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Published on July 24, 2019

13 Things to Remember When You Hit the Wall in Life

13 Things to Remember When You Hit the Wall in Life

You think you have it all together, then suddenly one day, you don’t. You think you have the best in front of you, a road you selected with presumably no detours and then suddenly, you hit a wall. It can be discouraging when your best laid plans go awry but that wall is one you can bounce back from.

It can seem impossible to bounce back; it can seem like this dead-end is permanent.

Well, it’s not. It’s time to refocus your ambitions, your love life, your story, whatever ails you and to remake yourself.

You have what it takes inside you. You have everything you need right here, right now, to abandon the path you were on and create a newer, better one.

The light in you is meant to be seen, especially in the dark.

When you hit that wall in life, you need only remember– you have been through things before. You’ve gotten through them. You’ll get through this wall, too. You’ll overcome. You’ll beat the odds. You’ll make it.

When you get there, don’t forget to look back every so often to see how far you’ve come. That’s your Why in the midst of making it through this. You’ve made it before. So you will again.

It isn’t easy. But it can be done. No matter the circumstance, you have once choice in life: how you respond. That has to do with attitude. Greater attitude leads to greater character, meaning you will bounce back better when you take things in stride.

Equip yourself with the following mentalities, and you will be free.

Here are 13 things to remember when you hit the wall in life:

1. All You Need Is Inside You

When you are recovering from hitting your wall, you have to remember that you got yourself this far already. Everything you need to move forward, the drive, the resilience, the will, is already inside you. You have the tools, the ability and the power to get through that wall to the other side.

When you look within, you can realize your self-worth. The outside world may disappoint us or let us down, but when you look to your own self for strength, there is nothing that you can’t do or accomplish or recover from.

2. Your Story Isn’t Over

Hitting a wall can feel like the end of life as you know it, and it may very well be. But just because one chapter of your life is coming to an end doesn’t mean your story is ending.

What feels like a dead end is actually a new beginning. You have to adapt it to your story — the story you are telling yourself in order to get through difficulties ahead; the story of you. You can’t turn back. You can’t pack up and just call it quits. You have to still find a way to move forward. It can be with the simple thought: “This doesn’t end here.”

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And it doesn’t. It won’t. Not if you don’t let it.

Your story will keep going; in fact, it’s meant to. All you have to do is live it. You won’t love every second of it but in the end, you will have told it your way.

3. Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

You can find what you need in the mentality to start over every day. Today is that day, the day you figure out what is most important to you. You find out how strong you really can be. You learn from the lessons of the detour or dead-end and, begin again.

Appreciation of what you still have and can offer will keep you from feeling like a failure. Appreciate how far you’ve come already. See what is still left and what you can do.

You’re still alive. You’re still breathing. Sometimes, that’s all we’ve got, and sometimes, that’s all we need.

4. Just Show Up

You’re not always going to be motivated to move past the wall, and you’re not always going to want to put your best efforts into a day. And that’s okay, as long as you show up.

If you have no energy to solve the problem, just show up, even if you don’t know how it’s going to end. We don’t have to know every outcome in order to start solving problems.

So, just show up. Just be there. Don’t expect any answers or insights. Don’t expect to see what the future holds. One thing is for sure — there will always be obstacles but, so will be opportunities. You just need to show up in order to find them.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

5. Find Your Fire

What ignites your soul? You need to harness that. Find your fire when you hit the wall. Burn right through it.

Steve Jobs once gave a commencement speech at Stanford,[1] where he discussed “connecting the dots.” With each flame or passion for life, you begin to connect the dots. You start to discover what makes you tick, what moves you, especially in times where you feel you have nothing left.

He says that when you follow your heart and intuition, you “somehow already know what you want truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

What sets you on fire? What can’t you live without doing, being or loving?

6. Pave the Way

You might have hit the wall, but somehow, somewhere, someone already paved the way for you to get as far as you have. And maybe, you’re paving the way for someone else.

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Find out who has accomplished what you are trying to do. Or who has opened doors to getting there. Realize you are next in line.

You only need to realize that you are never alone. Great men and women have come before you. You just need to see them, to hear their voices, to find their strengths and utilize it for your own path.

7. Be Humbled

Be humbled by life’s twists and turns. You may think you have it all, then one day, you do not. It keeps us from taking it all for granted.

You may lose what you think you’re supposed to become, but you’ll never lose what you’ve already done. Instead of getting angry, get humbled. See the world a whole new way. You weren’t meant for that path, so instead of turning around, turn it around.

This one isn’t the easiest, because we want to feel capable of everything at all times. We want to soar with the wind beneath our wings. But it is finding out you can fail that you also find you have the power to start again. In failure, we find our truth, what truly defines us. Everything else is icing on the cake.

So, be humbled. Be self disciplined. Be loyal to this life. When you hit the wall, be humbled.

It is not easy, but it is worth it.

8. Start Again

Don’t waste this time wallowing in self pity. It’s time to start again when you hit the wall. You can only do so much while dragging your feet with your head down. You need to look up, stand tall, stand proud — proud of the chance to start again.

You don’t measure your success by how easy the path was. It was how you manoeuvred through things you needed to overcome. If everything came easy to you, you’d miss out on the meaning of it all. And that is a far greater loss.

Your day is here for renewal, for becoming who you need to be. Life will change, that’s its constant, and so will you. If you stayed the same all your life, you would never grow. You need growth in order to change and be changed.

Be open to renewal, for the rest to come naturally and focus on the greatest and most important change of all, the goodness of you finding an opportunity in this obstacle.

You don’t need much other than that. You may think you do, but you are free when you acknowledge life’s simplicities and all their worth.

9 Stay Positive

It makes sense to become negative in the face of negativity. It feels natural to want to become defeated and depressed. But you’re only sabotaging yourself.

“Change your thoughts, change your life.”– Wayne Dyer

Every day, make a gratitude list. Say daily mantras in order to make peace with yourself.

When you look around you, you’ll want to think about the negative. Instead, train your mind to look for the positive. Repeat the positive that you find over and over again until it becomes natural to see it.

Why does this work? Some could say the universe, some could say we change our brains in the habits we form, etc. but ultimately, it’s about recognizing that not everything is what it seems. The brain automatically wants to pinpoint the negative. You can reprogram that by simply believing. Believe in the good. See the good. That’s how it works. It’s always been there. You just have to look.

10. Take Deep Breaths

Just because the walls in life can be opportunities for growth and new direction, that doesn’t mean they aren’t stressful. If you’ve hit a wall, you’re likely facing some hard times. It’s important to make time for self care. Take it easy while you recover. Relax, refocus, and breath. Deep breaths. Focus on the negative leaving with your exhale, and focus on the positive returning on the inhale.

Meditate on what matters. According to Meditation 101,[2] observe thoughts, do not judge them in mindfulness meditations. That way you can focus on your breath.

An example of a meditation you can do is Mimi Page “Reflection”:

There are a ton out there!

Meditation can happen anywhere, anytime. It can be while stuck in traffic. It can be while waiting in line at the grocery store. Its’ not just a practice. It’s a mentality. One that can make all the difference.

11. Change Your Life

It’s time to learn that things aren’t working. So, what do you do? Stand there and stare at them? No, you make them move. You change your life. You change what isn’t working to make what is right come together. You only need to start with the small things and gradually tackle bigger things.

All you need is inside you, remember? And all you need is to find your fire, your passions, to connect the dots.

Don’t be a passive spectator in your life. Get proactive. Go for the win. When you hit the wall, you can learn how to climb over it. Dig your feet in and start to climb. Use whatever ledges you can find. Use what you have to pick yourself up.

That’s being resourceful.

That’s being resilient.

That’s doing what is right.

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12. Help Others Along the Way

There’s nothing more rewarding than to help someone else with something we have struggled with.

What you give, you get back ten fold. It gives you a reason to right the wrongs in your life. It gives you a reason to turn the page to starting living the next chapter.

When you help others, you become less afraid of the obstacle in front of you. You remember that you’re not alone. You’re alive, and that life is worth it. Others will inspire you with their own willpower, their own story. When you reach out and help someone, you make a difference. That means you have not been defeated yet. That means you must not give up.

Helping others is recognizing a universal truth — we all deserve love and light. You deserve to know what it’s like to have recognition, too. When you help others along the way, you realize this:

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” — Etienne de Grellet

13. Bounce Back

According to Dysheada Rheed,[3] resilience is the act of ‘bouncing back’ or resisting to cracking under pressure.

There’s no going back. You’ve come this far, too far, to just give up. It’s time to bounce back.

Furthermore, resilience is driven by two things:

  • a strong why
  • the ability to adapt

When you have a strong why, you are able to bounce back from the present problem. It does not mean you solve everything. In fact, it may mean you overcome simply because you keep going due to this why. For example, Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor, has said that if you have a strong enough why, you can “overcome any how.”

When you are adaptable, you realize you can find gratitude in any situation. This is key to bouncing back when you hit the wall. You discover that you can not only face something, you can learn to work with it rather than against it.

A great analogy is when one is stuck in a current, they should not start fighting against the current. They should go with the flow. This is how to surpass one’s circumstances and ensure survival.

Final Thoughts

You can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do and love whoever and whatever you want to love. It’s time to be restored in all you are meant to be. It’s time to bounce back. It’s time to just be. Just trust. And you’ll find yourself on the other side of that wall, looking back thinking “I did that, that was me.”

You’ll get through it. I know you will.

Good luck.

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More About Getting Through Tough Times

Featured photo credit: Piotr Chrobot via unsplash.com

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a writer, speaker and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

It has been said that rarely am I short of words, and yet I’ve rewritten this article on positive and negative reinforcement five times. Why?

It’s not as if I have a lack of thoughts on this subject. It’s not as if I don’t spend my days enabling people to communicate powerfully and get what they want in life. So why the rewrites?

I’ve found myself thinking about the diversity of people I’ve coached and how different we all can be. Usually when I write for Lifehack, I’m able to see instant commonality in the subject that means I could share some ideas that would resonate wherever you are in life, whoever you are, regardless of what you were looking to achieve or what adversity you may be facing.

However, with this, it’s a “How long’s a piece of string?” answer, i.e. I could probably write a whole book’s worth of words and still have ideas to share.

Let’s look at some key points:

  • You will have times in your life where you need to get someone to do something.
  • You will have times when someone needs you to do something.

Let’s look at how positive and negative reinforcement would work. In both of these situations, you can face some big obstacles:

  • Someone may resist your desire for them to change.
  • Someone may challenge your authority or leadership.
  • Someone may be at risk of getting hurt.

The important thing to remember is that, in life, we all have to be influenced and influence those around us, and some ways will help us get the result we want, and others won’t. However, that may differ on where you are, who you are talking to, and what you want to see happen!

So, how do we know when positive reinforcement is effective[1], and can there ever be a time when negative reinforcement is good?

Worryingly, if you get positive and negative reinforcement wrong, you can risk your career, your business, your relationships, your reputation, and your brand.

Positive and negative reinforcement each have their merits, so it’s imperative to know when to employ them. Interestingly, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary, we still rely on the wrongs ones in society, business, and even in parenting.

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The 4 examples below showcase the use of positive and negative reinforcement, and whether they personally apply to you right now or not, they will resonate and be very useful to you personally in every area of your life.

For each we will look at:

  1. What’s the problem?
  2. What have you tried?
  3. Now what?
  4. The results!

The Boss

Okay, you may not be a boss, but everyone will have times in their life where they need to get people organized and working together to get the best result. Often, leaders say things like this to me:

  • “I’ve told them until I’m blue in the face not to do that!”
  • “They constantly refuse to use the new system.”
  • “They just don’t listen.”
  • “They don’t respect me.”

What Did the Boss Try?

Often, I hear “We’ve tried everything!” No matter who is reading this, trust me, you’ve not tried everything. (That’s the first thing to accept.) When you accept that, you then need to look at what you have tried to move forward.

The boss has tried:

  • Giving the person training.
  • Spending time with them and showing them how to do it.
  • Telling them it wasn’t good enough.
  • Telling them we aren’t doing that any more.

Now What?

The above situations create tension between the two as you constantly battle to maintain your position on the situation. If you are looking to get someone to do something, and they constantly resist, you need to stop and ask yourself some questions:

  1. What have we tried? This helps you to understand what they are good at, so you can utilize that in the conversation.
  2. From their viewpoint, what could prevent them from doing what I’ve asked? What could they fear, and how will we allay those fears?
  3. What do they want? Seeing their viewpoint enables you to use their terminology and language so they feel listened to.
  4. What do they believe? Do their beliefs prevent them from seeing the benefits? Beliefs can be changed but not by force—coaching is very powerful for this.
  5. How do these answers differ from my beliefs and views? Bridging the gap helps you to see both views and communicate more powerfully.

In my experience, rarely does a boss or leader need to say the word “No.” If someone is not doing what you want them to, the quickest way to see results is to ask questions and listen. Often, when you really listen, you discover a big gap between what you think you are saying and what the other person is hearing.

The reasons why someone is not doing what you want can include:

  • They don’t know how to do what you’ve asked them to do.
  • They are scared to get it wrong.
  • They fear what people will think of them.
  • They don’t have the confidence to come and tell you they need help.
  • They are scared that someone will tell them off.
  • They don’t understand where the boundaries are.

People tell me, “But I said that to them!” If you are too close to the situation, then how likely are they to take notice from you? Here’s what you can do:

  • Get out of your usual environment – Neutral environments make difficult conversations easier. They can take you both off your guard, which can be good.
  • Start by making that person feel safe to say anything. Start with ground rules like “This is a confidential conversation” and “I won’t make any judgement on what you say, I just want to understand.”
  • Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t realize.” When you do this, positive and negative reinforcement can be used.

Learning how to coach people instead of tell people is key. Enabling the other person to see the benefits of what you want for them (and not you) is quicker than trying to dictate action.

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  • Lay out expected outcomes.
  • Create boundaries.
  • Explain what support and help you will provide.

The Results

This style of reinforcement is about utilizing both positive and negative reinforcement. It enables someone to feel safe to explain why they’ve not been taking action and helps them to overcome the limitations they feel while safe in the knowledge that they will get the support to change with the positive results explained in a way that matters to them.

The Young Child

If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong end of a relentless tantrum of a small child, you will know it can feel impossible to get through to them. While many elements of The Boss scenario could work, there are times where you may need some negative reinforcement.

What’s the Problem?

My children are now 15 and 18. I can honestly say that, while we have had some challenging behaviors, our parenting means I have two children I’m very proud of–great communicators, great work ethic, kind, funny, considerate. The point is that, for my children, this stuff works. And, to be honest, when I’m with other people’s children, they often say “How did you get them to do that!”

Young children are amazing. It’s like they’ve just woken up in a new body and have been told to go touch, feel, experience everything–every emotion, every taste, smell, experience, texture, the lot! They are curious and keen to know more. They sap up everything, and a lot of that we don’t want them sapping up!

When they go to put a pencil in an electric socket, or let go of your hand as you cross the road, it’s imperative they get the learning and knowledge they need fast. I once was talking to a parent that said I was wrong to say no to my children. I asked, “At what age would you like me to introduce them to that word?” to which they had no answer.

While I agree that there are usually a lot more words than just no for children, “no” is a word that kept you and I safe when we were small.

What Have You Tried?

While young children are incredibly intelligent, explaining the merits of your preferred course of action is not going to keep them safe. Tying them to your waist isn’t working. Punishing them and telling them there’s no more park time until you walk next to me doesn’t work either. So how do you say no and keep them safe?

Now What?

Sometimes negative reinforcement is essential[2]. For instance, my son (who adored Bob the Builder when he was little) was playing with his plastic tool kit and discovered an electric socket…I didn’t stop to explain the merits of how that could be dangerous. I said calmly, “No, that’s dangerous!”

Here’s the important point: It’s not just about your words. With young children, it’s important that your body language clearly says the same.

The Results

I did feel like the luckiest parent on the planet to have two children sleeping through the night, but that didn’t tell the full story. I can remember spending a few weeks calmly picking my daughter up with no eye contact, no overly big hug, no conversation, just saying, “Sorry darling but now’s bedtime, so back we go.” And yes, being the strong-willed girl that she is, there was sometimes a good hour of that until she got the message that Mum really isn’t going to play, turn into a dinosaur, sing, or read a story.

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The thing with positive and negative reinforcement is that you need to have faith it will work, and you are doing the right thing.

Of course, when I went in to get her from her cot the next morning, I had a big grin on my face that said, “Wow, what a grown up girl you are staying in your bed all night!” I used positive reinforcement to get the day started.

The Teenager

What’s the Problem?

If I’m honest, I don’t have problems with my teenagers. However, I think that is in no small part to my style of communication. Having respect for them is key, and appreciating how much change is happening in their lives really helps–as someone who helps large teams of people deal with change, I know how hard it can be.

However, when I wrote the article How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive, I was inundated with stories of hellish behavior from other parent’s teenagers, tales of staying out all night and not phoning home, abusive behavior towards parents and teens–I really felt for all involved.

What Have You Tried?

The problem with teens is they know exactly how to wind you up like a little clock-work toy. And if you’ve had a tough day, the last thing you want is to have to deal with someone who can’t even communicate with words, let alone put their dishes in the dishwasher.

Losing it is never the option, but it can easily happen. Shouting, bribery, and doing it yourself because it’s just easier really don’t work in the long run.

Now What?

If you consider everything we’ve covered, you can see that you need to communicate using positive and negative reinforcement. In life, there are consequences to all actions, and teens have a ton of stuff to learn to become effective, successful, happy adults.

Before you embark on any course of action, consider how the other person perceives the world. What are they going through?

You may have loved being a teen, but that doesn’t ensure your children will. Likewise, in life, there are things you love that others will loathe–seeing the world through other people’s eyes really helps you to understand the best way to communicate.

The only big difference for teenagers is to use emotion with caution. I personally let my children see all emotions–I’ve not hidden my tears when I’ve lost a loved one as it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. However, if a teenager in a foul mood can spot a weakness, they may just take advantage of it.

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The Results

My kids love to tell everyone I’m a scary mom. I’m not, I just have high standards, and I’m not prepared to drop them.

We shy away from telling people what we expect and then wonder why we are getting as stressed as the other party because no one knows where they stand.

I’m happy for my children to take over the TV room and eat far too much sweet stuff and binge on a box set. Just don’t put cups on the carpet, we have places for drinks. It’s having the confidence to say this is the rule.

People think negative reinforcement is a bad thing. However, how can someone change if they don’t know what they are doing wrong? And that’s the issue: so many of us are fearful of saying “Stop doing that!” If you lack confidence, find your voice because people aren’t mind-readers.

Final Thoughts

Before you start considering whether positive or negative reinforcement is best for others, ask yourself what you respond better to.

Personally, I respond far better to negative reinforcement–I can improve and be more successful and happier if I know what I’m doing wrong. Furthermore, I know that sometimes negative reinforcement works better with some clients who really don’t want to look at the issue–but it’s always done with respect and love.

Coaching people is also a great representation of when positive and negative reinforcement is best. We are looking to find ways to increase the positive action with positive reinforcement and ways to reduce the negative results with negative reinforcement–and usually my clients keep those changes for the rest of their lives.

More on Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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