I’ve been extra reflective lately. At random and frequent intervals, there seems to be plenty to remind me that this year is SO much different than last year. SO much better. SO much happier.
I get a daily email that offers a simple quote for the day. Today’s quote was from Queen Elizabeth II, and read, “When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat. Instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”
When I read it on my iPhone, in the blurry-eyed morning haze, I thought it at first read, “Instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better PURPOSE.”
Either way, AMEN.
I’ve kept a personal record of the events of our lives over the past two years, and I’ve tried to share parts of the story here. If you’re just now joining us, the simple story is that there was a lot of anger, a lot of guilt, a lot of financial muck, and it was a pretty deep and dark hole.
Seth Godin, one of my favorite blogs to read, calls this hole the resistance.
If you are discouraged this holiday season, and maybe you have your own deep and dark hole that you’re trying to dig out of, your own resistance you are fighting, here are a few encouraging tips for digging out:
- Start by finding courage. That’s the thing that struck me about the quote from Queen Elizabeth. It takes courage. Lots of it. Because frankly, it gets worse before it gets better. If you’re at a spot in life that you just don’t like, you CAN get out of it, but it’s going to be a struggle. I’m not trying to discourage you more. I’m just being REALLY honest. Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” You have to find the courage to love the struggle, to lean into it, to let it wash over you, to let it take you down. Because it really won’t. It can’t. Not unless you let it.
- The fear doesn’t go away. Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
- If you don’t like where you are, imagine where you want to be. Once you have that vision in mind, let go. Let go. Let go. No, really. Let it go. Let ___ go. You fill in the blank. Let it ALL go. That’s why you’re going to need the courage, because as humans, we’re awfully dumb about hanging on to things that don’t matter, and we tend to surround ourselves with people and things that want to embrace the status quo. If you can, fall in love with change itself. Don’t fear change. Let change be your best friend.
- Count your blessings. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably in the upper echelon of blessed people. At this moment, you have an internet connection and a computer. Start there. You are abundantly blessed, even if you are scraping bottom. And another thing: don’t talk about scraping bottom unless you are willing to be grateful for that experience. Our struggle over the past two years has been almost a “Ghost of Christmas” experience: it made us fully realize what we didn’t want, what did matter, and how our living was not in alignment with the outcome we desired.
- Help others. You have skills, talents, strengths, and passions that others don’t have. Your combination of all these things makes you incredibly unique. Your uniqueness gives you infinite and beautiful value. Number one: believe this with every fiber of your being. Write it in erasable marker on your bathroom mirror and say it to yourself every morning while you brush your teeth until you REALLY believe it. Believing that you are worthy of love and belonging it the crux of overcoming shame. (Thank you, Brene Brown. Thank you thank you thank you.) Number two: use that uniqueness to help others. That’s your purpose. My friend Ellie said it best: “The gifts glorify the Giver.” And the guy at the ropes course told me, “If you don’t use your resources, you lose them.”
- Realize that nobody has the answer. In fact, there are no answers. Answers don’t exist. If you’re looking for solutions, get rich quick schemes, or fix-it-all-right-now strategies, realize that you will come up dry. Life is a journey of questions, and 90% of the journey is in how you react to the questions. This is a choose-your-own-adventure, and the choosing starts with an attitude that more often than not, determines the outcome. The only answer is your attitude.
- Check your ego at the door. You’ll probably find humility in this process. Be grateful for that. Also, ego is lazy. Ego is easy. There is a lot more challenge in humility.
By no means is that list comprehensive, but it can’t be. See #7. These are just strategies that worked for me, so feel free to pick and choose. What I do know is that you don’t have to be where you are.