Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Have you ever experienced a time where bad things continued to happen to you? How did you get through that moment in your life? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
1. Start over each day. If you’ve had a bad day or week or month, reset tomorrow. Don’t carry that history or energy into your next day or week. If you flip a coin and get tails, you’re not any more or less likely to get tails the next toss. Each is a separate event. This is the first time I’ve recounted the entire story because when it was happening I wasn’t dwelling on it. I was working to move on every day. Even during that period, I never looked at it as a year of calamity. I faced each struggle individually as best I could and moved on. I was facing a hard time, but so were millions of others.
2. Do the things you love. When things are bad, we tend to wallow in our misery. When it gets bad, we might attribute our circumstances to our own mistakes and errors. At it’s worst, we might start thinking that we deserve this. It doesn’t feel right to enjoy ourselves when we’re struggling with some many challenges. This is, however, the exact time that it’s most important to be enjoying yourself. Go out with friends, work out, get out in nature, create a healthy routine. This can all help to break that psychological downward spiral that can compound our issues. Throughout my difficulties, I surfed, hiked, biked, saw friends. These activities hardly cost any money. They’re the routines and habits we keep up when things are good, but are most therapeutic when things aren’t going well.
3. See the positive. When I was 19, at the peak of health and youthful exuberance, on break from college, I had an accident with a snowblower that tore up the fingers on my left hand. At the hospital, I was distraught, cursing my circumstances and luck. Shortly after arriving, another patient arrived with a similar accident. He’d lost several fingers. I would need surgery, and would likely have some impairment; but I hadn’t lost any fingers. My outlook changed in an instant. I’d had an unlucky accident, but been blessed not to lose any fingers. Had that not happened, I may have spent months or years cursing my luck. Instead, I rebounded quickly and still think how lucky I am not to have lost any fingers.
4. Embrace serendipity. No matter how bad it may seem, life doesn’t have it out for you. There’s no bias, no conspiracy. The world will feel scarce, when you’re focused on the scarcity. And when you’re in this mind state, it can be hard to break out. I’ve found that embracing and celebrating the serendipitous moments can help break this mind state. When you search for and celebrate these, you start to see that they are much more abundant than the calamities. When you make the mind shift towards this abundance, you’ll see and attract more opportunity.
5. Frame your challenges. No one comes through life unscathed. Buddhism defines life/existence as “duhkha” – translated as dissatisfaction or suffering. It’s this way because we cling to that which we find pleasurable, which is destined to pass. We’re destined to lose loved ones, have our hearts broken, and be disappointed.
That’s just the start. But this is the case for everyone. Not just you or me. No one escapes this. No one gets through life without challenge, illness, loneliness, or loss. So, if you think this is all just happening to you, then gain some perspective. All of us will be challenged, it’s how we frame our challenges that determines how quickly we overcome them. If you see them as lessons, then you’ll have the opportunity to learn.
6. Success isn’t linear. We often think of success accruing slowly, while misfortune happens suddenly. So when we’re down and afflicted by troubles, success is a very long ways a way. Any progress we’ve made has been usurped, and we’re starting at the bottom. But that’s not the case. The job I received after my disastrous year where virtually every employer saw me as unemployable was Head of Sales at a top entertainment company in Los Angeles. Within two years of nearly going bankrupt, I’d started my own company, and now it’s achievable remarkable success.
The mentality that success accrues slowly further hampers us because we then believe we’re furthest from success during our misfortunes; but the truth is we’re no further from success at this point than at any other point in our lives. Put in another way, we’re as close to success during these difficult periods as during times that things are going well. In high school, my father gave me an inspirational plaque. He’s Japanese and had the common aphorism “Success is a habit,” incorrectly written as “Success is an attitude.” I like the later much more.
7. Read. Experiencing misfortune can be a huge opportunity. During my challenging period, I started looking for answers everywhere. In particular, I started reading anything and everything that had a hint of a path to success. I opened my eyes to the writings of Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Oprah, James Allen and others. At other points in my life I likely would have written off their writing as not grounded and wisdom I simply didn’t need. Now I did need it, and I imbibed it as thoroughly as one can.