We all go through difficult times. Whether it’s not getting a desired job, dealing with a difficult coworker, struggling to get along with a boss, hurting financially, coping with health problems, or nursing a damaged relationship, we all have to face adversity and trials in our lives. Sometimes the struggles we go through are the result of choices we made, and sometimes they are the result of consequences that were completely beyond our control. Regardless of the cause, no trial we experience or pain we suffer should be wasted. Trials can educate us; they can build our character and help us develop patience, humility, and strength if we choose to let them. A few years ago I heard a speech given by a 20-something young woman who had grown up without her sight or hearing. She underwent surgery in high school to have a cochlear implant, which partially restored her hearing and helped her to more effectively communicate her story. She is still totally blind. As she shared her life story with us, she asked us to close our eyes and to imagine a world where all we saw was darkness, no color, no light. She asked us to imagine how depressing that would feel. With eyes still closed, she asked that this time we imagine our world with color and light and joy. She then stated, “The second picture you imagined is what I choose to see every day.” Then she asked us to open our eyes. She proceeded to share with us that she had a choice in life, “to be sad and depressed and see only darkness, or to be happy and joyful and see color and light.” She stated that she was able to make the choice. She acknowledged that many times it is easy in life to focus on our trials by saying, “I often think that many of us count our blessings on our fingers and toes, but count our trials with a calculator.” That statement is all too true. She shared that many of us spend our lives thinking “Why me? Why is my life hard? Why am I having to struggle? Why do I have to suffer loss? Why, why, why?” I was totally caught off guard by the words that came out of her mouth next. “I too, wake up each day and ask ‘Why me? Why am I so lucky to have ten fingers and ten toes? Why am I so lucky to have people that love me? Why am I so lucky to be able to walk? Why am I so blessed?’” WOW! That was all I could think in that moment. Just wow! She closed her talk by reminding us that “all of us are given trials to make us better, not to make us bitter.” Hearing her story was humbling beyond belief. I myself have been guilty at times of thinking “Why me?” in that “poor me” kind of way. And yet, here was this girl who had significantly harder challenges she was coping with and she was calling herself the lucky one. It hit home in a way that is hard to describe and reminded me that we all have a choice in the way we view our lives. We can say “Why me?” in a “poor me” way, or we can say “Why me?!” in an “I’m so blessed” way. When hard times come, we can always make the choice to feel sorry for ourselves and become bitter. We always have that choice. But as the young woman in the story reminds us, we always have another choice as well. We have the choice to see the light and joy in life rather than allowing ourselves to focus on the dark. We have the choice to learn from our trials, allowing them to refine our character and help us become a stronger, more charitable person. We have the choice to be grateful, choosing to be joyful, and seeing the color and light that blesses our life. We all have the choice to say “Why Me?! Why am I so blessed?” Throughout my life, I have been amazed at the strength of the people I have been surrounded by. I have watched as people have overcome trials that I couldn’t possibly imagine facing. I had one employer whose wife has been on death’s door for many years. I had another employer whose young daughter struggled through years of chemotherapy to battle cancer. I had another employer who suffered the loss of her small baby. The list goes on and on. Each of these employers overcame his or her struggle with grace and humility, setting an example just like the young woman I heard speak. We are so much more capable than we ever give ourselves credit for. Each of us has it within us to overcome whatever trials are placed in our path. And though they are not fun and we would rather avoid them, we have to remember that our greatest growth in life will never come from times of ease and comfort. Our greatest growth will come from those times we choose to overcome the adversity and allow our trials to make us better.
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If someone you love is having a tough time right now, there are some things that you can remind them of which will help them trough their difficulties. Whatever you say to someone who is struggling, the most important thing is to ensure your tone of voice and demeanor is appropriate. Remind your loved one of the following things in a warm, encouraging way, and not in a “pull your socks up” way. Your approach will make all the difference to the response you get. 1. It’s OK Not to Be OK When people are struggling, they often make themselves feel worse by placing unrealistic expectations on themselves. They beat themselves up for having a problem and feeling unable to cope with it. Remind your loved one that they are no less of a person just because they are facing something challenging right now. You love them and will support them in good times and bad. 2. You’re Not Alone Identifying with the person who is struggling can help them feel better. They realize, then, that they are not bearing the weight of the world alone. Remind them that others have had this problem, and that they already have found a way through it. Just knowing that they are not alone can help them feel less lonely and more hopeful. Encourage your loved one to join a support group or forum if appropriate. 3. Let Go of Blame Sometimes when people are struggling, they either want to blame themselves or other people for their circumstances. It’s OK to initially express anger and frustration, but wallowing in feelings of unfairness or blame will make them feel worse and wastes their energy. Help your loved one to see that the way out their difficulties is in looking for solutions and not in assigning blame or hanging onto angry feelings. 4. Struggles Make You Stronger Wisdom, strength and resilience can all be built from the foundations of tough times. Help your loved one to see how they’re growing as a person, even if they feel like they’re going through hell. It’s so important not to be glib or patronizing when you’re saying this ‒ actually tell your loved one the new strengths you see in them. 5. Take a Step Back People going through tough times often lose perspective, because they feel so mired in the problem itself. Reminding someone to step back from the situation can help them to see things in a fresh light, and will help them find new solutions. 6. Nothing Lasts Forever The terrible thing about really tough times is that they feel like they will go on forever. But, in reality, nothing lasts forever ‒ not even the most horrible emotions or the direst circumstances. Reminding your loved one of this can help them gain perspective and feel comforted at the same time. 7. Take Things Step By Step Tough times can often bring complex and confusing feelings, and those who are struggling may feel paralyzed and unable to make decisions. Remind them that they don’t have to solve the whole problem at once. If they just do the next right thing, they will start to make progress. 8. Look For The Open Door When life shuts one door, another one will always open. Losing something will always lead to new opportunities, but only if you are open to them. Remind your loved one to stay alert to fresh opportunities and solutions. 9. Just Do Your Best People who are struggling can put so much pressure on themselves to get things right that they feel even more upset when they don’t meet their own unrealistic expectations. Remind them that as long as they just do their best, that’s all that matters. They are human, after all. Their best is good enough. 10. You’ve Come Through Tough Times Before If someone you love is having a hard time, it may be difficult for them to see their strengths. Reminding them that they have already survived tough times before can show them that there is an end in sight, and that they have the strength to reach it. 11. You’re Brave Most people who are struggling refuse to acknowledge how strong and brave they actually are. They may see themselves as weak and scared. Remind them that courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the willingness to go on even when you’re afraid. 12. There Is Something Good in Each Day Going through difficulties can lead to a negative mindset. If someone is really going through a desperately hard time, and dealing with something like depression, being all happy-clappy with them won’t work. But do ask them about the good things in their life, what has gone well, and what they have achieved. It will help them to see a glimmer of hope, even in the darkness. 13. Look at What You’re Gaining Even when someone has a difficult problem, there will always be an upside to it. Whether it’s finding out who their true friends are when they’re struggling, or having the opportunity to develop patience, strength and problem-solving abilities, there will always be a silver lining. Help your loved one to find it. 14. It’s Not Your Fault Sometimes when people are struggling, they take their problems very personally, almost believing that their difficulties are sent in some way to punish them. If your loved one is doing this, reminding them that it’s not their fault can help them feel relieved. 15. Well Done Validating someone for their efforts when they’re having a miserable time can make a big difference in their day. If someone is struggling, they may not acknowledge their own hard work. Giving them praise can help them feel rewarded and appreciated.. 16. Focus on Now Often people make their tough times even tougher by worrying about the future or fretting about the past. They may add to their misery by letting themselves think back to all the times life has treated them badly or that they’ve failed before; or they may fear that their current difficulty will lead to yet more problems. Remind them to focus on now, because that’s the only part of the story they can change at the moment. 17. Nothing Is Ever the End of the World Very few problems, however big or small, can actually stop you from breathing. You can encourage your loved one by reminding them that everything is survivable and beatable. They will find a way of dealing with this issue, however tough, if only they keep trying. 18. Be Kind To Yourself When someone is going through a hard time, they may feel so frustrated by their problems that they resort to beating themselves up or not allowing themselves a minute of reprieve from the issue. Remind your loved one that tough times are easier when we’re kind to ourselves. They are allowed “time off” from their problem to have a laugh, treat themselves, and be around good people. Relieving stress can actually help them to come back to the problem refreshed and recharged. 19. People Want to Help If your loved one is suffering, they may believe that they have to go through it all by themselves. They may not want to burden others with their problems, and won’t want to ask for help. Remind them that most people are amenable to helping; in fact, helping feels good. The reason people have different strengths is precisely so that they can help each other. Encourage your loved one to seek extra help should they need it. 20. I’m There For You The strength of these words can not be underestimated. Letting your loved one know that you’re there for them, and that you will listen to their feelings, dry their tears, or even just be around, can mean everything to someone going through hell. Just being a non-judgmental, caring presence in your loved one’s life can make a massive difference in how they feel and how they cope. Like this article ? Share it with your friends.
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Truth be told, happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them. Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles. Always look at what you have, instead of what you have lost. Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts; it’s what you do with what you have left.
Here are a few reminders to help motivate you when you need it most:
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