time to practice.
Of course, this might also require you to…
Embrace your grief.
Perhaps you know someone who actually has grown ill from COVID-19.
Or, even more heart-wrenching, perhaps you’ve lost someone you love.
When truly dire circumstances blindside us, grief often sets in. And it takes time to settle. But grieving is a healthy process that allows us to begin again after an unexpected ending.
Now, you may have heard that it isn’t healthy to grieve for too long—that doing so gets in the way healing. I say this because it’s something I was taught when I was a teenager. A close friend died in a car accident. At first everyone accepted my tears, but as the weeks rolled into months, I was frequently told that it was time to let go. “The tears aren’t helping at this point,” I remember someone telling me. But that was hogwash. My tears were necessary. They were slowly watering the seeds of my recovery. And I recovered as a much stronger, kinder, and wiser soul than I ever was before.
Then, a decade later, this lesson was reinforced in my life two more times, back-to-back, when I lost my older brother, Todd, to suicide and my best friend, Josh, to an Asthma attack, a month apart.
Through the grief of losing people I love, I have been given the gift of awareness… awareness that every one of us will lose someone or something we love, and that this reality is a necessary one.
It’s incredibly tough to comprehend at times, but there’s a small reason for everything. We must know the pain of loss, because if we never knew it, we would have little compassion for others and we would gradually become hollow monsters of egoism—creatures of sheer self-interest, never being happy with what we have. The awful pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to warm-up a cold heart, and make an even better person out of a good one.
So yes, grief can be a burden that devastates us in the near-term, but it can also be a healthy anchor for healing and living well in the long run.
As human beings, we often get used to the weight of grief and how it holds us in place. For instance, I often say, “My brother will die over and over again for the rest of my life, and I’m OK with that—it keeps me closer to him.” This is my way of reminding others that grief doesn’t disappear. Step-by-step, breath-by-breath, it becomes a part of us. And it can become a healthy part of us too.
Although we may never completely stop grieving, simply because we never stop loving the ones (or the situations) we’ve lost, we can effectively leverage our love for them in the present. We can love them and emulate them by living with their magnificence as our daily inspiration. By doing this, they live on in the warmth of our broken hearts that don’t fully heal back up, and we will continue to grow and experience life, even with our wounds. It’s like badly breaking an ankle that never heals perfectly, and that still hurts when you dance, but you dance anyway with a slight limp, and this limp just adds to the depth of your performance and the authenticity of your character. (Marc and I build small, life-changing rituals for coping in the Adversity module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
It’s time to choose a fresh response.
Regardless of your circumstances, you can find the strength to ask:
“How can I respond from a place of clarity and strength today, rather than continuing to react in anger and resistance to the painful experiences I’ve been forced to live through?”
Think about that question for a moment. Read it again, and sit with it.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, pause for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths, and make space for a healthy change of state—for something new to enter…
It’s time to consciously redirect your focus by taking it away from something unchangeable that drags you down, and instead zero it in on something small and actionable that moves you forward in the present moment.
Nothing is stopping you right now—nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts and reactions to “how life is.”
Of course, you may not be responsible for everything that happened to you in the past, or everything that’s happening to you today, but you need to be responsible for undoing the thinking and behavioral patterns these circumstance create.
It’s about thinking better so you can ultimately live better.
Truly, the greatest weapon you have against pain is your ability to pause, breathe, and choose one present response over another—to train your mind to make the best of what you’ve got in front of you, even when it’s far less than you expected.
YOU CAN change the way you think and respond. And once you do, you can master a new way to be.
The bottom line is that life will get better when YOU get better. Start investing in yourself mentally and physically from this moment forward. Choose a fresh response! Make it a priority to learn and grow a little bit every day by building positive rituals and sticking to them. The stronger you grow and become, the better your life will feel in the long run.
Yes, this too shall pass.
And if you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU before you go…
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.
Michael kich says
Thank you, very good article. I would like to share it with my group. I work as a case manager/counselor for first responders. I was a police officer for 19 years and have been working in recovery (drugs, alcohol, pts) for the past 8. I always find your articles very useful.
Thank you for the message, it has gone a long way to heal the rest pain in my heart.
Love you all
Actually nothing has an ending. everything can be started again in a good way. today’s email and piost has been really helpful, Marc and Angel. thank you.
William Moore says
Do a copy paste on these inspiring articles for a personal file for future reference.
have to read this over and over again.
if i were presently going through a loss, it would be impossible to even have the presence of mind to absorb this.
so…here, years and years later…it definitely resonates with me.
yes, felt life was over, not worth living. yet somehow survived, though it took a long time of reflection and learning. it shocks me even now how i got through it all, but somehow, did.
there is always hope, no matter what; just takes time.
You wrote “When truly dire circumstances blindside us grief often sets in …but it’s a healthy process that allows us to begin again”. This speaks to me. I was recently diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and I’ve been dealing with the fear and the physical side effects of treatment as well as all the COVID restrictions. It recently became harder when the school year started again after months of being off, and I couldn’t go back as a teacher’s aide since I’m not done with my chemo. I had a huge case of the blahs and realize now it’s like grief. I truly want to begin again with better thinking and better living!
Gail Hansmann says
Thank you, thank you, thank you….I finally get it! Nothing has changed in my heart wrenching experience, except ME, and your words have given me freedom to move forward, instead of living in the painful past that I could not or would not accept. I was hurting myself!
Kelli McKenzie says
I just lost my 23 year old son to heroin overdose. My mother received 3 PFAs and now is serving jail time because she broke the PFA 21 times, she has always been horrible to me but I have been living in her home for the past 13 years. My step father tries to control me. I started to refuse his overbearing commands. He called the police on me over 15 times. As a way to be vindictive. All in 3 months all this happened.
I am now 7 days away from moving out and the start of finding myself again. I refuse to be a victim.
Slavin Rose says
Yours has been the story of many spiritual seekers. When everything is lost, there only remains yourself. You sound very strong. Godspeed on your journey.
This article helped me tremendously, I have had a lot of loss in my life, on depression meds, have been for years. this has been very helpful in the sense it makes me realize I need to go forward no matter how hard it is, and shows me how to do that. thank you so much.
Jill lousich says
Hi Marc and Angel this article is so helpful. I realize I have judged my self and my reaction to a very painful time years ago. Letting that go is so peaceful. Also I don’t want to be reacting in anger and frustration to the covid 19 problems etc. I have been suffering from anxiety and depression this year. must keep on doing the positive things that help. The lord helps me and is with me and I am healed. I just need to change my thinking.
Donna Shannon says
Great article hit all the boxes. Grief over the loss of my sweet furry child, best friend and loving and sweet relative and business challenges all within two weeks of July 2018 has been a real challenge to accept and move forward. Then 2019 brought our family my father breaking his hip, step mom in psych ward, dad now has full on dementia making insane demands, lying about us and having found the wills the step mom made sure that we three lost our inheritance with her changing intentions to give all to her 4 children. Just another day in paradise. Always a lesson and a silver lining I know. Working on it, your posts certainly help.
Lou Anne says
This article showed up at just the right time for me today! More often than not, I have had to be reminded that we’re here to walk our individual paths, and nothing in our past was ever supposed to be any different than it was. It’s all about picking up the lessons, accepting that it happened, and using these experiences to grow!
This too, shall pass! <3
Great article, thank you so much! I really appreciate your work!
This article has really been helpful to me. I needed motivation when I started out. Things seemed to be clustered and I felt emotionally overwhelmed. But presently I feel so energetic and enthusiastic towards my next(planned) move in life. Thank you very much for these wonderful tips.
What are the positive things which I should do?
My life revolves around mood swings, one time I’m feeling so motivated, and I’m doing everything I can and next moment, this wave of sadness just hits me which prevents me from doing anything I love or like, or even basic chores, that’s not enough, but my physical sickness kick in of I try to hard to do something that should’ve been done and I’m trying not to be hard on myself, I just want to stop comparing myself with other people and their progress and their problems, and I remind myself all-the-time, that nothing is same but still, it hardly ever helps me,
Your emails and articles have been boasting my willingness to do at least some things, but only for a while then it’s darkness all over again,
I just want to appreciate you two, thank you for being here.
Uditsmita debnath says
Honestly, I was but depressed from the past few days, but after reading this i feel a little better. I needed to read this.
Wise words! I took a few snaoshots so I can remind myself in a few days. Thank you!
Your blog is truly extraordinary and resonates hope and light. Thank you for all the time and energy you and Marc give to help people “think better and live better”. It would be awesome to meet both of you one day. Love and Peace
Thank you ..this was the advice I needed at this very moment in time.
Diane Mollica says
Thank you so much. Your words resonate with me. I have suffered from depression and anxiety off and on for almost 50 years. I always attribute it to my moms death from cancer when I was 14 and never properly grieved her death. I’ve had 4 breakdowns over the years and got through them with the help of therapy, antidepressants and good friends. I just had one recently when I returned to work. Its challenging to work a relatively new job and then have marital and financial problems with a son in college! Funny he wants to be a clinical psychologist. The world will need his expertise. Life keeps going on and one needs to be part of it – pain never goes away but it’s how you cope with it that matters. For years I thought depression was just a weakness but every time I recover I realize my strength relies on me destigmatizng mental illness. No one wants to be depressed or anxious but life events and how they were handled or mishandled at the time could lead to one not being able to cope effectively. I say more power to people who stick up for their self -worth and let people know you are sticking around. Don’t avoid conflict embrace it! It’s those bottled up emotions that wreak havoc with your brain and soul. There’s so much to love out there even if it’s just a walk on sunny day. Seek out the beauty in life no matter how hard it is. It won’t make the pain go away but it could help you gain perspective and peace!
Purity Nkatha says
Your articles has been my cup of tea every morning. Ever since I started reading your articles my life has changed significantly. I am a different person. I don’t view my past with too much anger like I used to do. I don’t hate people for who they are even when they behave differently from my wish. I am a better gal. I am a better wife. I am a better mother. I am a better woman. Universe is proud having me around-lol.
All because of yoy marc and angel. Live long. Lots of love from Kenya
Lynne Stalbaum says
Thank you for this article as it has been an amazing help to me . After losing my son, my father and my best friend within the last year and a half, I know I’ll never be the same but your advice has definitely given me hope & a reason to move forward.
It was really a good wake up call post.. Really appreciated n i truly belive in hopes n dreams which can b achieve by putting efforts n facing failures at the sme tym. Living for urself n growing up in ur thots z best medicine. But evey one shud b socialize also to keep up compassion n feelings around the people v love
This touches on my soft core, it’s cleared the leaden lump in my heart. I’m amazed I could get such awesome content on here. I’m definitely staying for more, thank you so much!
Thank you so much for this advice. It’s very useful to me, personally.
R.G. Ramsey says
2020 has been a trying year for all of us.
some have lost jobs, and others have lost loved ones., but one thing is certain. We are all in this together. I hope this situation with Covid-19, and the injustices happening around us helps to bring us together, and respect for each other.
Stay healthy everyone.
Alex Schleimer says
I spoke to an audience on a session bordering on “post-stress periods in relationships and salvaging what’s left”. One important thing I noticed is that they felt around you trying to see if you have that facility for getting closure. I can say that your article here is what they would be looking for, it is wonderful. Thanks a lot.
Cameron Sewick says
I really enjoyed the insight this article had to offer. You make a subtle, poignant distinction between fully resolving grief (which is neither possible nor useful) and overcoming it. Thanks for your openness in sharing your experiences.
I think that some people tend to cling to bitterness because, in the short term, negativity is easier than change. But in the long term, negativity comes back to haunt us until it is dealt with. Not only does it squander our energy; it influences our behaviour, makes us into something we are not, and degrades our sense of identity.
Your strategies are strong, reliable, and universal. I believe your guidelines can empower us to face our pain and learn to turn it towards positivity. Following your advice, we do more, and we become more. Learning to be present is all we can really do.
Thanks for this piece! It’s food for thought, as well as a plan for action.
Mpudi Joseph says
I find myself clutching tightly to the words of your articles, I’ve been sore beset by gloomy days of recent. Thank you so much.
Ana Faber says
I have a sister who has a deep depression. The cause …. not very clear but she is now with therapy and I think she is doing better. I liked reading your article because it helped me understand how deep suffering can be and how mysterious. I’ll copy your article for her, it will help her and at least, will interest her. Thank you for wrinting it!
Ben A Montoya-Jennings says
It’s been a couple of years since I last read your your posts. I felt the need to come to your website tonight because I am dealing with the most horrible situation I ever experienced in my life. About 5 years ago I met the love of my life. He came into my world unexpectedly but soon made me realize that I was only existing and not living life before he came and nudged his way into my heart. Last year we got married on June 29, 2019. We had finally had attained a level of synergy and fell deeper in love with one another. A year ago, this morning 9/28/2019 at 207AM, My love JJ died from gun shot wounds. At around this time, last year we became victims of gun violence. He was shot 3 times sitting in drivers seat of our vehicle and I was shot 5 times standing outside the vehicle as I was opening passenger door. He was so brave and got us out of harms way driving to a nearby convenience store for help. What makes this so unbelievable is that my 25 yo nephew shot us unprovoked. He and my only sister (his mom) conspired and lured us to his apt to kill us. He turned himself in 9 hours later and plead self defense because he thought both my husband and I died. He and my sister stole tens of thousands of dollars from my parents the night before and planned to blame us once we arrived in town. Not only have I lost my amazing husband but have lost my entire immediate family. My parents for some reason have been intimidated or manipulated and no longer speak to me and blame me for what happened. saying if I wouldn’t have stopped by my nephews apt none of this would have happened. The murder trial has been delayed until after the new year and everything continues to haunt
me. So much more to the circumstance but will wrap this comment up. I used to read the articles you all posted and valued the lessons offered. I am hoping I can find something to help me get through this living hell or alternative universe I fell into a year ago.
WOW! I have bookmarked this to read over and over. Your words have helped me more than you know. Been living through a year of a husband going through a MLC and lost myself in the process. I actually started acting like HIM which only make the problem worse.
My goal is finding me again. The real me, not the over the top MLC woman. I love your blog.