Life is a series of peaks and valleys. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. But it’s the difficult times where we need a little more support and guidance.

I’m a firm believer that it’s how you respond in your moments of defeat that really defines the type of person you are.

When you can improve your ability to navigate the difficult times, you not only live a happier life, but you also grow as person. Here’s how to make that happen in your life.

1. Stay Positive

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope is what makes the difference.” – Virginia Satir

Now I know this may sound cliche, but the thing about cliches is that they’re typically true. Staying positive is only a small part in getting through the difficult times, but it’s an important part.

When you stay positive, you’re putting yourself in the best position possible to not only make it through those bad times, but become a better person in the process.

You can do one of two things when life takes a turn for the worst. You can remain positive and remind yourself that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you’ll make it through, or you can curl up in the fetal position and relegate yourself to being nothing more than a victim of circumstance.

I’m not saying that you can never have a bad day, or get a little discouraged, or shed a tear. But I am saying you have to eventually pick up the pieces and start moving forward.

2. Get Creative

There are times when you can’t do much to change your situation. You just have to deal with it. But there are other times when you can actively work to make the situation better.

The solution won’t be in plain sight, because if it was you probably wouldn’t have gotten in that situation in the first place. But if you can take a step back and see the bigger picture, you may discover somethings that can help you.

A great example of getting creative during a difficult time is the story behind Wrigley’s gum. The founder, William Wrigley Jr. was a soap and baking powder salesman in the 1890′s and he always offered free gum to all of his clients. With his career as a salesman taking a turn for the worst, he noticed one thing that forever changed his life; people loved the gum he gave away more than the products he was actually selling. It was that one creative insight that got him through that difficult time and made him a monumental success.

3. Learn From the Difficult Times

“Facing difficulties is inevitable, learning from them is optional” – John Maxwell

When I find myself in middle of an ugly situation, I like to pick everything apart and see what went wrong and what I could’ve done differently. I always end up learning something that helps me and I eventually get a really clear picture of what I need to do to make sure I’m not in the same situation again. Or if I do find myself in a similar situation, I know what to do to minimize the difficulty of the situation.

It’s easier getting through a difficult time when you know the chances of it happening again are slim to none.

4. Change It Up

After you identify the key takeaways from your difficult time, you just need to make a change. If it’s a change you can implement immediately, do it. You don’t want be in the middle of a difficult situation longer than necessary. If it’s something that you can’t implement right now, take note of it so you can use it when the the situation calls for it.

But it’s pointless to learn from the difficult times if what you learned doesn’t directly affect your actions.

I’ve really come to embrace the difficulties and struggles that life hands me because I know there’s a silver lining in each one of them. You’re a lot more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

5. Know What You’re Grateful For

Gratitude means showing appreciation for all the good in your life, instead of focusing on the negative. Get clear about what it is that you’re grateful for.

Write out everything in your life you can think of that you’re grateful for having or experiencing. An even more powerful exercise is to think of the one person you’re most grateful for, and write a note explaining why you’re so grateful for having that person. Then give him or her a call and read that note to them.

The difficult time you’re going through will start to seem less significant when it’s compared to everything that’s going right in your life.

6. Focus on What You Can Control, Not What You Can’t

Some situations are beyond your control and no matter what you do, you can’t change a thing. You’re setting yourself up for frustration when you focus your time and energy on things you can’t control. You’re also making the situation seem even more bleak than it actually is because you’re focusing on the negatives.

You should instead focus on the things that are within your control because that’s the only way you can make a change that’s actually going to help you. Make a list of everything you can control about the situation and divert all of your focus towards those things. Anything that’s not on the list, doesn’t get any attention.

7. Realize You’ve Come a Long Way

Sometimes we get so focused on the road ahead, that we never look back to see what we’ve already traveled. Give yourself credit for everything you’ve already done.

You’ll give yourself a confidence boost when you realize that you’ve already made so much progress and the light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter.

8. Build Up Your Community

Having the right people around you is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when the times get tough. You want to surround yourself with people who are loving, caring, honest, and available.

You need them to be loving because a little love always makes the bad days seem a little brighter. You need them to be caring because it helps to have someone who cares about your well being as much as you do.

But you also need them to be honest. You need someone who can look you in the eye tell you truth. Their honesty may be that one piece of information you need to get through the tough time.

And you need them to be available. When you pick up the phone looking for some compassion or honesty, it helps to have someone who’s actually going to answer.

Community is also important because it helps to have someone who understands what it is that you’re going through and can relate to your situation. If you can find a community who has been through what you’re going through, you can find out how they made it and then apply that to your own life.

9. Be Kind to Yourself

You need to care for yourself to survive tough times. Take a walk through the park, lift some weights, read an amazing book. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that gets your mind and body engaged at a higher level than wallowing in self pity.

10. Forgive

If someone else is at fault for the bad situation you find yourself in, the natural response is to harbor anger or resentment towards that person.

But what if instead, you forgave that person. You accepted what happened, but you no longer held it against them. You would feel better, because now instead of focusing on the negative feelings you have toward that person, you can focus on moving forward.

You can’t really get through a difficult time when your every thought is about how upset you are with the person who got you into that mess. It just makes things more difficult.

Or maybe the difficult time you’re going through is a direct result of something that you did. I’ve been there before, and I know I continually beat myself up about it. I couldn’t forgive myself. I almost felt obligated to be hard on myself.

The problem with that is, it only makes things worse. You get caught in this revolving door of self hatred and feeling worse, and there’s a swirl of anger and frustration and self doubt. It’s ultimately a recipe for disaster.

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