When you’re a child, everything you have to remember is about how to get through the day. Parents get you up and tell you what to wear. You know you have to brush your teeth, go to school, when to be home and all the rest. If you forget something, it’s far from the end of the world. But when you grow into adulthood there are other things to remember that help you manage life as a whole. Sometimes it feels like you’re just trying to get through each day, but in reality that feeling is about managing stress and not letting circumstance overwhelm you. There are a few “lessons of life” that can help you get through those days and I wanted to review a few of them here.
Everything can and will change. Change is the only constant of life. I have to admit: I’m not that guy who easily and happily adapts when things don’t go as planned. I like schedules. I like things to happen on time and as planned. But if there was one thing my military service (and children) taught me, it’s that few things go as planned. Decades on the street as a police officer taught me that things will go sideways when least expected and often at the most inopportune time possible. The military also taught me that when this happens it’s best to improvise; adapt to the change and overcome the presented challenge. If we recognize that change is inevitable, and actually a blessing in the long run, then it becomes less stressful to deal with when it happens. Keeping that in mind, as things change, rather than stress the change, embrace and welcome it. Celebrate the new circumstance and see the blessings the change brought.
Your survival rate for bad days is 100%. Think back across your life and remember some of the worst days you’ve had. Think about how you felt on those days and how many times you thought, “I just can’t handle this.” Yet, here you are. You did handle it. You managed it. You mitigated it. You adjusted and overcame “it.” No matter how bad that worst day seemed, you survived. You’ve overcome challenges before; you can, and will, again. If you can remember that when you’re in the midst of a bad day, it’s confidence building that you can manage whatever it is that’s challenging you that day.
Life is a learning experience. No matter what is hitting you at any given moment, remember that life isn’t school. School teaches you the lesson and then gives you the test. Life tests you and you learn a lesson from the experience of it. Life is not static. Life is not meant to be boring. If you’re bored, you’re not maximizing use of your time. Every day you should learn something new. So when you’re having a moment where you’re asking yourself what the heck just happened, look for the lesson you can learn. Recognize it as part of life’s experience and find the value in the experience.
Sometimes, not getting what you want is a blessing. One of Garth Brooks’ most popular songs says that, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” In any given moment we all would like to receive something; have something; be blessed with something or have something changed to suit what we want – in that moment. Stop for a moment and look back at your life and remember some of those things that you just wanted so badly it seemed like you couldn’t live without them. How many of them are part of your life today? How many of them would you have regretted getting (in hindsight)? Reality is that while we think we want something right now, we don’t know how things will be as a result next week… next month… or in twenty years. Sometimes, not getting what you want right now can be a great blessing – but you won’t realize it for a bit. So when you don’t get what you want, rather than fret or regret, take a moment to wonder what will be instead.
Make time for some fun. We get so caught up in the responsibilities of adulthood that we quite often forget to have fun. Sometimes we get so stressed that life is no fun at all. It’s in those times that we need to stop, take a breath and focus on something fun. “Fun” means something different for everyone and only you can decide what that fun will be for you in that moment. But stop and make time for it. When life is overwhelming, find time to step back from the pressure of accomplishing everything that’s weighing you down; take a few minutes (or hours or days when you can) to simply go have fun. While the responsibilities of life never truly go away, we should all be seeking a lifestyle that allows us to enjoy a bit of fun each day. If the fun helps us to meet our responsibilities, all the better. Just don’t let fun become work… because then it’s no fun.
Be kind to yourself. It’s amazing how many people will abuse themselves – mentally and emotionally – unnecessarily. On the other hand, is it ever truly necessary? Sometimes meeting a challenge means creating some mental, emotional or physical discomfort, but doing it for a purpose, temporarily to meet a goal, can help us grow and improve. But everything has to be in balance. The large majority of our days and life we should be kind to ourselves. Care for yourself. Recognize your blessings, your accomplishments, the good in yourself. Pamper yourself on occasion and be aware of the need to make time to care for yourself. Don’t get so caught up in doing so much for others that you neglect or abuse yourself. Take care of you.
Other people’s negativity is not your problem. One of my favorite statements is, “I’m responsible for what I said; not what you understood.” Each of us perceives the day differently. While I can be having a great day, someone else can be having a miserable day. Circumstances that I consider optimal, someone else can consider horrific. While it behooves us as compassionate people to care about others and help them where/when we can, we have to remember that there are those folks who simply aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about. That’s their problem – not yours. Their negativity is not your responsibility to reverse or change. You do you. Let them do… whatever it is that they’ll find happiness in.
In every day, there is something to be thankful for. As I type this, I have a friend who is posting daily thanks on Facebook because it’s November and Thanksgiving is in a couple weeks. She’s done it every day of the month so far. Sometimes it’s a really simply, often taken for granted, thing like her trusty coffee maker. Sometimes it’s the love of grandchildren or a unique work circumstance that is rare and comfortable. The point is that she’s focusing on finding the blessings, of all sorts, in her days. We can all learn a lesson from that. There is something to be thankful for each day – even if it’s simply that you woke up. As another friend of mine likes to say, “When I feel like my life isn’t going the way I want, I remind myself that I can look around and see plenty of people who would gladly trade their circumstance for mine.” If you feel like you’re having that particularly rough day, stop and take a breath; look around. Think about your circumstances – all of them, not just the ones challenging you in that moment. Find something to be thankful for. It’s always there.