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10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

In 2012 a series of personal events occurred to me at the same time, which felt as if everything in my life was crashing down on me. I was suffering of a serious illness and one particular day it came to a head. Leaving work to rush into hospital and without preparation, I received surgery the very next day. This occurred three weeks before I was booked and ready to go on a one-month trip around Europe.

After my release from hospital the very next day my then boyfriend of six months informed me that his mother did not condone our relationship. We had a good relationship as far as I knew. I received this news via phone call. I broke up with him a week later and still went on my trip to Europe.

When returning to my job after my holiday, my boss demoted me to part time without a legitimate reason. I had been with the company for four years never taking any sick days. But my sudden surgery and trip (that he blessed when I booked it) most likely triggered his decision. Imagine being told that you need to go part time and that a full time person will be hired, even though you are fine to work as normal. I gave in my two week notice on the spot.

I was on a major downward spiral and I experiences heavy depression during this time. Still recovering from surgery, a broken heart, and no job, I questioned what the heck I was doing in life. It actually felt like everything I had been pursuing was wiped away and I had to start over again. In the middle of this struggle, I found it in myself to focus on an attitude of reason.

Do you know the saying everything happens for a reason? I told myself this daily and really began focusing on taking advantage of the struggle I was in. I learned a few things during this time and I hope by passing them on they will help someone else.

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1. First and foremost, get off the mouse wheel

When life throws us situations that cause us to struggle, what can make it worse is our attitude towards it. Like mice go round and round on the wheel, in tough times it is important that we don’t spin ourselves out by limited thinking. Struggles come in many ways and for many reasons, which are unique to the individual. We can so easily become overwhelmed by the pressure and difficulties we are currently facing that we don’t stop and review what is going on. Getting off the wheel allows us to slow down and begin to take steps towards not allowing this struggle to consume us.

“Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation – when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered.” – Phoebe Snow

2. Don’t lose sight of who you are

It is so easy to get into the victim mentality in those struggling times. Faced with despair and a lack of hope, the why me? thoughts can begin. We may neglect the very things that can possibly keep us grounded. Don’t forget to take care of yourself no matter how pointless or even draining it may feel. Which leads to the next point: health.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

3. Take care of your health: Mind, Body, Soul

Ensuring that we are focused on our wellbeing is the foundation of rising above struggles. Synchronising the mind, body and soul can bring about strength, health and also a sense of calmness. Even though there is hardship, when we feel well grounded physically and mentally, things are not over exaggerated. Stress can be kept at a minimal as well.

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“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

4. How you respond can make a difference

As I mentioned I began focusing on the thought that everything happens for a reason. Someone told me during this time that what I am experiencing is not the end it is just the beginning. Whilst I couldn’t see how or what that would mean further down the road, I held onto that belief. For such a massive change to occur, there had to be a deeper meaning. Through invested time in prayer and focusing on my self-awareness, I began to realise that for so long I had wished for more out of life yet wasn’t going after it. I wasn’t truly happy in my job and I was very stressed out, yet I never did anything about it. My relationship was wonderful but I ignored the fact that it was immature and I outgrew it. My health was a reflection of neglecting the heavy stress I was under from work.

I took everything into consideration and turned each part into a powerful lesson. I used those circumstances to fuel my decisions and not settle for anything that wasn’t pushing me to thrive. By viewing the situations as a blessing in disguise, it assisted me towards a better life filled with freedom, health and passion. Therefore, I was able to respond strongly.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz

5. Accept and let go, so you can heal and flow

Without acceptance, it is very hard to move on. People hurt us, we make silly mistakes, and change happens dramatically at times. Life is never fully in our control and we do not know what tomorrow brings. Accepting struggles as they are, learning from them and moving on empowers us. If we are constantly bitter at what life throws our way, we miss the opportunity to live in the moment. I believe that it is totally normal and human to cry, mourn and have a period of being sad. I cried every day for months. People told me to move on and pushed my grieving process.

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I knew however that I needed to let it out in order to be free from it. Acceptance isn’t all about sucking it up and getting on with it. One healthy way to accept the struggles we face is by sitting with the uncomfortable reality and feeling it – not avoiding it. If that means sobbing like a big baby (like I did), so be it. It assisted in my ability to remain compassionate, free spirited, and not angry with anyone. Due to experiencing the feelings, bitterness was not enabled. I reached out to both my boss and ex boyfriend some time later thanking them for the wonderful things they bought to my life. I could only do this because I had accepted what happened and I had no room for anger. This helped my process of moving on.

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J Fox

6. It is not weak to speak – Talk to someone

Don’t ever be too proud to talk to someone about your struggles and difficult times. You may feel awkward but it is one of the best actions you can do for yourself. Those who muster up the courage to speak up, do themselves and others good. To open up helps with healing, overcoming troubles and also gaining perspective. Sometimes when we keep things bottled up inside, we can overthink and create bigger problems for ourselves. Talking it out invites someone else to be a friend to you and allows you to be yourself – raw and real. Choose someone you fully trust and don’t be embarrassed. If you don’t have anyone, there are many ways you can connect with people. (Your welcome to talk to me if you need too!)

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

7. Turn your struggle into your power

Begin to look for opportunities in the current circumstance you are in. Yes, it is really hard to do this sometimes especially when your confidence has been stripped away. Putting your faith in someone again, a job or anything in a time like this can be so fearful. It is also liberating to realise that at any point in time you can stop what you are doing and start something new if you want to. For a long time I knew I was putting off what I really wanted to pursue and that is my focus on helping other people on a deeper level.

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So, I took advantage of the fact that I was incredibly free to do whatever I wanted to do. I started thinking of a business. I worked another awesome job. I did a course and I went travelling. I wasn’t attached to any of those things because I knew that I could never settle again like I did before. Almost two years later I can now say that I am starting to make sense of what I want to do and where I want to go. I feel purpose within my heart and I can help others through difficult times. I now recognize more than I did before when I need to move out of my comfort zone, before it blows up in my face again. That is a powerful place to be in.

“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” – Pat Riley

8. Learn from others

Gaining advice and direction from people we trust is very valuable in a struggle. When people open up about a tough time and how they got through, they are most likely saying it to encourage us. In saying that I ensured that I was guarded as to whom I talked to. Not everyone needs to know our struggles, as not everyone can be sensitive about them. Insensitive responses can leave us feeling misunderstood and embarrassed. There are also people who feed our struggles by pandering to us constantly without setting us straight when it’s needed. We need to surround ourselves with people who are honest and will sincerely let us know that there is hope. You know those friends who say the right thing, even though you don’t really want to hear it? Generally those are the ones who encourage you to rise up again and not allow this struggle to take a hold of you. They are sincere but they refuse to see you wallow in self-pity. Learn from them.

9. Set boundaries

Something I am still learning today is setting boundaries for myself. Instead of being someone who always says yes or does things to keep others happy, I have learnt the word no. Setting boundaries is actually living in honesty and representing your truest self. I was always available to everyone with the belief system that I had to drop what I was doing to help others. In the work environment the stress I was under consumed my whole core but I never said no to it. During a struggle it may be wise to review where boundaries may not be set and work towards putting some in place. Say no to the things that hurt you or destroy your health. Speak to your boss or find a job that does not stress you out. Choose a relationship that is enjoyable, not controlling – or be single. Have your own routines and disciplines in place that are focused on health (mind, body and soul). Say what you mean and settle for no less. Set boundaries and protect yourself.

10. And finally…it all happened for a reason.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my experience was that I could write this and let you know that your struggles are not the end of the road. They may just be the beginning of something new, change and a better life. Perhaps you will learn the best lessons that will push you to grow and give you wisdom in your future choices. Maybe you will find purpose, create something new or finally follow your passions. It could be a wake up call to get your body into shape, health into gear, mind re-focused or spiritual life on track. Whatever the reason may be, if you dig deep and allow yourself to be open, the answer will come in the right time and in the right way.

It is not the end – it may just be the beginning.

Featured photo credit: Victor Hugo via photopin.com

More by this author

Anjelica Ilovi

Anjelica writes about how to grind and unwind for increased productivity, focus and joyful living anjelicailovi.com {grind + unwind}

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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