“I have to believe that when things are bad, I can change them.” – Jim Braddock
“Life is not fair, get used to it.”
On the face of it, this quote by Bill Gates is not very comforting, but it is a hard truth and reality check from which no one is exempt – not even the richest or most successful people in the world. Norman Vincent Peale said that the only people who don’t have problems are in a cemetery. Think of the continuous line graph on a heart rate monitor: If there are no ups and downs in our lives, then it means that we have flatlined and we are dead.
“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have” – Dale Carnegie
We have to face the fact that life sometimes gets tough, but what counts is what we do with our reality. At the end of the film Angel has Fallen, President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) tells Mike Banning (Gerard Butler): “It is our moments of struggle that define us. How we handle them is what matters.”
When the proverbial chips are down, when we feel that life is really treating us unfairly, we need to dig deep. If we don’t, we’ll have to be content with staying in our state of rock-bottom, which is something that none of us wants.
In 1985 Billy Ocean released the song: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Although the words of this song were embedded in my memory bank since I heard it for the first time as a teenager, I realised since then that life is unfortunately not that simple. The reality is that we sometimes really need to dig deep to cope with life, and then we need more than just the words of a song to rely on.
Fortunately, we humans are wired in such a way that when we have to get through tough times, we generally don’t want to give up.
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game” – Randy Pausch
If we want to pride ourselves on being victorious in self-leadership, and to enjoy all of the benefits that come with the hard work of achieving this status, then frankly, we only have one option: To dig really deep and get to the other side of any rough patch in our lives.
It starts with believing in ourselves. We can take charge, and when situations get bad, we generally do have the power to change things. Always take comfort from the fact that man-made problems have man-made solutions. If it’s something more serious, like a critical illness, then we can still decide to take charge and fight it.
The silver linings in tough times
“There is no education like adversity.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Many of us have had experiences in which adversity has not only taught us something new about life, but we have come out the other side stronger. To me, this is certainly one of the silver linings of going through tough times.
Another silver lining is realising that if we can be successful in tough times, then surely, we can be even more successful in better times. I find much comfort in this thought, especially in the current Covid-19 times. Rather than letting our circumstances rule us, we must take charge of them and thrive again…
In tough times, be especially kind to yourself
When things are toughest in our lives, we have to be the kindest to ourselves and focus extra hard on being our own best friend. Maya Angelou wrote: “I got my own back.”
The times in our lives when we most need to have our own back is when we face hardships. It takes a brave man or woman to admit their mistakes – but everyone makes them. I have made many, and will still continue to make mistakes, even though I try my best to learn from the past and to not make the same mistakes anymore.
“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” – Jon Sinclair
If we have one comfort, it is that the greatest lessons in life are typically learned at the worst times and from the gravest mistakes. So, particularly in tough times, let’s be gentle with ourselves when we make blunders. Then, we must forgive ourselves. If we have tried everything to make a success of something, or if a negative outcome was outside of our control, then we have to accept that something is simply what it is. We cannot afford to sulk. We have to find the best possible way to move forward in our journey.
It’s better to do something than to do nothing
One of the realities in life is that problems or issues that cause us distress never miraculously disappear until we actively do something about them. In fact, from my experience, problems left unattended typically become worse.
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso
Rather than doing nothing amidst a feeling of being stuck in the quicksand of life, we have to do something. Otherwise, we are guaranteed to not find a solution or lifeline. What we ‘do’ need not be expensive or time-consuming. Sometimes we simply need to break out and do something different to get us out of our ‘stuckness’ and to stop the spiral down into negativity. Trust me, it works.
You are not alone
“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” – Ziad Abdelnour
If we get to a point where we can’t get out of a negative spiral, then we need to put our pride in our pocket and ask for help. We cannot allow ourselves to self-destruct. If you are heading for the proverbial cliff and you cannot make a U-turn or put on the brakes, then allow other people to assist you. You would be pleasantly surprised how much it would mean to them to be given the opportunity to support you in resolving your life challenge.
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” – Shauna Niequist
Hekkie van der Westhuizen, PhD
“If you are interested in the topic of Self-Leadership, please look out for my exciting new Self-Leadership book, launching in August 2021”