Have you ever had a tough time in your life? Of course you have.
Even if you’ve done everything right—been a good person, got good grades in school—stuff happens: illness, heartbreak, financial downturn. It’s what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls Full Catastrophe Living—the realization that with life’s richness comes its inevitable dilemmas and ironies.
The question is not how do you stop these events. In most cases, you can’t. Instead, the higher question is what will you do once these events arrive so you can successfully move forward.
That means the choices you make during challenging times are where you get your power. You’re choosing your direction. And even unremarkable decisions can hold the key to your well-being.
In my work with clients, I’ve found the most powerful decisions are often the ones uncovered by the simplest of questions.
When hard times come your way—whether it’s a career problem or a health issue—the first step is to make a decision on how you want to react to it. That doesn’t mean you stuff your unhappy feelings. It means you set a vision for how you want to face your situation. Your decision might be “I’ll figure this out” or “I’ll just take it one day at a time.” Notice there’s no mention of how you’ll do that. You might not know. That’s okay. Simply start with your intention and create the groundwork for what’s to follow.
Ask Yourself: How do I intend to face this situation?
Life’s hard times can either make you better or bitter. You get to choose. If you picked better, one way to do that is to find some nugget of wisdom in your situation—no matter how small—that can teach you something useful. Let’s say you’ve just had a break-up. Reciting “all guys are jerks” is not a lesson learned. On the other hand, “I’ve learned that I’m happiest with guys who respect me” is a lesson that can help you move forward. Sometimes your lessons don’t show up right away, but if you keep looking, you’ll find them.
Ask Yourself: What lessons can I learn from this situation that will make my life better?