“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change” ~ Paulo Coelho
A few months ago, a woman and her husband moved to a new country with their newborn. As expatriates for the past 10 years, this new experience was exciting for them and seemed very promising on paper. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way they expected it, in any way. And after a few months, everything got so complicated and out of hand that they made the uneasy decision to go back to their home country for a while. Epictetus said, “it is not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters”.
Here are a few things she said she learned from this unfortunate turn of events. And what to do when things don’t go as planned.
1. Be angry for a (short) while. Then, move on.
“Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain.” ~ Dalai Lama
When things don’t go as planned, getting angry is the first reaction you may have. Angry at that person who betrayed you, at that company who is not treating you the way they should, at your friends for not supporting you enough, at the entire Universe!
I see anger as a way of being true to myself, saying how I sincerely feel. It is not about letting your rage out on anybody but rather confiding in someone who knows you well, or if you can’t find that person, writing it in your journal or a letter for yourself. Let those words come out, get them out of the way, and then… move on!
When channeled carefully and wisely, anger can be used as a force to avoid dragging your self-esteem down. It can lead you to a better understanding of who you are and what you want in life. It can offer you the opportunity to reassess what really is this lesson life is trying to teach you. It will enable you to take action rapidly instead of just letting things happen to you.
2. Remember: you are growing.
She could have called the experience a failure. Yes they failed in a way. But what they learned in return was so much bigger and valuable than the “feeling of failure” itself.
Difficulties make you grow. It is not something you can see right away, you need to experience discomfort first, step back for a while and then turn into yourself to try and see things differently than what the outside world is presenting you.
Through this bad experience, she found the opportunity to learn about personal strength, courage and willingness to face changes and jump into the unknown. They learned how lucky she was to be together and how much stronger that can make us. She learned that job and money comes and goes. But being together as a family and experiencing love, trust and happiness, especially in uncertain times, is an indestructible power.
As Maya Angelou once wrote “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it”.
3. Stay true to your values.
And if you haven’t done it yet, start defining them. Values act like guidelines. They point you in the right direction, particularly when you feel lost.
Referring regularly to your values is the best way to remember what is truly important to you and will help you make better decisions according to what truly matters to you. It will even give you another perspective on what you are facing.
Two of my top core values are living in harmony with my family and being healthy. My everyday actions were always aiming at staying true to these two values. It gave me a sense of direction and stability when everything felt so uncertain around me.
4. Cultivate optimism.
You may have a lost a battle. But it is part of that game called life if you dare playing it wholeheartedly. How about trying to see things differently and remaining hopeful when things don’t go as planned?
A friend of mine recently advised me to be extremely vigilant and careful with our next big life decision as this world is filled with people with bad intentions. She was partly right, that’s something we learned through this experience in a way. But her reaction made me understand something else: when things don’t go as planned, you can either chose to fall into negativism; or, you may also take this opportunity to cultivate your natural optimism!
I refuse to believe that most people out there are trying to cheat me, betray me or take advantage of me. Sure there are some, but if all I got from this experience is suspicion and constant fear of others, then firstly I will become one of them and secondly, I will have completely failed at learning what life was really trying to teach me. Chose to believe that your next experience will be fantastic! What do you have to lose?
5. Set up a daily healthy routine.
A daily routine creates a structure in your life that you probably lack when life doesn’t go according to your expectations. This routine is very personal, it is up to each of you to see and create what is best for you, the intention being to set up a ritual you can manage to do for the rest of your life, ideally!
For me, having the discipline to get up earlier and enjoying 1 hour for myself to stretch, meditate, plan my day and read a few articles while drinking my coffee was and still is the ideal routine. It was something I had been thinking about for years. And what better timing to create that challenging habit than in difficult times?
This routine will give you a great sense of achievement and satisfaction, it will provide you with that missing stability. It will give you something to rely on with the wonderful benefits of being and feeling healthier. In other words: the ideal mindset to rise from difficult times!