Last month I got scammed out of over $1000, my primary stream of income got cut in half, and I almost thought I was going to end up living on the streets. Which, in all seriousness, isn’t the greatest problem compared to what many others are going through.
In times like these, it’s easy to think that life sucks. It’s easy to be disheartened and almost think that there’s no reason to live.
But what can do to pull ourselves back up? Renowned Buddhist Pema Chodron once said, “It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.”
In simpler terms, Chodron is trying to get at the same idea referred to when we say, “Life is what you make it.”
Your reality is primarily shaped by the way you view life and the way you absorb events that happen to you.
This article details ten things you can do to transform your hardships to triumph, right now. Here we go.
1) Focus on What You Can Control
“Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” – Marcus Aurelius
Viktor E. Frankl spent 3 years as a prisoner in the Nazi Concentration Camps during the Second World War. Each of his mother, father, brother, and wife died during that time.
He had been stripped of everything in his life, and a state of terror and torture had very much become his norm.
However, out of that experience came some of the most brilliant observations on the human experience and perhaps, one of the greatest books of the twentieth century, if not the past millennial — Man’s Search For Meaning.
So, what can someone who survived the most formidable suffering of humankind teach us about dealing with one’s current circumstances in life?
- “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
- “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Now, I’m not trying to downplay your situation, but no matter how good or bad your circumstances really are, you’re likely only making them worse than they actually are.
According to researchers at the University of Cincinnati, 85 percent of the things people worry about never actually happen, and since what you focus on expands, that self-imposed suffering slowly becomes your life.
You begin to build up a rage of anger and discontent for the world, and your life becomes an increasingly depressing place.
Thus, you must be wary of what goes on in the space between your ears. You must be objective about the circumstances at hand and focus only on that which you can control.
Former football coach, Lou Holtz agrees:
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it,” he said.
Similarly, Hugh Downs once said, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”
Frankl’s story and teachings are proof. Your circumstances, in fact, mean very little in the grand scheme of things. We must learn to congruently and harmoniously, regardless of our current lot in life.
We must learn to find meaning, and thus happiness, even if we are consigned to a concentration camp.
Which takes us to the next point:
2) Never Forget Your Why
“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Again, in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl said a striking difference between those who died in the camps and those who survived was often simply a matter of will.
The people that survived had often found a reason to live and continued to maintain hope and faith for a better future, while the others had lost the will to live and were consequently overcome by illness and died.
And interestingly, the bible says the same: Without vision, people perish, it states.
You need something to live for. You need a vision in which you are exerting conscious and daily effort. And no, it doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it gives your meaning life.
For Frankl, it was the image of seeing his wife again. For another in the camp, it was his drive to finish a series of books he had half-written. For me, it was and continues to be my dream of traveling the world.
Of course, it’s totally okay if you don’t know exactly what your ‘Why’ is right now. Having more money, more joy, or more transformational experiences in life are completely fine goals that will push you in the right direction.
As you begin taking daily steps towards the destination you can see in your mind and heart, your vision and imagination will both expand and become increasingly clearer.
The next point will help also.
3) Keep a Daily Journal
“I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found.” – Tim Ferriss
Author and speaker Darren Hardy, pioneered the idea of “Book Ending” your day. In essence, it means you have evening and morning routines that keep your life together no matter what the rest of the day troughs at you.
And one of the most powerful things you can do in your morning and evening routines is keeping a Journal.
There is loads of scientific research suggesting that journaling can help reduce stress, aid in achieving goals, and even improve overall emotional health.
So, how do you get started?
Really, it’s quite simple: Sit down with a pen and paper immediately upon waking up and prior to bed, and simply put your thoughts to the paper. Because in truth, there is no right or wrong way.
Personally, I like to visualize my ideal future in the morning. I write in vivid detail the experiences to plan create. I plan the steps I’m going to take, and then act from that inspired state for the remainder of the day.
In the evenings, I like to put my day up for review. Being brutally honest with myself, I briefly detail the events of the day and then give myself a rating for that day. Finally, I ask: How can I make my days better getting forward?
This approach is very similar to what the Stoics have said, “Prepare in the morning, review in the evening.”
Of course, you can also start with gratitude. Write about all the good things that are happening in your life. Write about all the people who matter to you. Write about even the simplest of things that make life worth living.
Similarly, you could also write about the frustrations and difficulties you’re currently facing in life. You could write about why you’re stuck and where you want to go.
You could also “Write and Burn” if you must, but just get it out. Don’t leave any “skeletons in the closet,” as they say.
Writing about how you feel will help you observe, identify, and release any built-up emotions you may be holding on to. Immediately, you’ll feel a ton of weight removed from your shoulders.
4) Don’t Let the Negativity Take Over
The first reaction to any tragedy will be negative emotions. Fear, anger, despair, distress, depression—they will wash over you like oil, sticking to you no matter how much you try to scrub them out.
It’s so easy to succumb to these emotions and let ourselves be defined by then. First our thoughts, then our words, then our actions; one by one our personalities and lives become shaped by the negativity until we turn into nothing more than vessels of negativity.
This isn’t to say that you have to deny yourself your negative feelings. You have to let them in; just don’t let them take over.
But how exactly do you avoid falling to your negative emotions? Just pretend. Mask it over with confidence and happiness, and eventually that confidence will become real. The one thing to remember is this—fake it till you make it.
5) Become Grateful
The hardest time to feel grateful for the life you have is when you are experiencing something terrible. But these are the times when it is most important to practice gratitude in your life.
Think about how your tragedy could have been worse. If you have a loved one who has recently fallen ill or experienced an accident, think about how the issue might be more devastating.
If you lost a job or a large sum of money, be thankful that you still have the people around you and your good health.
There’s always a silver lining, and it’s important to lean on these silver linings during your toughest moments.
6) Move Forward
It’s natural to fall into a cycle of pitying yourself and mourning your dire situation when you experience something terrible.
But after some time, it’s crucial that you snap out of it before you let it ruin your life. Instead of asking, “How could this happen to me?” you need to start asking, “What can I do to move forward?”
It might not be easy and it might not even be something you want to do, but moving forward is like ripping the band-aid off a wound—it’s something that has to be done, and something you will thank yourself for later.
7) Stop Blaming
In a tough situation, our kneejerk reaction is to always assign blame.
Blame your boss, your company, a schedule, a virus, a faulty car, anything; anything that might be related to the tragedy that struck you and your family, you will figure out a way to blame it. And that’s understandable—we want to make sense out of the tragedy.
But here’s the thing—sometimes there’s no explanation. Sometimes there’s no reason and no one to blame, and you have to learn to be okay with that.
The sooner you can accept the fact that sometimes the universe is just random, the sooner you can learn to live with your new reality.
8) Remember That Everything Is Only Temporary
“Being trapped is just a position, not a fate. You get out of it by addressing and eliminating each part of that position through small, deliberate action — not by trying (and failing) to push it away with superhuman strength.” -Ryan Holiday
Wherever you are in life right now, it too shall pass. However, it’s not a matter of wishing and hoping for everything to be perfect by tomorrow.
Instead, it’s about taking small steps in the right direction, today, tomorrow, and the next day.
As Darren Hardy has said,
“Small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.”
Indeed, your life could look and feel pretty average right now. However, in a matter of months, you may just look back and be embarrassed by who you are now.
Your external world may more closely match your internal reality. Your life very well could resemble your wildest dreams. However, remember, it will be entirely up to you.
9) Stand Up
You know the famous line: every time you fall down, you have to stand back up. As long as you always stand back up one more time than you fall down, then you are going to be fine.
No matter how tough it might be, you have to be tougher. It doesn’t have to be an immediate response—it’s okay to have a period to grieve—but as long as it’s a response you make eventually, then you can conquer anything life throws at you.
10) Accept Total Responsibility for Everything in Your Life
“The moment you accept total responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the day you claim the power to change ANYTHING in your life.” -Hal Elrod
Wherever you’re currently heading in life, that’s on YOU. Of course, there may be other people or things involved — however, you cannot blame them for your choices; you are an entirely separate Being from all that.
Your boss, your partner, your job, your friends, society, or the economy do not control you. Instead, you control you.
To quote Grant Cardone, “Everything that happens in your life comes as a result of your own responsibility, not merely some outside force.”
Thus, it’s time to take responsibility. It is time to stop blaming the world around you and be proactive. It is time to stop being a victim of your conditions and instead create the conditions that you want.
Because while you will be shaped by your context, you get to decide that context. Hence, Jim Rohn has said, “Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”
And while this might seem like a scary thought to ponder upon, it’s actually incredibly relieving because when you know you’re fully responsible for the outcomes of your life, who can you blame?
That’s right — No one.
No longer do you have to worry about someone else magically transforming your life or emotional state. Instead, it’s entirely up to you.
If you want to create your ideal future, that’s on you. If you want to be happy, that’s on you. If you want to be successful, that’s also on you.
It’s not what happens to you that’s important. Instead, how you respond.
Of course, we all face difficulties and challenges in life. However, regardless of the external circumstances we find ourselves faced with, we will always have complete control of the mindset with which we respond.
And hence, Frankl has called it, “the last of the human freedoms.”
Moreover, without vision, people perish. Thus, you need something to live for. You need something that gives your life meaning. I could be a person, a piece of work, a dream, or anything else you give conscious and daily effort.
Your journal very much can become a place of solitude for you. Confine in it to relieve your stresses and worries, and I’m sure you’ll find it to be the most cost-effective therapy available.
Next, accept total responsibility for everything in your life. There’s nothing you blame for your current lot in life other than yourself. And even if there were someone or something else you could blame, how would it help?
As far as I know, there’s nothing about blaming or criticizing one’s circumstances that will ever move you to a better place in life. So, just accept total responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life and claim the power to change ANYTHING in your life.
Finally, everything in life is only temporary — both the good and the bad. So, don’t cling onto your emotions of the present. Instead, continue to move onto bigger and greater futures!
However, don’t forget to see the perfection of your life regardless.
As Hal Elrod has said, “Love the life you have while you create the life of your dreams. Don’t think you have to wait for the latter to do the former.”