20 things to remember when times get tough

This article was previously published at The Good Men Project

*Note: I wrote this piece about two years ago. I'm glad to report that what I penned below are ideas that I still think are relevant and useful - this is why I've updated it and decided to re-publish it. In fact, they carry more weight for me today since the last two years of my life have been the hardest in some ways. It's my hope that you too will find some utility in these practical reminders. 


If there's one thing we can guarantee besides the fact that time will pass regardless of what we do, it's that we all are going to face adversity.  

Adversity is not pleasurable. But it's rich in potential wisdom. Nothing can replace the lessons we learn when we come out of the other side of the fire.


When we are in the midst of a storm however, it's hard to remember that the experience can refine us into something stronger. 

What follows is a list of practical reminders to latch onto when times get tough. 


1. Accept it

Accept that the situation sucks. Running from it intensifies the anxiety. 


2. You are being tested for a reason

Have you ever gone through a tough situation, and after the dust has settled you realized that you couldn't have ever learned the thing you learned if it hadn't been for that season of adversity?

Rarely do we ever understand why something is happening in the moment. It's usually in hindsight that we can look back and glean the lesson. 

When adversity hits, just know that one day you'll understand - but it probably won't be anytime soon. 


3. Learn to realize teachable moments

If we adopt the skill to look for teachable moments and learn in every situation (good and bad) our chances of capturing the wisdom in the experience are far greater.  A simple way to start this practice is to ask ourselves, "What did I learn from this moment?"


4. You'll be back on track again soon

You're on your daily commute. You then realize your exit is closed and you've got to find another way to your destination. You look up an alternate route on your GPS, you get back on track, and eventually arrive at your destination. Life works in a similar fashion. 

You're moving along doing your thing, and then the preferred route gets closed off. Plans fall apart, somebody doesn't show up, your laptop doesn't turn on, you put hand soap in the dish washer, you get the phone call from the doctor.  When these things happen, it doesn't necessarily mean you throw the white flag up. 

Much like your commute, when the preferred route is not an option, you immediately find another way that will get you where you need to go.  Unexpected circumstances happen. Don't resent the detours. Learn to love them. You'll find another way and you'll be back on track soon enough.


5. This will add to your experience resume

Today, with the amount of resources we all have, becoming talented or skilled is easy. Being experienced is rare. By going through life and accumulating experience through tough times can actually benefit you.  The key is to evaluate and learn from these times of adversity. 


6.  Hunt for humor

We all have different taste for humor, but we all have a taste for it.  You need to hunt for humor when times get tough.  Laughter literally changes the chemicals released in your brain, offering a positive mood shift.


7. Not getting what you want, may be the best thing you ever get

Pastor Rick Warren puts it this way:

"The greatest detriment to tomorrow's success is today's success."


 8. Remove the pile of crap on your living room floor

Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work, amusingly paints this picture with words.

"If someone took a dump in your living room, you wouldn't let it sit here, would you?"

He is referring to internet trolls who's aim is to leave nasty comments, for the sake of leaving them on your blog or social channels.  This quote actually comes from his wife, who suggests you delete the comment and block that person from interacting with you on the internet.

If someone took a dump in your mind, you wouldn't let it sit there, would you? 

You might have friends or family members unrelentingly drop bombs into your mind with their words. You need to get that kind of crap out of your life.  The old saying still remains, "you become what you think about," and if all you're getting is negative reinforcement jammed into your head, you'll probably just be full of crap one day.


9. Perseverance wins

When it comes down to it, life is about reps. We can try to make it as stimulating as possible, but it all ends up in the form of repetitions. The battle then becomes about managing boredom. Perseverance is a priceless virtue. 

The Germans call this Sitzfleisch: Staying Power.


10. Maybe this is the worst scenario

What if this is the worst scenario? Is it what you imagined to be? Probably not.  We often times let our minds fabricate worst case scenarios that falsely lead us to believe that the worst case scenario is worse than it actually is.


11.  This is your chance to get creative

Your most creative moments will come when things get shaken up.  It will force you to think, which oddly enough is a disappearing skill.  

When you're feeling the pain of your situation, pushing yourself to get creative in order to respond to the circumstance will help you realize that you can turn your pain into gain.  

It's probable that what you're going through, is something that somebody else one day, will go through as well.  There's not a better of a person who has experienced the same kind of pain that can help one who is currently going through it right now. That person could be you.  Get creative on how to respond to your circumstance and one day you'll  have the opportunity help someone else get through it as well.


12.  Adversity and failure are like success

Success, is not something we are. It's something that happens. Adversity (that usually gets masked as failure) is not something we are. It's something that happens. 

Both success and failure are not people. They are both just moments. 


13. Anger doesn't help

Seth Godin, author of the Linchpin, illustrates that being angry doesn't solve much by trying to teach fire a lesson.

Fire is hot. That's what it does. If you get burned by fire, you can be annoyed at yourself, but being angry at the fire doesn't do you much good.  And trying to teach the fire a lesson so it won't be hot next time is certainly not time well spent.

Maybe you've gotten burned by somebody in a relationship or bad business deal or cut off on the highway.  Being angry at this person and trying to teach them a lesson or change them isn't the best use of your time.  It's not your job to change what can't be changed, so stop wasting energy being angry.


14. Let people in

When we're going through a rough patch in life, our friends and family want to help.  Many times the best help they provide is simply just reassuring us that we have someone that cares about us and is ready to help if we need anything.


15. Nobody is perfect and that's how it should be

Often times we blind ourselves with the pursuit of perfection. When a slip up occurs or when something doesn't go according to our plans, we crumble and are fast to label ourselves as failures because of it.  Here is the good news: Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes.   Failures and adversity in life should be viewed as lessons that we learn from.  With that in mind, if we aren't making honest mistakes, it's a possible sign that we aren't learning.  And when we aren't learning, it's a sign that we aren't growing.

*Note: Failure should never be the goal. But, we should accept the fact that it can happen. 


16. A setback sets you up for a comeback

When you workout, you cause damage to your muscles.  The time in between your workouts is when you recover.  This recovery time allows you to come back to the gym and train harder with more volume and heavier weights.  Without the damage in previous workouts, you wouldn't be able to progressively lift heavier weights, thus increasing your strength.

The same concept applies in your life.  Every time a setback hits you, it toughens you up and causes a little damage.  You do what you need to recover from the blow, and you comeback with more wisdom, knowledge and experience making you stronger for life.


17. Somebody has it worse

One of the most fascinating ways to get unstuck when you're in a tough time, is to find somebody else to help.  It takes the attention off of you and allows you to do good at the same time.  Somebody always has it worse, train yourself to find people to help.


18. This feeling will pass

Life sucks when we're in the middle of a storm. This feeling won't last forever. It's a season that will teach us a few things, and then it will pass. 

Think of the clouds and blue sky. When it's cloudy, it doesn't mean the blue sky isn't there. It simply suggests that we must wait for the clouds to pass in order to see the blue sky again. 


19. Know difference between Tasks vs. Quests 

Tasks are done in short time spans. Doing the laundry. Taking the trash out. Completing the daily expense report. Getting the groceries. 

Quests on the other hand, take a lot longer. Building a business. Writing a book. Raising a child. 

Knowing the difference between a task and a quest lets us allocate the appropriate posture towards each of them. 

When we accept that tasks are short term objectives and quests are long term objectives, it takes the pressure off of us to make things happen faster than they are supposed to transpire. 


20. Giving up and moving on is okay

Giving up doesn't always mean you’re weak, sometimes it means you are strong enough to let go.