I used to think for a long time once the challenges (euphemism for “problems”) in my life (at any given point) went away, then I would feel good about myself and be happy. Alas, that turned out not to be the case. If anything, I’ve experienced setbacks most of my adult life in small and big ways (like many others) only to realize that if my happiness was dependent on my situation or circumstances, then not only would I be waiting forever to be happy, but I would have been miserable by now.
Sometimes I’m amazed at myself in my conversations with friends/family, how my adventures in life haven’t deterred me from moving forward. Quite the contrary, it has only made me keep going and feel hopeful about the future.
One thing is for sure — there is no one on this planet, who is totally deprived of challenges in their lives (big or small). No one has it easy, despite what we might believe about them (especially when it may appear so on the outside). If you think others have it easy, chances are you don’t know them well enough.
Here are three ways I’ve found for myself to help me keep moving forward at all times.
Be kind to yourself (and to others)
Be kind to yourself (and to others). It turns out we can be our own worst critic with our work, for instance, which can be a good and bad thing. It’s easy for us to be self-critical about our actions when they don’t bear results, but that only makes things less bearable. All we can do is remind ourselves in these times that we are only ever entitled to the journey. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing, not because you want to realize some arbitrary outcome, but because it’s who you are.
When we are critical of ourselves, we tend to be critical of others, which is not what we want. We weaken ourselves when we criticize others. Every time we think less of them for their actions, we get to experience the negative feeling first, ergo, it’s not in our interest (much less, theirs) to think less of them. It’s only when we are kind to ourselves can we be kind to others. Likewise, we need to have compassion for ourselves before we can feel compassion for others.
The best thing we can do is support each other by being kind to ourselves (and to others), for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Acceptance is the way
Next, acceptance is the only way forward. Resistance is futile.
It’s tempting to complain about things and to treat ourselves as victims in that why we are the ones who have to suffer this way OR why did it (our misfortune) have to happen to us?! But, we are only making it harder for ourselves.
It’s (relatively) easier to accept our situations for what they are than to resist them. We can choose to act as if the way things are unfolding is exactly the way its supposed to happen. Then, there is no resistance or expectation, but only acceptance and contentment.
When I get anxious (about the future), I focus on what I can do right now rather than think about what might happen in future. While it can be tempting to stay emotional with our problems (and let ourselves be carried away), it’s much more constructive to focus on the options available to us. Rationale is our best friend here. I often remind myself of this TDR quote in those times and it helps me stay calm and focused (without feeling the need to get ahead of myself):
Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
Be happy now
Last, but not least, let’s choose to be happy now rather than base our present happiness on some (arbitrary) future outcome that might not even come to pass. We may or may not get the outcome we seek, but that doesn’t mean we postpone our present happiness and/or feel stressed about it till the fact. And what if you don’t end up realizing the outcome, does it make sense for you to feel miserable all along?! It’s not a sound strategy.
Here’s the thing. It’s not the situations or circumstances that inform your happiness, but it’s the other way round. There are always going be to challenges in life in big and small ways. It’s not about if but when. We can’t delay our present happiness because of the external factors hoping things will turn out a certain way and then we would be happy.
Think about it this way. What could be more stressful than knowing we are going to die one day? And yet, we don’t think about death and stress ourselves out on a daily basis because of the fact, even though we know it’s a finish line we all cross at some point. So, if that’s true, why do we let our everyday worries and problems — which are far more insignificant and pale in comparison to death — overwhelm us?
Life is full of setbacks. The best we can do is keep moving forward at all times. There will always be challenges in life, but we can do better than to let them weigh us down. Keep your head above water. Accept things the way they are whilst focusing on what you can do. Stop holding onto things beyond your control. Keep yourself light and happy.