Last night, Marc and I received a new thank you email from a longtime reader and coaching client named Kevin (we’re writing about him today with his consent). He said our book and life coaching sessions helped him and his wife Laura maintain a positive, intentional mindset as they struggled and grew through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. Certain sections of his email nearly moved me to tears:
“As you know, after injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a tragic rut for far too long. And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again, when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’ And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.”
Kevin then went on to say, “It was the shock of my friend’s tragic loss that motivated me to review four pages of notes I had previously taken from both your book and our most recent coaching sessions. And this time your wisdom sunk in! Suddenly a light bulb illuminated in my mind – and it literally changed my entire outlook from negative to positive. I suddenly realized there were people who needed me to get back up, and infinite reasons and ways to do my very best with what I had. So I started giving up all the negative things I was thinking and doing that had been holding me back; and then I took a bold step forward, and another, and another. And it’s been almost a year now, and I’m happy to say you were right!”
If you can relate to Kevin’s situation in any way, and you’re ready to move forward, I want to remind you that TODAY is the first day of the rest of your life. The road ahead is wide open. You CAN get yourself back on track!
But first, you have to…
- Give up pretending that you have to be who you used to be. – When times get tough, our worst battle is often between what we remember and what we presently feel. Thus, one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and struggle harder or when to take your memories and move on. Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are today.
- Give up berating yourself for everything you aren’t. – Being kind to yourself in thoughts, words and actions is as important as being kind to others. Extend yourself this courtesy. Love yourself – your real self. Work through your fears (dive deep), your insecurities (speak honestly and loudly), and your anger (scream into the pillow – not into the mirror, nor the people you care about; they don’t deserve it.) Instead of hurting yourself by hiding from your problems, help yourself grow beyond them. That’s what self-care is all about. It’s about facing the inner issues that make you believe that you are less than you are. It’s learning to see that you are already beautiful. Not because you’re blind to your shortcomings, but because you know they have to be there to balance out your strengths. (Read A Return to Love.)
- Give up regretting, and holding on to, what happened in the past. – When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have. Not all the puzzle pieces of life will seem to fit together at first, but in time you’ll realize they do, perfectly. So thank the things that didn’t work out, because they just made room for the things that will. And thank the ones who walked away from you, because they just made room for the ones who won’t. As they say, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.
- Give up getting caught up in the negativity surrounding you.– To be positive in negative times is not just foolish optimism. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of tragedy, but also of success, sacrifice, courage, kindness, and growth. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine how well we live. If we look only for the worst, it destroys our capacity to do our best work. If we remember those times and places – and there are many – in which people have behaved magnificently, and things have gone well, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to sit around and wait for some grandiose and perfect future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live right now as we think we should live, in defiance of all the negativity around us, is in itself an amazing victory.
- Give up thinking that everyone else has it so much easier than you. – When times get really tough, remember this simple truth: Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. And when you’re struggling with something that’s important to you, and you feel like your life isn’t fair, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.
- Give up wanting to be where others are in life. – Stop comparing where you’re at with where everybody else is. It doesn’t move you farther ahead, improve your situation, or help you find happiness. It just fuels feelings of inadequacy and shame, and ultimately keeps you stuck. The truth is, there is no one correct path in life. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. And that’s OK. Your journey isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad – it’s just different. Your life isn’t meant to look exactly like anyone else’s because you aren’t exactly like anyone else. You’re a person all your own with a unique set of goals, obstacles, dreams, and needs. So stop comparing and start living. You may not always end up where you intend to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be. Trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. And trust yourself to make the best of it. (Read The Untethered Soul.)
- Give up letting the judgments of strangers control you. – People know your name, not your story. They’ve heard what you’ve done, but don’t understand what you’ve been through. So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s right for you and your life, without giving a darn what your life looks like to everyone who doesn’t even know you.
- Give up letting toxic relationships bring you down on a daily basis. – Not all toxic relationships are agonizing and uncaring on purpose. Some of them involve people who care about you – people who have good intentions, but are toxic because their needs and way of existing in the world force you to compromise yourself and your happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people to be spending time with every day. And as hard as it is, we have to distance ourselves enough to give ourselves space to live. You simply can’t ruin yourself on a daily basis for the sake of someone else. You have to make your well-being a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful – you have every right to leave and create some healthy space for yourself. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Give up over-thinking and worrying about everything. – When your fears and anxieties have you looking too deep into things, it creates problems – it doesn’t fix them. If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it. Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential. And life is too short for that.
- Give up believing you aren’t strong enough to take another step forward. – It’s always possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems. In time, the grief (the lessons) may not go away completely, but after awhile it’s not so overwhelming. So breathe… You’re going to be OK. Remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and restless and afraid, and you’ve survived. Take another breath and know that you can survive this time too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and draining, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon they’re going to fade, and when they do you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience.
I want to riff on the final point just a bit more…
Because the truth is, you have to KNOW that YOU ARE strong enough to take another step forward, every single day. Feeling otherwise is just that – a feeling, not a fact!
So if you only take one point away from this post, let it be this:
The first and worst place we lose our footing is in our own heads. If you think it’s permanent, then it’s permanent. If you think you’re broken, then you are. If you think you’ve reached your limits, then you have. If you think you’ll never heal and grow, then you won’t. You have to change your mind. You need to see everything that’s holding you back, every obstacle, and every limitation as only temporary.
Because that’s the truth.
What are you holding on to right now that’s holding you back? Is there something you need to let go of, or give up, before you can move forward again? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights?
Photo by: Hannah Webster