Brain Hacks

Embrace the Struggle: How to Stay Optimistic during Tough Times

Struggle is the secret sauce that gives success its flavor. The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, remember these five things. They’ll teach you how to stay optimistic during tough times.

1. You are loved.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ― Stephen Chbosky

Money can buy a big house, luxurious car, and the fanciest gadgets on the market. It can even buy stability and peace of mind. Let’s be real. Life is less stressful when you’re not worried about how you’re going to afford rent, groceries, and other expenses. That said, money can’t buy happiness. Only love and connection can do that.

Don’t get so caught up in work that you neglect your relationships. Loneliness is a curse. In fact, research suggests social isolation is a common cause of drug addiction. When people don’t connect with friends, family, or loved ones, they feel empty inside. Often, this causes them to search for relief in all the wrong places.

Some people feel unworthy of love. This is a false belief. Love can’t come with strings or conditions attached. Dogs understand this concept. They always greet their owners with enthusiasm, no matter how good or bad their day was. Treat your loved ones (and yourself) with the same compassion.

2. Nothing lasts forever.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”  ― Lao Tzu

You get a new job and think it will change your life. A little while later, you feel disgruntled. The boss is controlling. Your co-workers are irritating. Work stops being fulfilling. It feels like everything is falling apart.

You enter a new relationship and think it will finally make you happy. A few months or years later, you feel lethargic. Loving compliments are replaced by hateful insults. Passion is replaced by apathy. You feel as if your entire world is unraveling before your eyes.

It hurts to have your hopes shattered. There’s no simple way to recover from hardships such as these. Please understand most things — jobs, friendships, businesses, and/or relationships — aren’t meant to last forever. The Universe likes to sprinkle unwelcome plot twists into the stories of our lives.

Embrace impermanence. That doesn’t mean “become so jaded that you expect the worst;” however, you shouldn’t become so attached to any outcome that your happiness depends on it. Appreciate the good times while they last… and as Dr. Seuss said: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

3. There is always a lesson.

“In life, there are no mistakes, only lessons.” ― Vic Johnson

Everyone messes up sometimes. A perfect track record is nothing to brag about. Instead, it indicates you aren’t aiming high enough. Treat your “mistakes” like “learning opportunities in disguise.”

If you invest $1,000 (or even $100,000) in a business and it goes nowhere, that’s not a failure. You’ll learn something from that experience. Apply those lessons and insights to stack the odds of success in your favor.

If you enter a marathon and don’t finish, that’s not a failure. Ask yourself, “Why did this occur?” Maybe you were dehydrated. Perhaps you ate a poor diet. What if you didn’t train enough? Analyze the circumstances surrounding your “failure” until you identify key takeaways that will help you do better next time.

4. Struggles build character.

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Comfort leads to complacency. If you never had to struggle, there would be no incentive to grow. That’s easy to forget after a job loss, devastating break-up, or death in the family (but it’s nonetheless true).

Swords can’t be shaped until they are exposed to fire. People can’t become stronger until they are met with obstacles. Obstacles aren’t any fun while you’re dealing with them, but you will be a better person after you overcome them.

5. You can’t control everything.

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.”  ― Steve Maraboli

No one likes to accept how chaotic life is. I understand why. It’s stressful to think about how little control you really have.

A top-performer might get fired due to mandatory lay-offs. An entrepreneur could be put out of business by a trend that makes their product or service obsolete. A frugal person could get stuck with an expensive car repair that wipes out their emergency savings account.

Only concern yourself with what you can control: your ability to respond in a productive way. You’ll save an insane amount of time and energy, which can be pointed in a positive direction. This is easier said than done; but at times, it’s in your best interest to surrender. Alexander Graham Bell described this concept well when he said:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

So, how do you stay optimistic when life gets tough? Tell us about it in the comments. If any of your friends are dealing with a stressful or overwhelming situation, feel free to share this article. They will appreciate the thought. :)

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