This was first published on ksl.com
It doesn't matter what the cause of the trouble is. It could be long-term relationship issues, loneliness, health or financial problems, or anything else that doesn't have an easy solution and means long-term angst or pain. How do you cope, stay positive, move forward and make the best of these worst situations?
I was thinking about the answer to this question this week as I had the opportunity to ride up and down the Hiawatha Bike trail in Montana, which means riding through a train tunnel a mile and a half long. If you have never had this experience, I highly recommend it. You actually ride over numerous suspension bridges and through nine different train tunnels. This experience brought the idea of "light at the end of the tunnel" to life in a powerful way for me.
In these tunnels, you quickly lose sight of the end — there is literally no end in sight. It is pitch dark and all you can see is about 6 feet in front of you, as that is all your headlamp illuminates. There is nothing to reflect light off straight ahead, so all you can see is the ground in front of you.
There is also water dripping on you from above and mud splattering you from the front and rear tires. It can be disorienting and a bit scary. It's only the voices up ahead of you that assure you others are making it through this, and you can too.
This experience reminded me of some great ways to hang on, stay positive, and get through when things in life are dark:
Only focus on the present moment
I recently visited with a man who battles a nerve disease that causes constant and severe pain, and it will most likely continue for the rest of his life. He told me that if he tried to carry the weight of all the days, months and years of pain that he faces ahead, it would crush him. The trick is only to focus on what's right in front of you today.
Get through this hour or this 30 minutes with as much joy, laughter and grit as you can. Don't think about the days, months or years ahead. Stay present and be in the moment. It's just like me in the actual tunnel, where 6 feet was all I could see: I had to keep a laser focus on that small part because the rest of the darkness was overwhelming.
Whatever you are facing, take it one small moment at a time.
Choose joy as much as possible
Find the small blessing and beauty in each moment. Look for the positive in every single moment. Listen to music, watch the sunset, appreciate the things you do have. Choose joy over something in every moment you are alive.
Joy is a choice, it's not an experience. You have the power to find reasons for joy all the time.
You've heard the saying, "Things could always be worse." You might think of ways this is true.
Don't compare yourself with people who have it better than you do. That will only bring grief and loss. Instead, try comparing yourself with everyone you can think of who has it worse. This will help you spend your time in gratitude for what is right in your life.
You are certainly entitled to a full-blown pity party on occasion, but do not live there. Sit in the feelings of loss, unfairness, self-pity, anger or grief. Let yourself have the emotions that come, then decide that you aren't going to live there. You are going to focus on the blessings, small as they may be.
Find support and people who understand
It helps immensely to find people who have been in your shoes or are still there. They get what you are experiencing at a level no one else can. Seek these people out and befriend them. Start a support group and reach out to others who are suffering that you can help.
Choose to trust that there's purpose in your pain
We cannot prove this is true, but you cannot prove it isn't true either. The one thing I know is that people who choose to trust there is purpose in their experiences suffer less. It helps to think that at least this experience is benefiting them in some way, teaching them and making them stronger, wiser or more loving.
Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II, said, "In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning." I choose to believe that life is a classroom (not a test) and the purpose of everything is to grow us and teach us. I find that believing this as your meaning makes the hard parts feel a little easier. You will have to see if it works for you.
Choose to see everyone in their perfect classroom journey
Choose to believe that if others have life easier than you, there is a reason for that, too. Every single person is here to learn different lessons than you are, so their curriculum won't ever look like yours. Stop comparing. Decide to trust that others will get the hard parts of their lessons at a different time or in a different way, but everyone gets the perfect classroom for them.
I don't believe that God sent this trial to you though; I believe God created a universe to be our teacher and there are forces at work here that work with our choices to create the perfect classroom for each soul. But, again, I can't prove this is true. It is just a belief. I just find this belief helps.
Get some help from a coach or counselor
Find someone you connect with and feel safe with. Having someone to support you during this time makes a huge difference. Working with a professional who can help you process emotions in a healthy way, find coping strategies, and just listen makes all the difference in how you handle the rough stuff.
Distract yourself from the pain
Find activities that fill you up, bring you joy, or entertain and distract you from thinking about the problem. Don't ignore the problem, stuff your feelings and just watch Netflix to get through. Get help, find support, talk to a coach or counselor, and make sure you are learning and growing from the experience. Then, keep yourself busy doing things that bring you joy and fill you up as much as possible.
It's never fun to go through hard things or dark times, but these suggestions may help you get through those parts of life until the light at the end of the tunnel finally comes into view.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
Many of us were taught as children things like "make others happy," "be nice," "be unselfish," and "sacrificing yourself for other people is righteous." We were taught to be afraid of what others think of us and to avoid conflict at all costs.
Were you accidentally or intentionally taught these things as a child?
See if any of the following sound like you:
The following are suggestions for what you can do to start changing yourself to become more authentic and in control of your life.
Don't commit to anything on the spot
Make it your rule that you always say, "Can I check my calendar and get back to you?" Then step back and ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this, or am I saying 'yes' out of guilt, obligation or a fear of rejection or judgment?" If you can say "yes" because you truly want to do it, say "yes." If you are saying "yes" because of fear, you must say "no."
Practice saying 'no'
Look for every opportunity to get more comfortable with saying "no." You are not selfish or a bad person if you occasionally choose your own happiness and possibly disappoint others. Watch for opportunities to show kind assertiveness. Kindly say, "No, I don't want to do that right now. Thanks, though." Practice saying "no" with no explanation about why so the other person can't try to persuade you.
Try saying 'I don't' instead of 'I can't'
When some people hear the words "I can't," they become committed to changing your mind on that. They try to solve the problem for you so you can still do the thing they want you to do. But using the words "I don't" declares a firmer boundary.
Practice saying things like, "I don't have time for that," "I don't do those things," "I don't want to talk about that right now," or "That doesn't work for me." These phrases are more assertive and powerful, yet they can be said with a kind tone.
Learn how to be both strong and loving at the same time
Somewhere in childhood, many of us got the idea that you can either be strong (mean and selfish) or loving (weak and scared), but we can't be both. You will find your power and your courage when you realize you can do both at the same time. You can disagree, but do it with fearless, loving kindness.
I find the trick to finding this place lies in trusting there is nothing to fear. At the end of this interaction, you will still have the same value as every other person and your life will still be your perfect classroom. So, you are basically bulletproof. Focus on your loving kindness for the other person and respond with strength and love.
Learn the trick to strong boundaries
Everyone tells people pleasers to have strong boundaries, but how does one do that? I wrote a previous article on this topic you might want to read. I find the key to good boundaries is knowing what your priorities and values really are so you can say "no" to things that don't match up. If you haven't defined them, you don't know how to make good choices for yourself.
Define what your core priorities and values are
What is most important in your life? Sit down and make a list. You might value things like:
Give yourself permission to be you
It's OK to be different from others and have views they won't agree with. Have a unique style or way of being and do this from a place of trust that no judgment from others can change your value. Consciously choose to not worry about what others think of you. Their ideas have no power and don't mean or do anything.
Get more comfortable with conflict and anger
You may be so afraid of anger that you avoid conflict at all costs — and the costs can be high. To change this, you need a new official policy: "Conflict happens all the time, but it is nothing to fear."
Anger doesn't mean anything except that a human is having some emotions. Those emotions don't mean you aren't good enough or are unsafe. Anger is not something you need to fear.
You can get more comfortable with anger by slowly subjecting yourself to situations where people might get angry and practicing being OK and choosing to feel safe anyway. Do some things like sending back a meal that isn't cooked right, spending a long time at the ATM when people are waiting, saying "no" to someone, asking someone to stop doing something that is annoying you, or purposely not doing something you were asked to do.
Then you get to manage the ensuing conflict or anger with strength and love at the same time. Or instead of creating conflict, just watch out for natural opportunities to practice.
Practice putting your needs first
Putting your needs first may make you feel horribly selfish, but I promise you aren't. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it's wise and healthy. You should have an equal balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself.
Understand that avoiding conflict doesn't promote growth
Most of the growth in relationships happens in times of conflict. Those are the moments when we are asked to become more aware of our behavior, our words or our thinking. We have to stretch and put ourselves in the other person's shoes.
When you avoid all conflict, you avoid the best learning opportunities you are going to get. Try to see each conflict experience as being in your life to serve your growth. Don't avoid it. Jump in and see what you and the other person can learn and how you can become better.
Stop saying 'sorry'
People pleasers apologize way too much. Sometimes they come across as feeling sorry they exist and that their breathing causes any inconvenience to others. You deserve to exist and sometimes cause inconvenience to others, as they will do the same to you.
Your relationships should have give and take, and sometimes you will be the taker. Consciously watch for the desire to say "I'm sorry" and instead say "thank you" for their patience or accommodating you this time.
When you do something that really injures someone, still don't say "sorry." Asking "Could you forgive me?" is much more powerful and means more.
Find activities that increase your courage and confidence
I find that doing adventurous things, challenging myself and accomplishing goals helps me become mentally strong. Even lifting weights and being physically being strong helps me to feel more emotionally strong — there is a correlation between the two types of strength. Become stronger all the time.
Change your belief about your value
People pleasing is a deeply ingrained tendency that comes from a fear of not being good enough. Because you don't see yourself as enough, you believe you need approval from others to give you value. The biggest thing you can do to change this behavior is to choose to see all humans — including yourself — with the same infinite, unchanging value as everyone else. The more you see your value as unchangeable the less validation you should need from others.
Changing this will take practice, effort and time. The first step is recognizing you need to work on this and committing to the work.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I had a reader write to me recently complaining about a friend who is always talking about the hard things going on in their life. Their question revolved around when it was justified to complain about your life and have a friend listen and show up for you, and when it becomes an issue of playing the victim card to get sympathy love and might not be a positive thing.
Talking about your struggles and woes is not necessarily a problem. For some people, it is the only way they learned to get love. They might subconsciously play the victim card without even realizing it; and when friends listen and show they care, it probably does make them feel cared about, important and loved.
The only problem is that there can be a cost to this behavior that you might not realize you are paying. While friends and family care about you and feel sorry for you, they may also be losing respect for you.
Before I get into how to check yourself and make sure you aren't in an unhealthy victim mentality, let me just say how important it is to have supportive friends and family around you — and to share your difficult experiences with them. Everyone needs that kind of support, and there is no shame whatsoever in talking about your struggles and getting support, help and love from the people in your life.
Your sharing or complaining only becomes a problem if you are sharing for one of the following reasons:
I have a dear friend who is battling cancer, and I love how she shares the challenges and hardships of the experience with me but never misses an opportunity to ask about my life and my challenges too. She never uses the hardship to manipulate others, and she always acknowledges that other people have it worse.
She shares her experience and lets her friends support her, but she has never had a victim mentality. I have to say, though, there are days she is very entitled to a good long pity-party cry — and occasionally she has one, as they are healthy and called for.
Here are some other ways to watch for victim behavior and change it:
Write it down
Write a description (on paper) of what your mindset and behavior would look like if you are playing the victim: How would you show up? How would others see you? What kind of energy would you be putting off?
Write about the payoffs you might get from rehearsing your struggles and stories. Are the payoffs so great they are worth possibly losing the respect of other people? Write about the ways you might be seen as weak, complaining or needy. Are there ways you share your experiences without coming across with these descriptions?
Examine your past
What stories about your past might you talk about too often? Do you have any beliefs about your life always going bad, or bad things always happening to you? Do you believe, "no one cares about me"; or "no matter how hard I try, things always go wrong"; or "people should let me off the hook for bad behavior because of how bad I have had it in the past"; or "I will never get anywhere no matter how hard I work."
Own any victim stories and beliefs you have and figure out why you might hold onto them. What do they give you when you believe they are true? What do they cost you? Is there something else (more healthy) that you could replace those beliefs with? Rewrite some better beliefs and post them somewhere you see them daily.
Explore letting go
Figure out who you could be if you let go of the victim identity. What would your mindset be? How could you respond to life if you saw yourself as strong, blessed, capable, fortunate and whole? What if you see yourself as a champion instead of a victim? This may take a while to clearly see yourself as a victor, but you can do it.
Write down the qualities and attributes you want to embody. How do you want people to see you? What qualities do you want to be known for? You cannot become something you can't even see. The first step is to get clarity on what you want.
Stop the blame game
Stop blaming others or circumstances for the way you are feeling. You are responsible for how you feel. Emotions do arise that you can't control; but once they arrive, you do have the power to process through them and choose your mindset. (Unless you are suffering from clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, which can make choosing your attitude difficult to impossible to do by yourself. Seek help from a medical professional.)
Most of us do have the power to choose our perspective, and our perspective determines how we feel. If you don't know how to use that power, you may need a counselor or coach to help you learn how. It is a skill and can be taught to most people.
Change your perspective
First, choose gratitude. In the very moment you are dwelling on what's wrong in your life, there are many things you could focus on that are blessings. Your blessings always outweigh the challenges. You may need to start a gratitude journal to help you focus on the good every day.
You can also work to change your perspective about how life and the universe work. Most of us have a subconscious belief that the universe is a dangerous place where we can lose, get hurt, or be cheated and unfairly treated. We see the universe as "against" us, messing with us, and even trying to trip us up. With this perspective, we are always a powerless victim who is blown about by chaos and bad luck.
Instead, you can choose to believe the universe is ultimately on your side. It is a wise teacher, constantly using what happens to create your perfect classroom journey. You could believe that everything that happens is used to grow you and make you stronger, wise and more loving. Things don't happen to you, they happen for you. At least, you could choose this mindset if you wanted to and you would find your outlook would be more positive.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.