What to do when things are hard
Challenges, struggles and hard times are a natural part of life. Chances are that if things aren’t hard for you in some area of your life right now, hard times are just around the corner. (Sorry to burst your bubble if everything is great!)
This being the case, it is very important to know how to handle the hard times. Anyone can be happy when things are easy, but it’s what happens in the hard times that really define a person’s life.
Here are 5 key ideas to help you move from strength to strength even when things are hard.
1. Make sure you don’t actually NEED things to be hard to feel good about yourself. Imagine if you were attracting or even creating extra challenges in your life just so that you could fulfil your need to feel significant!
In order to sleep at night, we must square away with ourselves that we’re a decent human being. In the absence of high quality strategies to do this, we resort to whatever works. One of the most common strategies is to validate yourself by what you do. The more you do, the better human you must be. It becomes common for people to demonstrate how awesome they are by how many hard things they can cope with at once. If you’ve got nothing to show for yourself how can you prove your value?
The last thing you need is to be creating and attracting more hard situations as your only means of self validation.
Detach your identity from what you do. Cut off all external means of significance and replace them with internal ones. Take 100% ownership of your own value and worth. Your significance is not defined by what you do or have or what others think of you.
2. Embrace the struggle without giving away your power. (Assuming it is not self inflicted!) The only way out is through. Every time you run and hide, you undermine your own self esteem. Avoiding hard things only teaches yourself that you don’t have what it takes to deal with life and that you need to keep running. It eventually erodes all self confidence and leads you to believe you are not enough.
Echart Tolle says, when you complain about the situation you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.
3. Return to your key decision making frameworks. What are your foundational principles of happiness and success? What are your key values and non-negotiables? When everything else is uncertain these are the bedrock from which you build a life of substance.
Having key decisions that you have already made mean that when everything seems up in the air and uncertain, there are key guidelines in place to stop you having to go all the way back to the start and reinvent your life.
For example here are a few of mine:
- No matter what, I will smoke what I’m selling. Authenticity is king.
- If I’m not clear about what I want in life, the only other option is to do what others want for me (and that isn’t an option.)
- I am exactly where I have chosen to be. I will embrace 100% responsibility and choice at all times.
- I will not die wondering. The only way to find out what is possible is to go all in.
- It is possible to fail at what I don’t want, so I may as well have a go at doing what I love.
- I will align myself with whatever is loving, kind, beautiful, creative and abundant in the world.
- All we have in life is story. The people who succeed just tell themselves better stories.
- I can’t do fake and I don’t play games. If I don’t believe in it, I’m out.
- Lifestyle comes first. I will not sacrifice quality of life just to earn more money.
- Go where the life is.
If you are not clear on your own set of guiding principles, this could be the most important place to start.
4. Factor in failure to your expectations. A useful Buddhist philosophy is that we suffer because we expect things to be other than they are. For example if you agree to run 5kms with a friend but you get lost causing you to end up running 10kms, you’ll suffer. But if you always expected to run 10kms, your mind is prepared for the pain and even though it may be hard, you don’t suffer. If you expect to succeed easily and quickly at everything you attempt, I guarantee you will encounter much pain and suffering. Regular failure is a crucial part of every truly successful person’s life. Be ok to fail fast and often. It is in failure that we learn and grow far more than any success. It is crucial to frame your expectations so that hard is necessary and OK.
The aim of the game is not to get to a place where there are no problems, but to be the kind of person who can overcome your current problems so that you earn higher quality ones.
In some seasons hard is exactly what you need. It is the place of character building, soul searching and foundation strengthening. Everyone can do easy, it’s what happens in the hard times that separates those who will thrive in life from those who will end up just surviving.
5. Be very clear about what you want in life. Focusing on this will cause much pain and tension in life, but it is also the source of all joy. The moment you lose sight of what you really want, the current challenges you are experiencing all become way too hard. You lose the reason to persist.
Setting well formed outcomes and refining them regularly is the leverage for all lasting change work.
Necessity is the mother of all invention. When you are clear about what you desire and why it is so important to you, you are at your most creative and resourceful place in life. Almost everything of lasting value in this world has been created in the face of adversity or seemly impossible obstacles.
Know what you want?
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get it?
Ok great. Now’s your chance to prove it.