Now that I have entered my fourth decade of life, I feel I’ve finally “arrived” and life has thrown me so many curve-balls, I feel like I’ve earned the equivalent of a PhD from the “School of Hard Knocks.”
Five years ago, my life began to unfold like a soap opera. I did not sign up for it and realized immediately that I had two choices: adapt and plow through, or shrivel up and perish. I chose the former. I had three tiny children at the time, and was pregnant with my fourth. They needed me to be strong. My husband needed me to hold it together. So I considered myself a soldier training for battle. I pressed on through years of darkness…and I still am.
(Want to hear more about Darah’s tragic, yet inspiring story that’s made her a survival expert? Click here to listen.)
In a nutshell, here is what I’ve learned through living in a perpetual state of instability:
1. Exodus, or Leave your DISCOMFORT zone: If it makes you feel bad, elicits negative thoughts and behavior, eliminate it. Now. Take whatever action necessary to take this thing, activity, person, social group, job, or place out of your life’s equation. No excuses, no justifications. Preserving your sanity is the priority.
2. Build a support group: Going through rough times? A divorce? Financial devastation? Death of a loved one? Re-connect with old friends and family. They deserve a chance to offer a hand, or a shoulder to cry on. Now is not the time to be proud. Life is a cycle; sometimes we’re up and other times, we’re down. Avoid retreating into your cave, only to emerge once again, “on top of your game.” You don’t know when that day will come. Life is unpredictable. Allow people to join you on your personal journey, albeit through the “shadows of uncertainty.”
3. Let go, but don’t settle: House burn down in a fire? Flood? Victims of theft? If you lost it and cannot get it back, forget it. Emotionally detach and move on. Focus on the down-to-the-bone priorities and appreciate them. Regroup. Don’t get stuck in a moment lamenting and obsessing over what is now ancient history. Know that you will get it all back and more, someday, through daily visualization and hard work. Trust in the natural ebb and flow of life’s cycles.
4. Healthy body, healthy mind: Okay, you feel like crap and want to hide from the world living off cigarettes, coffee and chocolate bars. You are not in the right state of mind to train for the Ironman, but a modest amount of exercise coupled with relatively healthy eating will keep your senses sharp enough to react in these desperate times. Try meditation. Breathe deliberately. You’re going to have to make tough decisions, so better be clear-headed. You are fighting the battle of our life and need to take care of yourself if you’re going to come out of this OK. And don’t deprive yourself of all pleasures either. Reward daily successes with an occasional coffee, or whatever your heart enjoys, from time to time to keep your spirits up.
5. Reinvent yourself; innovate: Lost your job and slim chance you’ll find another in your field? Have childhood passions you’d secretly love to re-discover? Take advantage of your predicament to learn something new. Online resources make it so easy and affordable — and you don’t even need to leave the house. Change that negative chip in your head telling you “it’s too late” and “you’re too old.” Like the butterfly, you are in a state of metamorphosis. Be more tolerant of risk; you’ve got nothing to lose. Work hard, stay focused and go for it. No time, you say? Toughen up. Throw back some caffeinated drinks, stay up late, and take charge of your future.
6. Stay open and on “stand-by”: Recognize the hidden opportunities disguised as “problems” that interrupt your life. Don’t be threatened by change. Invite this exciting element of surprise into your life. Be proactive and seek it out. Embrace spontaneity. Even if it appears as negative at first, upon further unraveling and investigation, something exceeding your expectations will eventually emerge. Be patient.
7. Give back: Sounds trite, I know, but this is huge. The gratitude-giving-back cycle keeps everything flowing smoothly. And you don’t have to wait until you’ve “hit it big” to begin. Start now. No money? Give blood, or a listening ear to your worried neighbor. Remember how much it helped when someone extended a hand to you? Remember how painful it was to put ego aside, and ask for help? Do the same for another. Be preemptive. Commit to making it your responsibility. Most importantly, listen to your heart and instincts and allow them to drive your actions towards others — don’t succumb to “fear” masked as “logic.”