It’s time for a quick story about life, gratitude, and inner strength…
Once upon a time there was a woman in her mid-sixties who noticed that she had lived her entire life in the same small town. And although she had spent decades enthusiastically dreaming about traveling and seeing the world, she had never taken a single step to make this dream a reality.
Finally, she woke up on the morning of her 65th birthday and decided that now was the time! She sold all of her possessions except for some essential items she needed, packed these items into a backpack, and began her journey out into the world. The first several days on the road were amazing and filled with awe — with every step forward she felt like she was finally living the life she had dreamed.
But a few short weeks later, the days on the road started taking a toll on her. She felt misplaced and she missed the familiar comforts of her old life. As her feet and legs grew more and more sore with each new step, her mood also took a turn for the worse.
Eventually she stopped walking, took off her backpack, slammed it on the ground, and sat down beside it as tears began streaming down her cheeks. She stared hopelessly down a long winding road that once led to an amazing world, but now seemed to lead only to discomfort and unhappiness. “I have nothing! I have nothing left in my life!” she shouted out loud at the top of her lungs.
Coincidentally, a renowned guru and life adviser from a nearby village was resting quietly behind a pine tree adjacent to where the woman was sitting. When the woman began shouting, the guru heard every word and he felt it was his duty to help her. Without thinking twice, he jumped out from behind the pine tree, grabbed her backpack, and ran into the forest that lined both sides of the road. Stunned and in complete disbelief, the woman started crying even harder than before, to the point of near breathlessness.
“That backpack was all I had,” she cried.” And now it’s gone! Now everything is gone in my life!”
After roughly ten minutes of much-needed tears, the woman gradually collected her emotions, stood up again and began staggering slowly down the road. Meanwhile the guru cut through the forest and secretly placed the backpack in the middle of the road just a short distance ahead of the woman.
When the woman’s teary eyes fell upon the backpack, she almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing — everything she thought she had just lost was once again right in front of her. She couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. “Oh, thank heavens!” the woman exclaimed. “I am so grateful! Now I definitely have what I need to continue onward…”
“Notes” for When the Going Gets Tough…
As we journey through our personal and professional lives, there will inevitably be periods of incredible frustration and despair. During those tough times, it will sometimes appear to us that we’ve lost everything, and that nothing and nobody could possibly motivate us to move onward in the direction of our dreams. But just like the woman who stumbled across the guru, we are all holding with us a backpack of support that comes in many forms — it can be a simple email or text message from someone we respect, inspiring blog posts, insightful books, helpful neighbors, supportive communities, and so much more.
When the going gets tough — when we feel like we’ve completely lost our motivation — we need to remember…
- To trust the journey, even when we do not understand it.
- To accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in the road ahead.
- To start exactly where we are, use what we have, and do what we can, one step at a time.
- To look for the blessings hidden in every struggle we face, and be willing to open our hearts and minds to them.
- To recognize our backpack of support — our external sources of hope and motivation — before a random guru (or someone with far more crooked intentions) has to steal it from us so that we can finally see what we have always taken for granted.
- To be present and tap into our own hearts and minds — our internal sources of hope and motivation — which have the power to push us back up on our feet and guide us down the road to our backpack of support, even when it appears to be lost forever. (Note: Angel and I cover this process in detail at our annual Think Better, Live Better conference.)
- To laugh at the confusion, live consciously in the moment, and appreciate the lessons found at each twist and turn.
- To not compare our progress with that of others, and accept that we all need our own time to travel our own distance.
- To see how many of the things we never wanted or expected ultimately turn out to be what we need.
- To be OK with not ending up exactly where we intended to go, while opening ourselves up to the possibility of eventually arriving precisely in the right place at the right time.
If you are struggling right now, you’ve got this!
No matter your circumstances, you always have what you need to take the next smallest step.
Or as Epicurus so profoundly said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Be mindful. Be present.
One day at a time, one small step at a time.
(Note: Angel and I build small, life-changing daily steps/habits with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
What’s one source of hope, motivation, or gratitude you sometimes turn to when you need it most?
Anything else to share about this article?
We would love to hear from YOU. 🙂
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.
Peter Gills says
There you go again, Marc and Angel, dropping a new article link in my email right when I needed to some perspective. I feel like one is such a great highlight of what I’ve learned from your blog and book over the past year. Thank you!
And to answer your question about what I turn to on down days when I need an extra push…simple reminders like:
1. “This too shall pass.”
2. And of course, articles like this one.
Love to read your articles specially when I feel I am going down! it helps me a lot. thank you and God Bless you both!
I love what you said about being present and looking at what you have rather than what you don’t have. And I also like how you mentioned that we have everything we need to take the next step forward, and that it must be accomplished one small step at a time. Honestly, this is what your Getting Back to Happy lessons and coaching have helped me with most. In the past I’ve been a slave to my own negativity and self-limiting actions. In fact I’ve literally behaved just like the woman in the opening story of this post. I’ve held myself back simply by telling myself it’s not going to work, or that I’m not good enough because of some past failure or rejection. Thus, I appreciate these reminders today. I’ve come a long way! And it feels good to see the progress firsthand.
And M&A, your work is often the source I turn to most frequently when I meed an extra push in the right direction. Love your emails and books. Thank you.
Marc, your story about the woman at the bringing of this post really hit home with me. I know you and Angel have told stories with similar messages in previous posts and emails, but today it really clicked and hit me hard. Maybe it’s because I re-watched the workshop recordings from your 2022 seminar over the past few days, and also listened to the recording of the coaching call that you did with me in June. Either way I wanted you to know that way it’s finally all coming together in my head and heart. Thank you.
The daily ritual you guys set me up with of challenging my negative self-judgments is one that’s really guiding me forward right now. The battle is absolutely in my brain, and I’m finally understanding how to ease the tension. I’ve been able to catch myself in the act of victimizing myself as a broken human being, and then redirect my thoughts to recent real-world examples from my life where that’s not been true. Basically, I’ve already found a decent level of success with using the tools you’ve taught me to shift my focus to the opposite of the negative emotions and thoughts I’ve used to be stuck on, and find at least some proof that I’m growing and progressing. Practicing this daily brings healthy perspective to my occasional emotional and mental funks.
I was sent this article by someone I often turn to in times of struggle, or when I’m in a bewildered state. I thanked him for this new tool for my tool box. It turned out to be a whole backpack of enlightenment. The name of the woman in that story, in my life, is Cynthia — me. She is a work in progress. Thank you for sharing such support.
Thomas M says
My road and journey has definitely been an eventful one. 20 years ago I was homeless and a drug addict. With each step forward each day I’ve come to own a home and married to the greatest woman ever! I enjoy reading your books and the daily emails I receive.
Thank you. Your letters are unfailingly inspiring. One particular sentence really hit home for me. I am at present almost decided to sell my house (downsizing) from the house in the city where I currently live. For a long time I wanted to live in this space more than anything else in the world. There’s a lot of other things; it’s been a city where I’ve ‘lived the dream’, working at a university and having a full life. Circumstances changed and at 74 I’ve just been divorced for the third time. Although I still have my house the city is so full of memories – and the house too – that I feel I have moved on. My life has been rich and I have travelled, but the urge to start afresh – to move closer to my family is really strong. I always vowed I’d never move to be close to either of my children. I feared being too dependent on them. It’s really such a difficult situation, but your letter made me think slightly differently. I just don’t quite know what to do. But I think that’s okay.
It is my good fortunate to have “stumbled” on your story and post. You are now new friends on my journey and I am eagerly gratefully welcoming you. FAITH & HOPE are constant companions. Your positive attitude, graciousness and wisdom are a blessing. Thank you!
Reading this article and came across M and A for the first time.
Am struggling with my own issues. Reading this article has helped me realize there’s more to life and to appreciate what I have already. Could not have across this at a better time.
Donald Wickersham says
At 72, I sky dived and had a role in a play when I never acted before and the next play, 9-5 ,I was honored with the lead role! After our first script reading, I had to drop out, to support my wife in her dementia journey. Even this I am grateful for because it gives me new passion to be the best caregiver and focus on a loved one besides seeking another accomplishment for myself. Softball and umping will be put aside to attend to her needs. Everyday is a new challenge with the support of wonderful people in sun city huntley. Get up,dressup,show up and do not give up!!
I am literally in tears! Thank you this reminder to be grateful of every single thing that I have at the moment! 🙂
Jill lousich says
Thankyou for yr timely message. I am 64 yrs and have been separated for a year. This week i moved into a tiny house, on my own for first time ever, in a new little settlement, and am finding it hard. I am looking at a quote that says the year ahead is full of things that never were. That’s for sure. But I know I’m here for a reason. I have some good friends. A kitten has come and made itself at home. These are things I’m grateful for.
It is never too late to add new skills and expand your life. Thanks for the words of encouragement! The pandemic has hit my business – solo law firm focused on family issues – very hard. There is great need but people simply don’t have the money for traditional legal actions. So I am working on a course to become a certified Mediator to offer those lower cost services. It is a lot of work and a financial investment so I am nervous right now. I actually just finished doing some studying right before reading this so it is funny to have stumbled across it! Many thanks again for the virtual pep talk!!!