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Staying Positive in Difficult Times

When people ask: “how are you?” my wife Judy is fond of saying “We’re having a good moment.”  It’s not that Judy is negative, if you’ve ever met her you know she is quite the contrary.  But she knows that there will be times when we face difficulties and challenges.  It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or how successful you are, you will have trials.

The big challenge is to stay positive and productive regardless of your circumstances.  When you’re positive you’re more resourceful, more creative, more productive.  Plus it just feels better.  Here are 5 things you can do to stay positive in difficult times. 

  1. Keep Perspective

When problems arise it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and crushed by them.  The tendency can be to exaggerate the problem, turning a minor problem into a huge one.  When in the middle of a problem it’s important to keep it in perspective.

I’m reminded of what Mark Twain once said: “There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of which actually happened.”  Remember to look at the bigger picture. Don’t let problems take on a size and magnitude greater than what they actually are.  Even in your most difficult times, there are still positive things happening in your life.  Ask yourself if this will matter a year from now, three years from now. It’s helpful to remember that you’ve gotten through issues and challenges in the past, and you will get through this one as well.  Good and bad things happen to everyone, don’t be surprised by difficulties, rather, know that they may come.  They are part of life.

  1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

When you are facing problems the last thing you need to do is beat yourself up; but that is often what people do.  Nothing good comes from chastising yourself or wallowing in self-pity and guilt.  Maintaining a “guilt free” approach to your setbacks will allow you to respond with your best self.  Your thinking will be clear, you’ll have more energy and you will see options and possible solutions that just are not visible when you are steeped in blame and shame.   You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it.  As someone once said, problems are opportunities in work clothes.

  1. Focus On What You Can Control

It’s important to be clear on the outcome you want as you work through your challenges – define your ideal outcome.  Once you are clear on the outcome, it’s equally important, perhaps, even more so, to know what you can and can’t control.  You don’t control outcomes.  So, while knowing what the ideal outcome you desire is important, you will need to focus your energy on the things you can control; your actions.  If you put too much emphasis on the outcome it can become paralyzing.  Know the outcome you desire, but focus on the actions you can take to get there.

  1. Start & End Each Day In Gratitude

One of the best routines that I learned years ago was to start and end each day in gratitude.  Whatever you focus on, whatever you think about, gets magnified.  Therefore, be intentional about magnifying the positive.  Use a routine daily activity to trigger your gratitude.  As an example, every morning when I step into the shower I state what I’m grateful for as I begin my day.  Every evening as I set the alarm, I again state something that happened in the day that I’m grateful for.   It’s important that you fill your mind with positive and pleasant thoughts, especially in difficult times.

  1. Stay Connected To Your Vision & Goals

When you are in the middle of problems and feeling stressed, it is easy to focus on the short term.  It is difficult, but necessary in these times, to not lose track of your dreams and aspirations.  You need to force yourself to think about a better future.  You can’t wait until you feel like engaging with your goals.  When you are in the middle of some serious challenges you won’t feel like it.  It doesn’t matter how you feel, times of difficulty are precisely the right time to connect with your best self and aspirations.  See the present in the context of your longer term vision and your goals.  Remember that the problems you are currently experiencing are temporary, and that they will not hold you back from your destiny.

So there you have it, 5 things you can do to stay positive in difficult times.  We all face challenges.  Learning to stay positive in the midst of problems will position you for not only a faster, more productive recovery, but also a more joy filled life.