Can it get any worse?

When just getting from one day to next seems like a mammoth task, what can you do?

What can you do when life gets tough?

For many people that’s how it seems at the moment. Families, school, work, politics, health, the day to day. It can seem big.

Now whilst I do not have children or even a cat to negotiate with, I can appreciate the challenges that all of this brings. And as a pragmatic person, I am always looking for what you can do and how you can feel good.

Often the challenges can seem mountainous. Or our motivation is non-existent. So where do you start then? How do you get going so you thrive more than survive?

These three strategies are my go to’s, both personally and with clients, as results happen. Not necessarily life changing every time, but often a simple shift makes a great difference. One that makes things easier to manage and can have the side effect of feeling good! (You have been warned!)

During the last few months, clients have been asking for help in relation to work, relationships (family, friends, colleagues, as well as significant others!) and with their wellbeing. The last six months, life has changed and many of us did not have the skills to deal with it.

The great news is that these skills can be learnt. And, like many, I am practising them often as I navigate uncertain times.

Ask the question.

As I mentioned, I am a pragmatic person, not always a helpful thing, but in these times it has come in very handy. When something is happening, and I can hear the thinking building the mountain, I pause and ask myself the question.

What can I do?

You have probably heard me mention it before.

What can I do?

The emphasis sits on the possibility of can. That’s where my attention goes and I begin to look for answers. Sometimes answers are obvious, sometimes not. Sometimes I have the resources to crack on, and others I need to ask for help. And sometimes I have to be honest and realise that at this point, there is nothing I can do, and so I need to give something else my focus and attention.

What you can do may be difficult or easy.

That doesn’t matter. What matters, I think, when times are tough, is to look for what I can do and do it. The smallest action.

In 2018, after I had just come out of hospital, I had little energy. So the first few days, what I could do, was get up and get down stairs. Once I had done that I would then check back in. What can I do now? ‘Put the kettle on.’ OK, that’s what I did, and after that… What can I do now? And so on and so forth.

When life has big changes, or there are a number of things that need our attention, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or look to control the uncontrollable things. Simply focusing on what you can do can give clarity and help you at least start taking small steps forward.

Use your rearview mirror.

Usually as a coach I encourage clients to focus on the windscreen, to be looking forward in life and not to be focusing on the rearview, the past. But sometimes it has its uses.

When unexpected change happens, it can side swipe us. It can seem like the worst thing in the world. And yeah, it may be tough, but this is when using your rearview mirror can come in handy.

Most of us can look back over our lives and see those pivotal tough times. And a high percentage of the time, we can see the positivity that came out of it too. For example, redundancy. I have worked with many clients who reflected on their redundancies as “the best thing that happened. I didn’t think that at the time. But I can see that now.

When we are are ‘in it’, the situation seems big, unmanageable, the worst thing ever. But when we reflect and remember those past similar times, we can see the benefits that have come from those experiences.

My personal mantra during tough times, and something that I repeated often during 2018/19 whilst ill was ‘What can I learn from this? What gifts can I gain?’ Now would I want to go through that situation again? NO WAY! But am I grateful for what I gained from it? Absolutely!

Use your rearview mirror to help you. There could be great benefits from these tough times that you may not be able to see yet.

Stop arguing with the world.

I don’t mean on social media… although that would be good too. But have you noticed how much people argue with how life is and want it to be another way?

“But it shouldn’t be like this.”

In England I hear this a lot in relation to the weather: “It’s summer it should be warmer.” It always makes me smile and think of one of my favourite quotes from Adyashanti.

“A sure way to suffer, is to argue with what is.”

Humans may have labelled this time ‘summer’ and have an expectation of warm weather, based on past data, but if it’s raining, that IS what is happening. It IS raining. Regardless of what we have called the season and past data. 

Of course I am not just talking about the weather here. “It shouldn’t be this way” is a theme that comes up in coaching too and the outcome is always the same. If you argue with how things are, you are only going to get upset 100% of the time. 🙂

Many, I have noticed, therefore swing to another common phrase, “it is what it is”. Which is correct. However there seems to be a defeatist shrug of the shoulders that comes with the statement. So I asked a client about it. What did that phrase actually mean to them? I reflected back how they said it with the shrugging shoulders. They thought for a while and replied, “Well I can say it is what it is, but being honest, I still don’t think it should be that way.” In a nutshell, he realised he was still internally arguing. Still wanting it to be different to what it was. And, well, he’s only ever going to lose 100% of the time!

So, are you arguing with the world? How’s that working out for you?

These three strategies are not ‘fix all’s but they are ways into facing the tough times and being able to take one day at a time, or even one hour at a time.

If things are tough at the moment, give these a go. And if you would welcome some further coaching around the situation, get in touch, I’d welcome a conversation.

In the meantime remember, in a world where you can be anything, please do be kind… first and foremost to yourself!