You want an amazing life, right? I’m willing to bet you probably don’t want to feel bad about life. Feeling bad sucks. Nobody wants to be plagued by darkness that holds you back from being successful. Yet the reality is that life gets hard sometimes. Unfortunately, so many people let these scenarios dictate their lives and quit trying to do their best, because why bother?
Is that you right now? You’re probably wondering why in the world this is happening to you. You may feel like you’re stuck in despair and that you’ll never be able to get out of your situation.
It’s time to get real. Life gets hard sometimes. Sometimes it is a result of our doing, but I find most of the time it’s completely out of our control. Giving up on ourselves as a result of situations that are out of our control isn’t really worth it, is it?
So why does this happen?
The problem is, in our path to improving ourselves, many of us put on these blinders and focus on only the good. There is nothing wrong with being optimistic, but life is fabulous at throwing curveballs. When our blinders are on and life gets hard, like, REALLY hard, it’s so easy for us to throw all of our progress out the window.
The best thing you can do when life gets hard is to keep moving forward.
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How to Move Forward When Life Gets Hard
Gaining momentum in challenging moments doesn’t have to be large, difficult, or life-changing. In fact, it’s amazing how the smallest momentum can actually get the ball rolling to small progress. And you can’t have big progress without small progress, first.
In order to gain momentum when life gets hard, there is a mix of things you must stop doing, and things you must start doing to gain traction and start making progress.
Stop Doing These Things When Life Gets Hard
A lot of actions people take when life gets hard actually make life more difficult. It’s more challenging in a way because these are behaviors many of us see regularly. TV characters, family members, and celebrities all engage in these activities when life gets tough.
Here are six behaviors to consider ditching if you want life to get better.
Tip 1-Stop trying to control what you can’t control
There are some things in life we have control of, but there are plenty more that we don’t have control of.
When things don’t go well, people try so hard to change things they have absolutely zero control over. Whether it’s trying to get approval from others, trying to prevent our brains from having different thoughts, or
Things we don’t have control of:
- Our thoughts
- Our emotions
- Other people
- Mother Nature
- Decisions already made
What we do have control of:
- Our reactions
- Future choices and decisions
People who do best when life gets hard ultimately focus most on what they can adjust.
Tip 2- Quit believing you could have prevented the outcome
When life gets hard, people often believe that they could have done something different that would prevent their circumstances.
This is really common in depression, actually. Depression is a legitimate disease, but so many people who have depression believe that if they had made different choices and taken different action, they wouldn’t have depression.
It doesn’t quite work that way.
Like the list mentions in the point above, there are so many things outside of our control. There is no sense wasting energy and emotion on believing we could have done something differently. What’s done is done. If there is something different you can do for your future, then focus on that instead.
Tip 3- Recognize the ‘liar’ in your head
Have you ever felt so angry that you thought about doing something you absolutely wouldn’t do in real life? For most of us, we’re able to separate reality and behave appropriately, despite how we ‘feel’ at the moment.
Yet when it comes to our thoughts about ourselves, separating reality gets a lot more challenging.
When life gets hard it’s very easy to have thoughts such as:
- “I’m such a loser”
- “This will never get better”
- “Other people wouldn’t struggle as much as me”
- “Nobody cares”
Well, our brains aren’t designed to give us pretty, perfect thoughts 100% of the time! We also aren’t supposed to take everything our brains feed us at face value.
It’s best to acknowledge the voice in a passive way. One of the best tricks I learned came from a book based on ACT Therapy, and it’s called ‘Thank You, Mind’. Every time your mind gives you an unhelpful thought, you tell it ‘thank you’, and remove yourself from the thought.
I highly recommend the book The Happiness Trap for other tips to help deal with this particular challenge.
Tip 4- Don’t compare yourself to other people’s ‘best’
Time and time again, I’ve made the mistake of hopping on Facebook when I’m feeling down. Now, this post isn’t here to shame you off of social media, but I’ve found on the surface level, most people do their best at presenting their ‘best’.
In fact, even as an entrepreneur, I’ve been taught the science behind creating content that makes you shine and look like an expert.
When all you see is the best of somebody else, you will negatively judge yourself because you aren’t able to keep up. Often this will cause you to freeze. This prevents momentum for yourself.
If this is an area that causes you to get stuck, some things to consider:
- They may have been doing this longer
- They may have struggles you aren’t aware of (see tip #7)
- These people are using these principles regularly
The thing is- I’m not perfect. Sure, I have a successful blog, I work at home running my own business, I am creative and artistic, and can come up with unique solutions to just about everything.
Now a new blogger may see all of that and think they can’t succeed just because I look ‘so amazing’ and ‘have it all put together’.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. I struggle with chronic health issues. It negatively affects my ability to run my blog. In fact, some days I rely on my husband because I can barely function.
My life story is filled with all kinds of challenges that honestly it’s amazing I’m still alive and kicking. While I share these things and don’t hide my flaws, remember that I have struggles you may not always visible see.
Tip 5- Stop asking why
When life gets challenging, many people fall to their knees and ask ‘Why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” The problem with this mentality is that most of the time, there isn’t an answer to your question.
I’ve actually found in my years that ‘Asking Why’ causes people to:
- Ruminate and hyperfocus on the event
- Believe that you could have done something different to prevent your situation (see point 2 for why this doesn’t work)
- Develop a victim mentality
Ultimately, asking why keeps you from moving forward. It keeps you angry and feeling bad about yourself.
Tip 6- Stop isolating yourself
When life gets hard, I find that I feel better by avoiding everybody and everything, staying inside, closing the blinds, and pretending like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Says no one ever. But the thing is, people do this. REGULARLY. Time to yourself is one thing, but a lot of people tend to completely shut everybody out when life gets hard.
Studies show that social isolation is one of the worst things you could possibly do to yourself. Humans are built to be social creatures; it’s in our very nature. But when we ignore this nature because of shame, fear, depression, frustration, insert other negative emotional adjectives here, our health tanks.
Yes, when life gets hard, it’s hard to keep your head high and get out in front of everybody else. It’s embarrassing to cry in front of other people.
We live in a society where the answer to “How are you doing?” when you feel terrible is “Fine.” You may find some people unsupportive and unhelpful. But don’t let that stop you from being around other people. The risks of asking for help are a lot milder than the perils of social isolation.
Start Doing These Things When Life Gets Hard
In addition to engaging in behaviors that make life more difficult, people often stop performing healthy behaviors that help make life easier.
Shame, embarrassment, guilt, frustration, and failure all contribute to stopping these helpful, healthy behaviors. If you want to start moving forward, find ways to incorporate these behaviors into your routine.
Tip 7- Read other people’s success stories
Above, I mentioned the need to stop comparing yourself to others. One of the biggest falsehoods of comparison revolves around the belief that successful people do not have challenges. That lie couldn’t be further than the truth.
One of my favorite authors, Hal Elrod, looks like an amazing success from the outside in. He’s engaging, witty, intelligent, and extraordinarily successful. If I only viewed his life from a superficial level, it would be so easy to believe during challenging times that ‘I will never be able to be like that.’
Now, I haven’t met him beyond what I’ve heard through the Miracle Morning, website, and podcast, but that said, a deeper dive into his story clearly reveals that Hal’s story isn’t quite as rosy. In fact, it’s downright tough to swallow.
He’s faced death multiple times. In fact, his first experience was a severe car crash that landed him in the hospital with a coma and numerous broken bones. Bonus- his girlfriend broke up with him while he was in the hospital. Lovely, right?
He got hit hard financially in the recession of 2008. He was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
He’s still successful. He doesn’t give up when life gets hard. In fact, he takes full responsibility for his life. Even better, he gives us the tools to help us be successful despite our circumstances.
Whether you read about Hal or somebody else you admire, I guarantee that you’ll see a lot of hills and valleys in the life of whoever you choose to read about. It can really help provide perspective and knowledge that some of the best people in the world struggle just as much as you do.
(And if a success story doesn’t include hardships, it may not be a success story you want to read!)
Tip 8- Show yourself compassion
Regardless of whether your challenging moments are a result of something you did or didn’t do, do you ever find that constantly berating yourself helps you?
I’m willing to bet your answer is a resounding “NO!”
Bad days happen. Sometimes bad weeks and bad months happen. In fact, life is always going to throw things your way that you don’t expect. You may not always have control over what happens, but you have control over your response.
If something challenging happens that you have no control of, instead of believing something you could have done differently would have a better outcome, give yourself love and compassion.
- Take a warm bubble bath.
- Go to coffee with a friend.
- Call your mom
Do whatever you need to do to get out of feeling ‘blah’, so you can start moving forward again.
Tip 9- Ask for help
When life gets hard, it’s easy to stop doing the things that help you thrive. I know when I’m not doing well, the last thing I want to do is clean my home.
But I also know that ignoring the problem doesn’t actually make the problem go away.
This last week, my mom came to visit. She is so proud of everything I’ve accomplished over the last year, but she knows I struggle with my health and my family is busy. I’m definitely not taking care of the house the way I need to be.
Anyways, she told me:
‘Rachel, you’re creative and smart. You’ve always had an eye for art and writing. You’ve never been great at cleaning. You would feel so much better if you hired a housecleaner every week or two.’
And she’s right. While I’ve considered it, I always thought that hiring a housecleaner made me lazy. What my mom says is true though, even as a kid I hated cleaning and it’s definitely not on my skill list. Because I’m working my butt off and I can afford it, why not hire help for the areas I’m not so great at?
Asking for help, whether it’s asking friends or family, or hiring help, is not a weakness. Nobody is good at everything. Find somebody who is, so you can move forward in life.
Tip 10- Do “One Small Thing”
There are two things that tend to prevent people from moving forward when life gets hard.
First is when you do nothing. Obviously. Doing nothing never got anybody anywhere.
Second is when you try to do too much.
Let me explain this further. When you’re not feeling great, one, your focus is likely poor and it’s hard to concentrate.
Two, when you will inevitably fail from getting everything done because you aren’t in a place where you can manage that load, you’ll likely berate yourself, revert to doing nothing, maybe even isolate because you can’t possibly deal with more bad feelings.
Like I mentioned earlier in the article, momentum doesn’t have to be grandiose. Nobody ever walked from the east coast to the west in one big jump. They did it one step at a time.
Maybe you could walk five steps last month. That doesn’t matter now. You need to focus on your one step.
Pick one thing you can do each day, and do it. If the task is challenging, adjust the task. Simplify or delegate, if necessary (asking for help is a step!).
Tip 11- Remember that improvement isn’t linear
As children, our education provides the false belief that learning is linear. You learn that 1+1=2. Once you master addition, then subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, and so forth.
But learning, growing, improving isn’t that linear. We can be advanced in some areas and basic in other areas. Not to mention, your knowledge isn’t fluid. What you know now likely doesn’t match what you knew 10 years ago. As circumstances change, you have to gain new knowledge to handle new situations.
I made this chart about time management because I think it’s true. Take out the word ‘time management’ and replace it words such as ‘success’, ‘financial freedom’, ‘education’- it doesn’t matter. Every path to improvement looks like this. When you remember this, it really takes a huge load off your shoulders.
Tip 12- Reflect on your past
While it’s unhealthy to ruminate about your situation, sometimes it’s valuable to stop and remember about challenges you’ve dealt with in the past. What did you learn from them? What positive things occurred in life because life got hard?
I was harmed significantly by somebody I barely knew back in 2009.
Yet, had I not been harmed, I may not have met my husband.
It sounds morbid because nobody should ever have to endure what I went through. But nearly ten years removed, I specifically recall I was supposed to have a job interview the same day it occurred. I had to reschedule it, obviously, as I was in the emergency room.
When I had my job interview, while waiting, my now-husband came out of the back room with the supervisor. He just finished his interview as I was heading into mine. That brief encounter would not have happened had my job interview occurred the previous time.
We both got hired, got to know one another, and the rest is history.
While I don’t give credit to the person who harmed me, I also recognize that there could have been a different result in life if that event hadn’t happened.
Tip 13- Take responsibility for what you can
Remember Hal Elrod, who I mentioned earlier? One of the reasons I appreciate his story so much is because he takes responsibility for himself when life gets hard. Sure, the car crash wasn’t his fault. He didn’t want to have cancer. He didn’t wish for the economy to fall.
Despite having control over presumably none of those things, they all rocked him to his core.
But when life got hard, he did literally whatever he could to keep moving forward and making progress. When he had his car accident, he chose in the hospital to have an attitude of gratitude.
When the economy crashed, he created a morning routine to help keep his spirits lifted and body healthy (now famously known as the Miracle Morning). Then when he got cancer, he maintained a positive attitude. Hal did whatever he could to promote healing his body.
I feel pretty confident if he had another life-shattering situation, he would do what he could to take full responsibility for what is in his control.
Do What Works, Stop What Doesn’t
If I had to summarize every single point into one sentence, it would be “Do what works, and stop what doesn’t”.
A lot of people easily slide into these behaviors when life gets hard, and it’s unfortunate that our society normalizes these behaviors. It’s amazing how the things we do, and the things we don’t do, negatively affect our ability to manage life challenges when they happen. You don’t have to pretend that everything is OK when it isn’t.
Yet, there is value in continuing to move forward when life gets hard. Ultimately, it’s what separates those who are successful in life versus those who aren’t.
The point of Planning Mindfully is to help you stop and be mindful about how you conduct your life.
If something makes you feel bad and prevents you from making progress, it is wise to quit that behavior.
If you’ve had success with something that helps you get out of a rut, do it more! And don’t let the liar in your head tell you otherwise (it’s so easy to do that!).
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