No matter how privileged or stable you think your life is, you’ll likely encounter dark times at some point. Life is a steady process of regular and constant change. There’s the growth and improvement that we seek out voluntarily. When we get complacent about what we have, when we stagnate and drift along, life often throws a curve-ball which forces change upon us.
We may anticipate and seek out positive experiences and are inspired to stretch ourselves. In this way, change is prompted from within us and sought out voluntarily.
Then there are the unexpected occurrences which bring change and which come about whether we want them to or not. It’s through responding to these and in overcoming adversity that we are forced to change.
Financial challenges may occur; you may lose your job, make a bad investment, get robbed, ripped-off or over-extend yourself with credit.
You will likely encounter relationship difficulties; you may cheat or be cheated-upon, your partner may mentally or physically abuse you or you may simply grow apart and fall out of love.
Your health may deteriorate temporarily or permanently through injury, accident or illness, or as you age and your body fails.
Friendships may falter, a loved-one will inevitably die, you may suffer depression or anxiety, feel ostracised and victimised or suffer bullying.
Please don’t think me fatalistic, but many of these things will probably happen at some point in your life. Some probably already have. I know they have for me.
In each instance we can confront the challenge and deal with it, or we can submit and let it break us.
The good news is that it’s not just you; these things happen to everyone, all the time. Most significantly, others get through them and you will too.
You’ve got more than this requires within you. You may struggle to believe this right now so I want to share a few guiding principles that have helped me in times of difficulty.
Recovery from hardship is not always a linear, step-by-step process. There will be setbacks and down-days but just as things change for the worst, the balance of life changes things for the better too. If you’re struggling to believe this, I’m going to ask you to suspend your disbelief for a while as you read on.
Acceptance – The sooner you actually accept where you are, the better. Whether facing financial struggles or trying to escape an abusive relationship you must stop reliving the events of the past. Punishing yourself or feeling angry towards others or the events that brought you here is futile.
When you accept the here and the now as your starting point and cease wondering what has brought you to this point, your focus can shift onto where you want to be and you are freed to take action to get there. When we stop living in the problem and focus instead on the solution to the problem, our attentions and our actions naturally follow as our subconscious sets about finding the answers.
By all means take some time to wallow, feel sorry for yourself and hold a pity-party where you lament all that has happened. Then sweep up, throw the remnants of the party in the garbage and move-on.
Accountability – Once you acknowledge the part you played in where you are today and stop blaming others or circumstance, you’ll realise that just as you got into this, you have what it takes to get out of it too.
There are undoubtedly external factors at play, the things that others did or said, the bad advice you were given, the things and the people you believed in and who let you down. These may have played a part in your current reality but you can’t change any of them now. What you can do is accept and acknowledge the part that you played, and learn the lessons that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.
Your accountability for the problem is your licence to create the solution.
Test yourself; Is this as bad as it can get? – Sometimes it pays to ask yourself this question. When you deliberately create additional hardship, adopt a stoic outlook and challenge yourself to accept and embrace hardship, it has a few useful effects.
First, it’s a reminder that you have control over your circumstances and your life, and power to shape the situation you find yourself in.
Second, it reinforces for you that there is always further to fall and a need for grateful acknowledgement of all the positives in your life.
At a simple level, rising early, getting breathless through 20 minutes of hard exercise and then taking a quick cold-shower may sound like a cruel and punishing way to start the day. However, it primes your body and mind for action and it reminds you that whatever hardship you face, you can deal with difficulties just as effectively as anyone else. When facing these artificial hardships, ask yourself “is this as bad as I thought it would be?”
The lasting effect at a minimum will be to feel energised for the exertion, refreshed and invigorated by the cold shower, and grateful both that you’re now warm and dry and also that you’re awake early and ready to confront your difficulties. You’re no longer just lying in bed worrying about what to do.
You may find even greater benefit from this process as you acknowledge the many blessings of your life and appreciate them all the more for having made things temporarily more difficult for yourself.
Embrace the challenge – You are where you are and your reality is your reality. You can’t change this and you can’t swap places with another. All you can control is how you think and feel about it, if you choose to. For as long as you resist or fight, feel embarrassed, angry or fearful then you’re delaying the process of recovery.
Some days you’ll regress and feel bad again but if you strive for an attitude of embracing or even just accepting the challenge, then you’ll be in a far better position to move forwards.
Fighting to get out of the situation is a better use of energy than resisting and lamenting your reality. Embracing the challenge means setting out to respond to the situation and conquer it which demands planning and then taking action.
If you’re facing financial hardship, embracing the challenge means aiming high, not just searching down the back of the sofa for lost coins. Instead you may wish to formulate audacious goals for generating extreme wealth and take actions intended to meet those. To use a cliché, if your actions are aimed low then you may hit a lowly target but if you aim for the moon, a miss will still hit the stars.
Having audacious goals at a macro-level doesn’t prevent actions targeted at the micro-level. You can still live frugally and remind yourself of the minimal requirements that we all have for basic life. Access to a diet of rice and beans, clean water and a warm place to sleep would put you ahead of what much of the world’s population takes for granted. This is easily attainable for most who will be reading this, right now; you have access to a computer or a smartphone after-all.
Maybe try feeling grateful in the knowledge that no matter how big your challenge is, it’s nothing compared to the difficulties faced by others. Embrace the challenge and bring this advantage to bear.
Action trumps inaction, every time – Taking action rather than being paralysed by fear or abandoning the fight is fundamental. It will get you through the challenge to reach a better place. Each little step also makes you feel better for actually getting up and doing something. Not every action will be a game-changer, but each action compounds on its predecessors to bring about startling results.
Whatever your challenge, many of the barriers that once existed to either taking action, making changes or seeking support have been lowered by technology and the network economy. Exploit and embrace this opportunity as you take steps to confront your challenge.
Seek out and accept help – In reading this you clearly have access to technology, and many useful tools to solve virtually any problem. There’s a wealth of information at your fingertips to guide you with empathy and practical support applicable to every challenge you could possibly be facing, whether in relationships, finance, health or any other sphere of life.
Whatever your circumstances, there’s someone out there who has been through it and come out of it for the better. You may favour the anonymous experiences and advice of those sharing on blogs and forums. Perhaps you want to speak directly with someone from one the numerous support agencies, charities and government institutions that are an email or a live-chat session away. The barriers to access are minimal to non-existent.
You may prefer to invest in high-end support, a mentor or a personal coach. Whilst not perhaps the most obvious course of action in some circumstances, I’d counter that for the quickest and most impactful results, investing in the support of a coach or mentor is hard to beat. The focused support and accountability from a personal advisor who’s been through the same challenges as you, is likely to be the best means of changing your situation quickly. The relatively higher financial cost may well pay the greatest return-on-investment in the long term.
Feel and express gratitude – It’s impossible to feel anger, fear or stress at the same time as heartfelt gratitude. When these emotions cloud your mind, a quick and easy counter-move is to feel grateful for something; we ALL have something to feel grateful for, whether that’s in the moment or in our wider lives.
That you’re here and reading this now, even if it finds you at your most desolate means you can feel grateful that your inquisitive mind is seeking out answers and solutions to the challenges you face rather than allowing you to throw in the towel. Your subconscious refuses to give up, even if that’s what you think you’d like to do.
Feel grateful to yourself for this resilience.
Believe – In times of darkness we can refuse to believe that a light exists; even worse we can prevent ourselves from seeing it. I offer these pointers as I’ve been where you are now, I’ve faced challenges, confronted darkness and I’ve come back from it. In all likelihood, you probably have too.
Life changes, things move on, resistance is futile. In times of adversity we have the choice to take positive actions and align our mind-set to supporting ourselves rather than resisting. Having choice is a beautiful thing in itself.
None of these steps is a quick fix to your problems, but I guarantee that step-by-step you will move in the right direction. You’ll ensure for yourself that things change as you want them to.
You’re probably doing most of these already too, but it never hurts to be reminded that you’ve got this.
You’ve absolutely got this.