As you struggle forward in the days and weeks ahead, remind yourself, it̵7;s much better to be exhausted from lots of effort, learning and growth, than to be tired of doing absolutely nothing.
In 1914, the great inventor Thomas Edison experienced a devastating difficulty. His entire laboratory burned to the ground, and several years’ worth of his work was destroyed.
Newspapers described the situation as “the worst thing that ever happened to Edison!”
But that was not true, because Edison did not see it that way at all. Instead, the inventor chose to see his circumstances as a refreshing opportunity to rebuild and reconsider much of his current work. In fact, shortly after the fire, Edison said, “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned. Now we can start fresh again. “And that’s exactly what he and his team did.
Think about how this relates to your life.
How many times have you heard that it was the end, when it really was the beginning?
How many hopeless labels have been beaten over your inner hope?
Probably more often than you realize.
The truth is, life’s “fires” happen to all of us. We all go through big and small circumstances that affect us deeply and …
- We’re worried.
- We are disappointed.
- We feel overwhelmed.
- We feel like giving up.
- We’re not feeling well enough.
- We wish we had more resources.
- We wish our jobs were different.
- We wish our personal lives were different.
- We believe that everything in life should be easier.
Yet a large part of our pain is completely in our minds. When we attach ourselves to ideals and fantasies about how reality must be in order to be good enough for us, we only make things worse.
So are you ready to follow Edison’s leadership and live better despite your circumstances?
It’s time to…
Notice your story and then practice releasing it.
You can have a heartbreaking story from the past without letting it rule your present.
In the present, we all have some form of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, remorse, etc.
Notice this pain in yourself, look at it carefully and see that it is caused by what story you have in your head about what happened in the past (either in the recent or in the distant past). Your mind may insist that the pain you are feeling is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head about it), but what happened before has NOT happened right now. It’s over. It’s gone. But the pain is still happening right now because of the story you deliberately told yourself about the previous event.
Note that “story” does not mean “false story.” Nor does it mean “true story.” The word “story” in connection with your self-evaluation does not have to mean true or false, positive or negative or any other form of powerful judgment. It’s simply a process going on in your head:
- You remember something that happened.
- You subconsciously perceive yourself as a victim of this incident.
- Your memory of what happened causes a painful feeling in you.
So just notice what story you have, without judging it and without judging yourself. It is natural to have a story; we all have stories. See yours for what it is. And see that it causes pain. Then do your best to change your answer.
Start by simply focusing your attention on the present. Focus on what is here with you now – the light, the sounds, your body, the ground under your feet, the objects and people moving and resting around you. Do not judge these things against what they should be – just accept what they really are. Because once you accept reality, you can improve it.
See life as it is, without all the ideals and fantasies that you have been preoccupied with …
Move forward without painful judgments.
Recently, COVID-19 has been one of the main reasons why many of us are busy. The new norm we have had to live through has been quite limiting both mentally and physically. Everything changed fundamentally overnight, which left us longing for the good old days.
Yes, so much has been postponed, closed or suspended recently. But not everything. And it is important to bring this to your current awareness.
Love has not been postponed, closed or interrupted. The jump has not been postponed, closed or canceled. Self-care has not been postponed, closed or interrupted.
Right now, there are many opportunities to invest in the little things that matter most. The key is not to let life’s difficulties hide your vision.
Think of the most gut-wrenching situations you have endured in your past. Doing so probably evokes very unpleasant feelings. And the accompanying attachments you have can arouse anxiety, anger or sadness. This is a problem that many of us face.
Now imagine how you would feel if you could overcome these feelings. By “get over” I no longer mean to suffer over something that can not be controlled. I know this is possible because Marc and I have both personally come to terms with extremely difficult, heartbreaking, uncontrollable situations in our past, and we have witnessed hundreds of our students and Think better, live better seminar participants do the same.
So what’s the secret? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but all possible answers start with dropping your assessments.
The truth is that it is impossible to get over a difficult situation – to let it go – if you still obsessively judge it and compare it with something else. Let’s visit a specific gut-changing situation from your past again – choose one that still evokes negative emotions. And then ask yourself:
- Do you think that should not have happened at all?
- Do you think the result should have been different?
- Do you take what happened personally?
- Are you blaming someone else for what happened?
- Are you blaming yourself?
- Do you think the situation is impossible to overcome?
If you caught yourself thinking “yes” to one or more of these questions, then it is what prolongs your suffering and prevents you from getting over it. Your assessments of what “should have happened” continue to postpone the love, hope, and self-care that you know you can practice.
Now you may be thinking: “What happened was unbelievably awful! I can not imagine ever getting over it! But letting go of your judgment does not mean that you are happy with what happened or that you support it, but rather that you eliminate the negative burden you carry by judging it all the time.
When you let go of your negative judgments, you automatically replace the victim’s mentality with acceptance and presence. And acceptance and presence together will free your mind and move you forward.
The same principle applies to our current challenges with COVID-19, especially for those of us who are not ill.
When we think better of our circumstances, we live better despite them.
And there is no reason to postpone. Now it’s time to practice.
Of course, this may also require you to …
Embrace your grief.
You may know someone who has actually become ill from COVID-19.
Or even more heartbreaking, you may have lost someone you love.
When real difficult circumstances lie outside of us, grief often comes in. And it takes time to resolve. But grief is a healthy process that allows us to start again after an unexpected end.
Now you may have heard that it is not healthy to mourn for too long – to do so becomes in the way of healing. I say this because it’s something I learned when I was a teenager. A close friend died in a car accident. At first, everyone accepted my tears, but as the weeks rolled into months, I was often told it was time to let go. “The tears are not helping right now,” I remember someone telling me. But it was fungus. My tears were necessary. They slowly watered the seeds of my recovery. And I recovered as a much stronger, kinder and wiser soul than I ever was before.
Then, a decade later, this lesson in my life was reinforced twice more, back to back, when I lost my older brother, Todd, to suicide and my best friend, Josh, to an asthma attack a month apart.
Through the grief of losing people I love, I have been given the gift of awareness … awareness that each of us will lose someone or something we love, and that this reality is a necessity.
It is extremely difficult to understand sometimes, but there is a small reason for everything. We must know the pain of loss, because if we never knew, we would have some compassion for others and we would gradually become hollow monsters of selfishness – beings of pure self-interest and never be happy with what we have. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our proud type, has the power to warm a cold heart and make an even better person out of a good one.
So yes, Grief can be a burden that destroys us in the short term, but it can also be a healthy anchor for healing and living well in the long term.
As humans, we often get used to the weight of grief and how it keeps us in place. For example, I often say, “My brother will die over and over again for the rest of my life, and I’m okay with that – it keeps me closer to him.” This is my way of reminding others that grief does not go away. Step by step, breath by breath, it becomes a part of us. And it can be a healthy part of us too.
Although we can never completely stop grieving, simply because we never stop loving those (or situations) we have lost, we can effectively use our love for them in the present. We can love them and imitate them by living with their grandeur as our daily inspiration. By doing this, they live on in the warmth of our broken hearts that are not completely healed, and we will continue to grow and experience life, even with our wounds. It’s like breaking a ankle that never heals perfectly, and that still hurts when you dance, but you still dance with a slight slackness, and this limp only adds depth to your performance and the authenticity of your character. (Marc and I build small, life-changing rituals to deal with in the module’s adversity in Getting Back to Happy Course.)
It’s time to pick a new answer.
Regardless of your circumstances, you may find the strength to ask:
“How can I respond from a place of clarity and strength today, rather than continuing to react in anger and resistance to the painful experiences I have had to live through?”
Think about that question for a moment. Read again and sit with it.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, pause for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths and allow for a healthy change – for something new to come in …
It’s time to consciously redirect your focus by removing it from something immutable that pulls you down and instead zeroes in on something small and actionable that moves you forward in the present.
Nothing is holding you back right now – nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts and reactions to “what life is like.”
Of course, you may not be responsible for everything that happened to you in the past or for everything that happens to you today, but you must be responsible for undoing the thinking and behavior patterns that this circumstance creates.
It’s about thinking better so that you can ultimately live better.
The greatest weapon you have for pain is really your ability to pause, breathe and choose a present response over another – to train your mind to make the best of what you have in front of you, even when it is much smaller than you expected .
YOU CAN change how you think and respond. And when you do, you can master a new way of being.
The bottom line is that life gets better when YOU get better. Start investing in yourself mentally and physically from this moment on. Choose a new answer! Make it a priority to learn and grow a little every day by building positive rituals and sticking to them. The stronger you grow and become, the better your life will feel in the long run.
Yes, it will also pass.
And if you know, we’d love to hear from you before you go …
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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