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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

5 Steps to Take When it Feels Like the Universe Is Working Against You

sad woman

As a founder of two self-funded, bootstrapped companies, a hands-on mom of two teenage sons, a leadership coach to dozens of CEOs, and a cancer survivor, I’ve personally learned that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Unless we live in a bubble, no one moves through life without pain. When the world begins to close in around us, what can we do to push through the darkness?

Here are five strategies you can apply to move through adversity.

1. Practice Perspective

Where you are right now is a blip on the radar. No matter how bad things are for you at this precise moment in time, they don’t define the totality of your existence.

Impermanence is certain. Both the good and the bad are fleeting. To define ourselves by a negative moment in time robs us of our ability to be appreciative of the past, and hopeful for the future.

Your Call to Action

Write down three to five successes you’ve had, either personal or professional. Think of a business win, a health or fitness goal you’ve accomplished, or a relationship that brings you great joy. Think of a situation or relationship you successfully terminated that no longer serves you. These wins define you as much as your challenges.

2. Practice Gratitude

Regardless of what’s occurring in our lives, we can find many things for which to be grateful. Sheryl Sandberg attributes the practice of gratitude as an essential mindset to help her cope with the loss of her husband, David Goldberg.

Especially for entrepreneurs, who live life a bit more passionately than others, we’re a target for more of both the good and the bad. When we approach our journeys from a place of gratitude, the difficulties become more manageable.

Your Call to Action

Write down five to 10 things for which you are grateful. Think of everyone in your life, and all the things that have happened in your life. Expand your perspective beyond what is right in front of you.

3. Practice Strategic Patience

Experience has taught me that rushing what’s coming never turns out for the best. We climb out of hell one step at a time. Steve Jobs was relentlessly patient, teaching us to have faith that all dots connect the way they are meant to connect.

When we’re in the middle of hardship, we must keep focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, and remember that every inch forward counts. It doesn’t matter how slowly we move forward, as long as we keep moving.

Your Call to Action

Write down your detailed desired state. Define your future self. Next, write down what you need to do to get there, not worrying about any constraints holding you back. The first step in getting to where you want to be is to define it. If we don’t know where we are going, we will never get there.

This is brave, hard work, but you are worthy of living life in a place that brings you joy. Display your vision in a place where you can see it every day as you move through your challenge.

4. Practice Forgiveness

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Gandhi​

Choosing to live with anger, resentment, and bitterness is one of the most destructive, paralyzing choices one can make. This choice shackles you to the past, and prevents you from embracing any possibility of happiness.

We’ve all been wronged. We’ve all experienced rejection, betrayal, and disappointment. Often these experiences are what send us into a downward spiral.

We have the power to choose how they will define us, and how they will impact our overall journey. Do you want to look back and realize that you empowered a past event or person to rob you of happiness and joy?

We don’t forgive others for their benefit. We forgive others for ourselves.

Your Call to Action

Create a list of people or events for whom you feel anger, hurt, and disappointment. Describe why they have made you feel this way. Forgive them—on paper. This transfers the negative energy you are holding inside to the outside. This is your first step of a long process toward releasing the anger, but it is important progress.

5. Practice Self-Renewal

Burning the candle at both ends eventually causes collapse. It is clinically proven that exhaustion and depression are closely linked. Our physical exhaustion manifests as emotional and mental exhaustion, and our brain breaks down.

To develop the stamina to recover from difficulty, we must allow our brains and bodies the time and space to recover. For some, that will mean stepping off the treadmill entirely for an extended period of time—completely check out, disconnect, and go off the grid. For others, it may mean a two-week retreat, or a weekend getaway. Everyone requires different levels of recovery.

Your commitment to self-renewal is not selfish. It is self-preservation, and is essential in recovering the strength you need to move through your challenges.

Your Call to Action

Commit to a plan to step away from your situation, no matter how brief. Also, create a community of support specifically to move you through this difficult period, and reach out to it for regular support. Make your emotional and mental well-being your top priority so that you can get back on your feet.

Finally, remember that this too shall pass. You will emerge stronger. You have it within you to move through this temporary blip on your radar. You will triumph.

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