We love stories about underdogs who beat the odds and figure out how to get through hard times. They provide encouragement that, we too, can be victorious and achieve success.
We’d prefer to watch others get through hard times from the safety of our armchair.
A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.
Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.
The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”
The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.
Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.
Struggles force us to find our deepest name.
Setbacks are rarely easy. Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, we need mental toughness to get through hard times. Like Jacob, we can be transformed but only if we confront our failures, hurts, and pain.
Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. Life’s struggles are essential to developing resilience and generating a sense of accomplishment.
Here are 4 ways to make get through hard times:
1. Face Adversity Head On
It’s easy to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked.
Via Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why, the first thing to do when we are faced with an obstacle is to recognize and accept it as soon as possible. People who get through hard times move through the stages of denial to acceptance at a faster pace. When we live in denial, things only get worse.
How To Make It Work For You: Stay alert for what can go wrong so you can prepare ahead of time. Obstacles can come from any area of your life so don’t take anything for granted. Practice gratitude every day so you’re aware of those special areas that provide joy and peace.
2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential
It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change.
When we force ourselves to only look for good things, we deny life’s problems and struggles. When we deny our struggles, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to solve them and generate real satisfaction and joy. Struggles add a layer of meaning and value to our life.
One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud
How To Make It Work For You: Psychologists remind us that “we are not our problems or crisis.” You are not the divorce, illness, trauma, or bank account. Our true self is that deeper entity that is whole and well no matter how hard it is to get through hard times. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.
3. Rewrite Your Story
Some of life’s struggles will change our life. When this happens, we can reframe the situation and focus on the opportunity the setback presents us. Once we identify ourselves as a victim, it stays with us.
They way in which we reframe the situation allows us to choose our personal narrative. It’s our point of view that shapes our world and the place we hold in it. If we reframe our struggle as a growth opportunity, we’re less likely to see ourselves as a victim.
A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel performance managed their stress better than those who ignored their stress.
How To Make It Work For You: Recognize the story you use to explain your life. Can your situation be looked at in a different way that you haven’t considered before? Your current interpretation of your situation will change as you grow and mature. Knowing that, you can have faith and hope that things will be better tomorrow.
4. Seek Out Discomfort Zones
Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity present itself. Most opportunities in life force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural for many of them to feel like struggles at first.
That is the best reason to move into your discomfort zone! You won’t be surprised by your response when you need to get through hard times because you’ve already spent time in discomfort zones.
Your stress hormone systems become less responsive to stress the more they are used. So, if you live your life in a way that embraces challenges on a regular basis, you’ll develop the skills that enable you to handle the extra stress.
How To Make It Work For You: Intentionally place yourself in challenging situations. The advantage of this approach is that you get to choose the level of stress involved in each challenge. To develop the skills to get through hard times, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.
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