This Is How You Reclaim Your Life When ‘Bad’ Things Happen To You

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” — Walter Anderson
Quentin Keller
Quentin Keller

The Struggle of Life

Does it seem like life is one endless drama after another?

Are you constantly wishing your problems would dissolve into nothing? To have that feeling while on vacation without a care in the world? As though time stands still and all your concerns vanish for that brief period.

I’ve spoken with many people over the years who promised themselves life would be different once they returned from holiday.

They vowed to create more time to unwind and not take life seriously. Despite their best intentions, the speed of life overshadows their plans and before long they are back to the same old routine.

So, how can you avoid the pain of defeat and struggle?

Consider this perspective from authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. “When our daily actions fulfil a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen.”

I was discussing this topic with a friend recently who was lamenting his latest toils. He mentioned something during the conversation that etched itself in my mind.

Given his financial struggles, he wanted to leave his meaningless job and pursue a calling he was passionate about. That is, work that offered satisfaction above all else.

He wished for a better life without constant struggle. If success were to find its way to him, he was powerless to appreciate it, since he had become used to being anxious about money for most of his adult life.

He was a victim to his pain and the notion of living a purposeful life was an elusive dream.

Have you been in a similar situation?

Pain or Pleasure

Reclaiming your life is not about a change in circumstances, as much as it is about shifting your internal focus. It must come from a deep desire to transform your life, irrespective of what awaits you on the other side.

The Freudian principle known as the pain—pleasure principle, states that humans have an inner drive toward seeking pleasure, or conversely running away from pain.

You attract opportunities that serve your highest potential or get stuck in a painful cycle of undesired outcomes. The downfall of the pain cycle is apparent in mice being administered electric shocks in lab experiments. It is reported over time that they become addicted to the pain and a vicious circle ensues.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” — Anne Lamott

To reclaim your life, begin by being mindful of your thoughts and actions, for you alone direct the course of your destiny, not some outside force.

I’m reminded of the quote by the late American speaker Jim Rohn who said: “The same wind blows on us all; the winds of disaster, opportunity and change. Therefore, it is not the blowing of the wind, but the setting of the sails that will determine our direction in life.”

In a similar vein, renowned sociology professor and author Brené Brown states in her book Rising Strong: “You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.”

Reframing Failure

Success and leadership experts speak of reframing failure as the key to achieving success. I recall early in my career the devastating effect failure had on my personal identity. However, with several failures under my belt, I let go of attaching failure to my personal sense of worth. In fact, the moment I stopped considering it a negative outcome, it had little power over me.

“We are powerful co-creators when we say no to our fear and yes to our personal power,” states author Colette Baron Reid in: Uncharted: The Journey Through Uncertainty to Infinite Possibility.

It is important to view failure as an opportunity to advance towards your goals. It helps you improve and iterate each time you are unsuccessful. Apple and many leading companies have known this for decades and use it to improve their product designs and services, and so should you.

Avoid attaching failure to your self-esteem, as it will derail your progress. Rather, transform your frustrations and fears into passion and enthusiasm. Enthusiastic people enjoy the journey and seldom focus on outcomes alone. If you love what you do and do what you love, the journey can be more rewarding than the outcome.

“…when you do, you are using power; when you try, you are using force. In life, if you want to get things done, it is much better to be powerful than to be forceful,” states author Bernard Roth in The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life.

It is important to pursue interests that resonate with your deepest self. Everything else becomes insignificant when you know what is important to you. Many people focus on trivial matters while neglecting the bigger picture. They trust, by trying their hand at many things, that this strategy will return a favourable outcome. I liken this to painting a masterpiece by throwing paint at a canvas, expecting it to materialise as a Rembrandt.

Author Stephen R Covey states in his book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective, “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”

Most importantly, don’t let life pass you by but take command of your choices.

Whilst you have little control over outcomes, you have power over how you respond to them.

I enjoy the delightful quote by the late poet Maya Angelou: “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.”

Reclaiming your life begins by being at peace with yourself, instead of believing you have been hard done by. It involves collaborating with circumstances, knowing even the direst conditions contain the seeds of opportunity for personal growth.

Author Brené Brown refers to it as avoiding the powerless trap: “…we are most dangerous to ourselves and to the people around us when we feel powerless. Powerlessness leads to fear and desperation.”

It is by acknowledging that you are powerful beyond measure, as Marianne Williamson states, that your inner and outer worlds converge to create a state of eternal harmony. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Self-empowerment author, expert speaker and coach.

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