This is one of my favorite quotes. In any dark situation we find ourselves in, it can be difficult or next to impossible to see any benefits of that situation. Usually, long after it is over, we usually see something the struggle brought to us.
One way thatI have taught myself to speed up this process is to ask myself some empowering questions. These are “what possible good could come out of this?” This can be difficult,especially in the beginning. An even more powerful question is this – “How can I use this?” Even if there seems to be no light to be found in your darkness, you can still use it.
When you suffer through something, be that a loss of someone you love, addiction, abuse or anything else, that gives you a very important gift. That gift is the ability to understand the struggle of someone suffering the same. When we are in the darkness, it can be so helpful to see a hand reaching out and a voice saying “I know, I have been there. ”
Think of some of your darkest moments. Think of how they may have forcedyou to grow. Think of how they provide you the ability to relate to and help others. Don’t just make it through your pain, use your pain! Use to help others, use it to help yourself. It is by doing this we turn the pain into a gift.
Almost all of us know the cliche “the struggle is real.” I think all of us have struggled, or are struggling currently with at least one thing in our lives. That says that all of us will suffer and will continue to do so, to greater or lesser degrees, for the rest of our lives. Not very optimistic sounding, but certainly true.
How come some people seem to float through one struggle after another, while others are paralyzed? It is preparation and mindset. Our mindset, or attitude, about life has a greater impact than anything else. I heard a song lyric today that said, “You say the struggle is real. I say the struggle reveals. ” What does struggle reveal about you? Are you preparing your mind for the struggles that are coming?
That brings us to the next obvious question, “How can we prepare our mind for struggle?” Les Brown, when asked why he didn’t give up when he was diagnosed with cancer said, “I just decided cancer wasn’t going to beat me.” That is a powerful mindset. I determine to find the gift and lesson in every struggle. It is like saying to the challenge life has thrown at me, “You tried to destroy me, but I used you to help me grow.” In short, it is like giving a middle finger to struggle, but far more productive.
It is time for you to think how you handle struggle. None of them are easy. All of them suck. We have the choice to decide if the storms of life will use us, or if we can find a way to use them. PLEASE share any ideas you have for not letting struggle get you down. I think we could all benefit by working together on this subject .
This is a powerful concept that is easier said than done. However, realizing this point may help us a great deal. I know many people, myself included, that can be paralyzed to inaction by memories of the past or worries of the future. Having this quote printed out may do a great deal to help us move forward. Although the past can really cause us a great deal of pain, realizing that it is not the actual event that happened that is causing us pain, but our memory of it, may aid us in understanding how to heal that pain and move forward. After all, we cannot go back in time and change events, but we can work on a change in perspective or thinking moving forward. We may need help of a good friend or therapist to do this, but it can be done.
The same holds true with any worry we have of the future. The best thing we can do is take action to prepare for the future. Beyond that, there is not much we can do. I once heard a saying that said, “Worrying is like riding an exercise bike; you get really tired, but you do not actually go anywhere.” Use any apprehension you may have for future events to motivate you to take action in the present. When you have done all that you can do, relax knowing that you have given it your best and you will take further action as the future reveals itself.
By understanding that it is not actually the past or the future that is causing us pain, but our thinking about it, will allow us to put our effort where it will do the most good – between our own two ears. This is a simple concept, but one that may not always be easy. If we remember to focus on our own thinking, we can work through an issues we may be having. Whether this requires time alone in meditation or the help of a friend or professional, it can be done.
This title may be a little misleading. I do not actually love pain. Especially in the moment. I am not sure anyone does. What I do feel is respect for pain. I know in pain and darkness is where some of the greatest growth happens. I was reminded of this late last week. It is fairly obvious when it comes to physical fitness. The pain you feel in your muscles is what proceeds the growth of new muscle. The pain of deprivation and self-sacrifice when you are improving your diet will lead to the growth of a healthier you. These are all pretty obvious situations. Sometimes pain is sneaky and the growth is not so easy to understand until you can look back.
Last week I had one of those sneaky moments. I am still not 100% sure why, but I am guessing a host of personal situations that occurred had me feeling down. It can be quite frustrating when you feel down and you just can’t put your finger on exactly why. I decided to get some writing done. I went to the local coffee shop and started to write some blogs. They felt a little dark, but they were very introspective. After I was done writing, it occurred to me that often this can be the result of me feeling in a funk. I get in my own head and really start thinking about my life and how I am living it. Then, I come up with some pretty interesting conclusions. Ones that would probably not have come to me if I was running around with a smile on my face and in my heart.
Many people assume that being happy 100% of the time should be a goal. I disagree. I think a little pain is good for us all. What we should try to do is limit the duration and frequency of that pain. On the other end of the spectrum, we should try to maximize the profitability of our pain. What I mean by that is we should try to get the most out of a painful situation. It can be tempting to wallow in self-pity or sadness. I know just as well as anyone how good that can feel. Here is a little secret, it doesn’t get you very far. Certainly, give those feelings their due, but then put them to work for you. Suffering the pain of regret after losing someone? Let it be the kick in the butt to be more loving to those you still have. Sad because the person you thought you would be with forever had a far shorter definition of the word than you did? Learn from that. Were there red flags you overlooked? Is there something you can improve about yourself?
Pain can suck. There is no way around that. What makes it ten times worse, is if you don’t get anything out of it. Imagine going to the gym once, feeling sore, waiting weeks until you feel better and then repeating it. Not only would you feel sore again, you would not be any closer to being in shape. The pain of losing a job for being late and then showing up 30 minutes after the start time for your new job. None of this would make sense. Put pain to work for you. Don’t let it run you!
These next few posts are going to be a collection of lessons that I have learned from coworkers. Three different people, three different post offices. We begin in the sunny town of Franksville where I used to be postmaster. I was discussing self-improvement and introspective topics with the person who works there. We often have brief but intense discussions on some of our favorite people who inspire us.
On this particular day, the young lady mentioned she had been having some stressful days where she was feeling down. She was concerned that in her journey she might be taking a step back. I think any of us on a path to improving our lives and ourselves, have felt something similar. One of the most common questions I am asked at book signings, seminars and just by people I interact with is “Do you ever have a bad day?” “Are there days you are not in a good mood?” My answer is simple, of course I do. Everyone has days in their life where things just seem to go south when you would like them to go north. I actually had my day start that way today.
Does this mean we are not being successful in our self-improvement journey? Does this mean we are somehow doing it wrong? Are the amount of days we feel down indicative to our progress in life? Not at all! As the movie Forest Gump made light of, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get.” There are many situations that are beyond our control. Some moments it would appear we are having a run of ‘good luck’ where other times it would seem ‘the deck is stacked against us’. I am here to tell you that kind of thinking is a bunch of BS! (Belief systems).
Our success is not in eliminating every single challenge in life. We will all have days or more to the point, moments when life gets the best of us. The true test of our character is in shortening both the intensity and duration of those experiences. In fact, we grow most in times of pain and challenge. We learn the most about ourselves, those we care about and the world around us when times see the darkest. It is in putting these situations to work for us that we can take an experience that is a negative and turn it into a positive. Like finding a big hole in the ground and turning it into a mind in which we pull diamonds out of. These diamonds are better than jewels though. They can be diamonds of physical, mental and emotional strength we never knew we had. It can be the jewel of gratitude for those who help us when we are down.
How can we turn all of these negative situations in positive ones? I am going to give you a quick tool to start using by the end of our time together here today. Here it is – ask two simple questions. It would be a good idea to write these two questions down so when times get tough you don’t have to search for them on top of everything else. The first one we kind of alluded to earlier. How can I use this? Can I use it to be better prepared for a similar event in the future? Can I use it to develop a skill that I do not have at this moment in time? Can I use it to stoke the fires of motivation I have to succeed in the future?
The second question we should ask ourselves when things are bad is What is good about this? If you ask this question second it usually works a lot better. Once you found how to put your grief/pain/anger/sadness or whatever other challenging emotion to work for you, it can be a lot easier to find something positive in it. Perhaps you are experiencing the pain of regret over not spending enough time with a love one you lost. You can put that pain to work to motivate you to cherish and give 100% to those you love who are still here. The ‘positive’ that could come out of that pain is to remind you to express your feelings and take time for those who are in your life presently. I am sure you could think of examples in your own life as well.
To wrap up what turned out to be a longer post than I expected, let us remember the true measure of success. It is not to eliminate all stress and never have a bad day. We would never really grow then. It is finding ways to shorten the duration of time we spend in that negative state. We can do it by asking the two questions in the order we demonstrated above. When we go through pain and struggle we gain valuable tools that will allow us to better contribute to and serve others around us and the world at large. Next time you find yourself having a day where you are feeling down, remember that does not mean you are failing. What it does mean, is you have an opportunity to grow and develop tools you would otherwise not have.
Challenges. We all go through them. Some are small, like leaving your cup of coffee on top of your car as you drive away. Some are big, such as a breakup or losing someone. We have little or no control over most of these. Who would voluntarily give up their dose of caffeine just to decorate the outside of their car?
What we all have in common is the fact that our lives include challenges. Some may appear to have more than others, but if we look closely we discover we all have them. What separates us is how we respond to challenges. How come some of us walk away bitter and some walk away better? This can even happen differently with the same person depending on the situation. I can say that I do not always respond best from challenges and often it takes the help of others to put me on the right track.
What makes the difference? The key here is perspective. As the picture above notes, some people have muscles and some have wounds. It is not a matter of minimalizing your pain or struggle, but putting it to work for you. As Eric Thomas, one of my favorite coaches reminds us, don’t waste your pain. It is bad enough that terrible things happen in life. Let us do our best to make use of them by gaining strength from the struggle we have survived or in some cases are currently going through. Print out this picture or maybe even just write it down for some good motivation!
Last post we talked about my affection for the stories of Winne-the-Pooh. Today we are going to look at the above quote from this famous literary work of art.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh
“It’s today.” squeaked Piglet
“My favorite day.” said Pooh. In this quote we are given the gift of great wisdom hidden in what seems to be a silly thought. Today is the best day. In fact, today is the only day. Yesterday has already happened and we cannot change it. If we continue to live in the pain and hurt of yesterday we are doing so at the cost of today. If there is a wrong or hurt that happened yesterday we cannot undo it. The only way to attempt to remedy yesterday is to take action today to undo the wrongs of yesterday. The same holds true for tomorrow. It has not come yet and will never come. Tomorrow is always in the future. Perhaps you have concerns about future tomorrows? The only thing you can do is act today to help those events in the future. Things such as purchasing life insurance, starting a health regimen, begin a savings account or many other actions that will improve your future. It is the actions we take today that will determine our tomorrows. Fully enjoying the day we are currently in is the only way in which we can live a truly positive and rewarding life. If we live in the regret of the past we are giving away our peace of today. If we delay our happiness for a future event we are doing the same thing. That is not to say you shouldn’t have things to look forward too, but enjoy the process while you are waiting for them to arrive. Make today your favorite day. Let us all take this great lesson from that friendly bear and his woodland friends.
In my upcoming book Living the Dream there is a special section I have included towards the back of the book. This section is called ‘In the company of angels’ and for good reason. It includes stories of people that I know who have faced life challenges that would make most of us bitter at best, or throw in the towel and quit on life at worse. These wonderful people have not only avoided both, but have went on to be positive forces in their own right.
The stories range from having one of their parents killed in a mining accident and having to move clear across the country to being abused on several levels as both children and adults. Writing these stories was a bit of a struggle for me as I am used to writing material that uplifts and inspires. As I wrote and recalled all the situations my friends had relayed to me I felt their pain. I cannot imagine facing what some of them have.
Writing my way through them brought several positive things to me, however. First, I was grateful for all of the struggles that I didn’t have to face growing up. We were not rich and I came from a single-parent home, but we always had trips to the library, played games with other children in the neighborhood and always had enough to eat. After reading the stories I share in my book, growing up without a lot of money and only one parent seemed like paradise. I guess you could say it not only supplied me with a great deal of gratitude, but a new perspective as well.
Another thing it did for me was only serve to increase my respect for those brave individuals that shared their stories. The idea for including them in my book was to show real life examples of how people could face the worst situation and still manage to maintain a positive disposition. This was the reason I approached the people I did. What I didn’t expect was the details and amount of struggle they had went through. Learning how someone could overcome everything they did was worth its weight in gold. I am pretty sure most of us would not escape with such a healthy outlook as they had.
Knowing these people personally I can tell you that they genuine love life. That is not to say they do not have a bad day as we all do, but as a general rule they seem to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds them on a daily basis. The bravery they showed in coming forth and sharing their stories so that others may benefit from them was also not lost on me. They did so with no promise of any future reward other than the knowledge in their heart that their stories have helped others who are also struggling.
My suggestion to you is to learn the stories of your friends. Ask about their struggles. If you are blessed enough like I am to have brave friends who do not mind sharing what they have been through, do yourself a favor and listen. Understand how much courage it takes to be able to recall the pain of the past again. Admire their ability to stand strong in the face of a past that may haunt them or weigh them down. Appreciate their ability to shine even after all the storms they have been through. These to me are the true warriors.
Don’t forget to look for the book Living the Dream coming to bookstores next February.
Today I want to talk to you about darkness and light. This won’t take long so get comfortable for second. Darkness is an interesting thing. There are several shades of darkness. From slightly hazy to so dark you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Daily we go through the transformation from light to dark as the sun sets. Sadly for me there never seems to be enough sunlight, but I digress. There are certain places on this wonderful planet that seem to be dark. Think forests, long caves and mines, the depths of the ocean and even dungeons of castles. These places seem to personify darkness. The thought of being trapped in any of them can be enough to give some of us a chill down our spines.
Think of how you would feel trapped in a cave with no light at all. You would not know which way was up or down. You would not be able to tell how big the cave was or which way it went. You would also not be able to tell who else might be sharing the cave with you. How long could you remain there? Before long the darkness would start to play with your mind. Now take a deep breath. You are not in a dark cave…at least I would imagine most of you are not. You are in front of a lit computer or cell phone screen.
Life can be much like that dark cave at times. We can begin where our life seems a little hazy and before we know it we cannot see our hand in front of our face. We are unable to see what is up and what is down. We are even unable to see which way our life is heading at times. If we spend long enough in this feeling of darkness it will begin to mess with our mind.
What happens when someone shines a light into that cave? Whether the cave is just a little bit hazy or totally dark, the cave will light up. Here is another aspect to ponder. If that cave had not seen light for thousands of years and suddenly a light was introduced, the cave would still light up. Whether the darkness lasted a day or thousands of years, the light will break through.
I hope by now you are beginning to see the parallel to life. Whether your life has been in darkness for days or for years, you can still begin to turn it around by introducing some light. Rekindle your faith, reach out to a friend, read an inspirational book. One of the best ways to introduce light into your life is to become the light to someone else. At the time I found myself in the darkest place financially I went to help feed the homeless at a meal program. That not only gave me the light of hope, it reminded me of all the advantages I still had in my life. If you were the victim of abuse, help others in that same situation even if it is only being a compassionate heart to listen.
It my latest book I have interviewed people who have faced some of the most severe challenges. Although they all have their unique way of overcoming those challenges they all have two things in common – A focus on gratitude and the desire to help others. By becoming a source of light for others they could not help but have some of that light shine in their own life as well.
Remember my friends, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how long it has been dark the light will still shine through. Rekindle that light. Become the light for others.
In my upcoming book I speak to the importance of having a strong why to keep you focused and motivated to accomplish your goals. Indeed this is very important and can be the difference between success and failure. If, for example, your motivation for getting in shape is to fit into your favorite pair of jeans or just to look good that will take you only so far. If, however, you are working out because you have had a recent health scare or you cannot bear the thought of leaving your family too soon, you will be a lot more likely to be found on the treadmill.
Today I want to talk about what I believe is one of, if not thee, best motivating factor – love. We are not just discussing the romantic definition. Although, how many stories have we heard of people doing anything for love? We are not just speaking of parental love. That being said, daily we can read of parents putting themselves in harms way just to help their children. Even though we are not just discussing those two examples, they represent a good example of the power of love.
Love can be found everywhere. In the above examples we love how we look in our jeans when we are fit. We love our family so much we are willing to spend countless hours in the gym so we will be with them for years to come. Love is in all of the joyous feelings we have. Love is also in some of the darkest moments we have. When we lose someone the pain we feel is the result of the loss of love. Whether it is a break up or someone’s passing the equation is the same, the greater the love, the greater the sense of loss. Our bodies ability to heal itself is an example of the subconscious mind’s love of life and to keep moving forward.
If love is everywhere and one of the greatest motivators, what does that mean for us? Putting the most powerful force in the universe to work for us can transform our lives immensely. Are you hurting from a break-up or the passing of someone you love? Understand the pain you’re feeling is because you have known a great love. It may have ended in one form, but shall remain in your life and can be revisited through memories and reflection of all the beautiful moments. There are far too many who never experience the gift of great love. It is that love that gives life its flavor. Be grateful for having love as a part of your life. Your pain is a reminder that you were blessed with great love.
Do you have a goal that seems out of reach or that you just cannot seem to be able to persist enough to accomplish? Tie that goal to something that you love deeply (see the above example for getting fit) and you will watch yourself accomplish that goal with greater ease and less stress than you ever imagined possible.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe and can be used in many situations. You can use it to bring joy to someone’s face or peace to their heart. You can use it to drive you to be productive and disciplined. It can heal relationships and ease the pain of loss. Love can accomplish anything as long as it is applied correctly. Feel free to share how you used love in the comments below.