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Facing Life's Challenges

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way.” ~Victor Frankl

I recognize the quote above can be hard to believe in the midst of life’s challenges, and even harder to act upon. Does it shift your perspective when I tell you that these words were spoken by a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife, and all but one member of his family of origin in the war? If Victor Frankl can believe in self-agency after his life challenges, maybe you, maybe all of us, can use his wisdom to be open to trying. Look back at the hard times in your life, Ask yourself if you allowed these challenges to have significant effects on your personal growth. That’s the hard part. The allowing. Somehow, we think that as humans, we are entitled to a life that is easy and peaceful. That’s our first thought error. That’s what keeps us from healing from pain and loss. Life is hard. It comes with an A and B side. If you don’t remember vinyl records, there was an A side and a B side. The B side had all the less predictably popular songs. The good and the not so good were sold as a package deal. The minute you were born, you were enlisted into the package deal of human experience. A paradoxical curriculum of birth and death, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, love and loss, hope and despair, connection and solitude. A and B sides. That’s the reality of being a human. The notion that you (or anyone) are entitled to anything better is false. It’s an illusion that keeps you suffering. Before you get depressed and stop reading, there is hope. You don’t choose your curriculum. But what you do with the curriculum is up to you. Your interpretation, what you do with what happens to you, makes all the difference. You are in control of that. And in case you’re wondering, “why should I try to see the value in any of life’s B-sides,” I ask you this instead…. What’s the alternative? That is the question that turned things around for me. That helped me to wallow less and aspire to healing more. You can choose to sink into the chaos and let the harsh current take you down. You can ask yourself why me? Why them? You can use it as confirmation of the misguided belief so many of us have, that you don’t deserve happiness or ease. There’s room for that. Room to feel the grief, the pain, the disappointment. AND At some point, you need to decide… How long do you want to stew in self-pity? How long does it serve you or anyone else? The answer is neither quick nor finite. Healing is a non-linear process and the timing is different for everyone. But the healing begins when you decide to use this time, when all the bullshit priorities have fallen away, to get still and pay attention to your inner voice. Be careful not to confuse the critical, fearful voice of your brain with the quiet, confident voice of your heart. You will know the difference by how the thought makes you feel. Check in with your body. If you feel constricted or anxious, it is your brain talking. If you feel peaceful and calm, it is the wisdom of your heart. Contrary to much of what Western culture teaches us, the heart’s wisdom is your truth. It sucks that it takes suffering to get you to hear your voice of truth, but that’s the human experience. We humans do whatever we can to avoid going deep. We busy ourselves with daily distractions so we don’t have to feel uncertainty or discomfort. The universe, a higher power, God – whatever or whomever you choose to believe in – is forced to SHOUT AT US, to SHAKE US OUT OF OUR TRANCE, to get us to stop and listen to our own wisdom. It takes a crisis to strip away all that is fundamentally unimportant so we can get clear about what matters. Human life can suck sometimes. It can be unbearable. No human gets a pass. The chaos is not our choice. How long we suffer is. This is our reality. Past, present, and future. So, what do you want to do about that? Do you want to sit in the stink and whine about your life? Or do you want to take control over what you can. Train your mind to choose to see the opportunity to grow, get wise, pay it forward, and find some inner peace. You get to decide. If you choose to see the opportunity in chaos, here are some tools that can help: ALLOW This first step is so important. Give yourself permission to feel the grief, sadness, anger, and confusion that arises. Let it get big in your body. It’s counterintuitive, but letting the emotions get big will not destroy or break you, holding it in will. Expressing your feelings allows them to move through, to process and then fade. It’s not a one-time deal, it’s a practice toward healing so you can keep living your life. ACCEPT I’m not suggesting that you like what’s happening, or even that it’s meant to be, or happened for a reason. (I despise fake/toxic positivity). Bad things happen and they suck. I’m suggesting that you accept that whatever has happened is your reality. Once you stop denying it, or spinning in victim thoughts, then you can begin the process of healing. LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE This voice of wisdom is always there but we are rarely still or quiet enough to listen. This voice will get your clear about your essentials for a fulfilled and purposeful life: family, friends, partners, compassion, feeling connected to and helping others, etc. Pay attention to your most profound insights. Allow this voice of wisdom to guide you. Make sure the insights come from your heart. Trust the calm you feel! REFRAME AND CULTIVATE RESILIENCE Be willing to get curious. How can you choose to see this chaos not as a setback but as an opportunity to grow and push past your previous limitations? Open up to the possibility that there is value from this pain, that there is another way to interpret life’s downfalls that doesn’t devalue the pain of what’s happening. Use this time of vulnerability to discover and cultivate the strength to adapt, bounce back, and thrive through adversity. FIND SUPPORT Seek out a community of friends or people who have experience with what you are going through. People who will offer you valuable insights, constructive guidance, and encouragement to move through your challenge. **** I’ll leave you with the second part of the Victor Frankl quote from the top… “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

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