017 - How to Cope With Tough Times

Audio:

Content:

  • We need to navigate challenges, not avoid them
  • Change brings improvements
  • Challenges are not abnormal, they're how life works
  • Welcome challenges - make them your friend
  • Almost everything you'll face is temporary
  • Tell yourself, "This too will pass."
  • Talk with trusted friends or professionals
  • The value of journalling is in getting things out of your head.

Resources:

Moleskine Notebooks*:

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Transcript:

If you’re facing tough times right now, difficulties that are getting on top of you, or even just making your life hard, I want to encourage you with three perspectives that have helped me successfully navigate the challenges of life.

No matter what your challenges are, whether they're temporary or permanent, fixable or not, terminal or just very frustrating, navigate them you must or you risk letting them influence the shape of the months and years ahead, and maybe even the rest of your life.

Even though the singer Pink sang, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger..." right now, it probably doesn't feel like it, right?   Hang in there!

Three Perspectives to Get You Through

When faced with big challenges here are three perspectives that can be helpful. They may or may not alter how you feel but, like an energy bar on a long hard hike, they can be nourishing to chew on from time to time.

1. The challenges and changes you're facing are how Life works. 

If there weren't any - if everything worked out as planned, everything was reasonably predictable - then there would be no Life. Because without challenges and change:

  • We wouldn't have civilisations
  • History's lessons wouldn't get learned
  • We wouldn't have reached the moon
  • The caterpillar wouldn't become the butterfly.

Change isn't a defective normal, it is normal. It's not even the "new normal" that change managers have talked about these past 20 years. It has always been normal.

Change has always been normal

My suggestion is this: Change your mental model -  Don't see difficulties as alien visitors that come down and upset your planet and need to be fought off. Welcome them as indicators that you're alive and living a normal life. Welcome them, painful as they might currently be.

2. The challenges and changes you're facing are only temporary.

OK, if someone you love has sadly died, or you've had an accident and lost your finger, yes those things are permanent in nature. But not in impact. You'll feel the impact significantly at first because that's how massive change works - you go through shock, denial, anger and so on. However, if you deal with your new reality as effectively as you can, then - over time -  the impact will diminish.

And then there are most other changes like losing your house due to financial difficulty, being made redundant, and even getting depression which are not permanent by nature because they can all be dealt with or replaced.

The problem often is, that when you've recently experienced these kinds of difficulties, it doesn't seem like things will be any different in the future. Again, that is a normal reaction to experiencing big changes to things you hold dear.

My suggestion is this: Even though you may not believe yourself at this point, regularly say out loud to yourself something like, "People say that these kinds of (insert your own changes, losses, tragedies, doubts etc) are only temporary. I will find a way through this." Or, "This feels horrible/really hard but this too will pass."

Friend, it will pass. You will find a way to deal with this if you accept it as part of your life.

3. The challenges and changes you're facing are faced by lots of people all around you.

The key message here is, you're not alone. Not at all. 

You're not alone. Not at all.

The truth of the matter is that if you were to stop people on the street, people who look like they have no worries or problems, and you were able to ask them how their life is going, I guarantee you the majority of people would surprise you with what they too are dealing with.

It's just that because most people aren't willing to talk about it openly - maybe because a lot of our Western thinking is based on needing to get it all together, be successful, and look good - you and I never fully realise that we're all in this together, this being human thing. Every one of us.

My suggestion is this: If you feel you have someone to talk to, do so. Open up and be honest with what you're thinking about and dealing with. If you don't have a friend you feel is up to the task of supporting you, then approach a qualified professional. Don't ask them to fix the situation, merely to listen to you and walk with you.

If you don't feel ready for that step yet, then at least get it out. And one of the best ways to do that is to write. If you haven't already, buy a journal (I like the A5 sized Moleskine type thing) and just write, every day, for 10 to 15 minutes.

What you're doing here is pulling out your thoughts and feelings and placing them somewhere outside yourself. This helps you to lighten your mental and emotional load a bit. It's helpful. Try it.

So, let's recap

You're going through some big things in your life, challenges, changes, huge doubts about your situation or beliefs, or even just facing massive disappointments.

Remember:

  1. These things are normal and part of Life. You're alive - that's good.
  2. Despite how it currently feels, there is a way through this. Keep going; you'll get there.
  3. You are not alone. Almost everyone has difficulties to deal with - some are even bigger than yours. Express yourself to someone - Reach out to your journal, a trusted friend, or a professional, and start talking about it.

I hope this helps. It might seem strange that someone who coaches professionals all the time in how to be more confident, develop more presence, and influence clients and colleagues can talk openly about all the above. Doesn't it potentially detract from my credibility? Doesn't it make me a fraud?

No. Not at all. I believe it makes me real.

Real is far better than pretending.