For years, I portrayed my journey and life as obstacle-free, however, if you know me or my story, you know that’s been far from the case. I’ve clawed and scratched every step of the way, as most of us do, and I’ve finally seen enough of the world to realize that there is no such thing as an overnight success, and we’re setting ourselves up for major disappointment if we think our own journey won’t be chalk full of obstacles and challenges — just because others don’t advertise them on social media or in the news doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
As I look back on adversity I’ve had to wrestle with throughout the various stages of my life, I realize that these five principles or ideas have time and time again, saved my life.
When we have big goals for ourselves and set out to achieve them, we must acknowledge that it’s going to be hard. If you understand upfront, that it’s going to be a dog fight, a couple of things happen:
1. You naturally work harder, because you realize that you can’t just half ass it if you want to succeed.
2. When things go wrong, they will automatically become a bit more palatable, because you’ve trained your brain to expect them.
As Randy Pausch so eloquently noted in his talk, ‘The Last Lecture’,
‘The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out, they are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.’
So, whenever you hit a brick wall, think of it as a blessing in disguise. It’s a great reminder that you’re running the right race — now you just need to figure out how to get back up, around or through it. Every single person that we look up to who’s accomplished certain things has had to fight through adversity — coming to terms with this allows us to maintain a balanced perspective of things and to keep from thinking the whole world is crashing down in front of us.
2. Focus on What I Can Control:
Why focus on anything else? Understanding this has been the most liberating piece of the puzzle for me, because we live in a world where there is so little around us that we actually can control. The more energy we spend fighting and resisting the behaviors of other people, the weather, the economy and any of the other things that we can’t control, the less energy we end up having to exert on the things that we actually can control.
Once you start focusing on what’s within your control – your attitude, your work ethic, the way you treat people, and the way you show up everyday, you become a lot more productive and focused, because you aren’t concerned with office drama as you’re trying to finish a report on deadline. You aren’t concerned with who you might be competing against for a new job, and instead you’re able to exert all your energy into making yourself better, allowing for the situation to play out as it may — you can’t control the outcome, only the the effort you put in.
“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.” – Wayne Dyer
3. Remember Why I Started:
We’ve been born and raised in a time and place where a nice pay check and a fancy car have a greater societal value than doing important work. Sure, there are exceptions, but let’s be realistic — most of our parents don’t encourage us to be teachers or artists. Author Neil Gaiman gave a poignant testament to the idea of doing work that’s important to you, in a 2012 commencement address. He details writing a book that should have become a bestseller, but instead the publishing house went under, the second print run never happened, and he never saw any royalties from it. In reflection, he said to the graduates,
“I’d do my best in the future not to write books just for the money. If I didn’t get the money, then I didn’t have anything, and if I did work that I was proud of and I didn’t get the money — at least I’d have the work. Every now and then I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me, hard, and reminds me. I don’t know that it’s an issue for anybody but me, but it’s true that nothing I ever did for the money was ever worth it — except as bitter experience.” — Neil Gaiman
This project or business — does it matter to me?
When I answer, “yes” to that question, and am doing meaningful work, I almost always have a positive impact on the world around me — it feels good, it’s contagious, and yes, motivating.
5. It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint:
Unfortunately, a lot of us, stumble out of the starting blocks so to speak, then stress ourselves out and are continually looking for ways to get ahead. Or, we can be doing just fine running our own race, but the minute we start looking around, we start comparing ourselves to the world around us – people have better jobs, bigger cars, nicer houses and have accomplished more. Comparison is exhausting, and leaves us feeling inferior. So instead of measuring your self-worth against the outward appearance of others, realize that as long as you keep fighting and showing up with your best, you are the one that defines success for yourself — no one else.
If you aren’t where you want to be, don’t panic and definitely don’t make choices based on what anyone else tells you is the right thing to do – this is your race to run, make yourself proud and figure it out.
5. What do I Have to be Grateful For?:
This is one of those buzz words that over the last several years has become white noise to some, but the reason why it’s become such a buzz word, is because it’s the very best place to start, with anything. At the end of the day, even if our lives feel as though they are in shambles, there is so much for which to be grateful. When you’re able to appreciate what you have, you realize that maybe what you have is enough, even if it doesn’t seem like you have as much as your friends or neighbors. You could always have less, especially if you’re reading this – the fact that you’re alive and breathing is far better than the alternative. To be grateful doesn’t mean that you can’t be upset when things go awry in the worst possible ways, it just means you have the opportunity to make it less dramatic and heartbreaking, because you’re able to weigh it against all the blessings and things you have actually going for you. Look around, life is beautiful in so many ways — allow for that to occupy more space in your heart, than the alternative.
So to sum up this entire article:
Look into your heart, and ask yourself, What do I want out of my life?’, then go for it, know it’s supposed to be hard, and when you find obstacles in between where you are and where you want to be, remind yourself that there are only so many things in life you can control and that you’re better off investing your time and energy there. Keep working hard and always look around and remind yourself of how much there is to be grateful for.