What To Tell Yourself During A Tough Time.

Image Credit: Dan Evans

We all go through tough times.

A few examples of mine are:

  • Multiple consecutive breakups
  • Walking away from a business that could have made me a lot of money
  • Having my career come to a grinding halt
  • Dealing with mental illness

The list is very long and I’m sure yours is similar. It’s not about the tough times we go through though because they are guaranteed and you already knew that before you clicked this article.

What matters during tough times is what you tell yourself.

This is what I say to myself during tough times — well there’s actually four things I say to myself depending on the tough time I’m facing:


“This will pass”

No event in your life lasts forever. Today may be a really tough day, but that won’t last forever. We delude ourselves at times by saying in our head “I’m always going to be like this.”

“Why does this always happen to me?”

“Here we go again.”

These negative phrases tell our brain that things are never going to get better. When we say these phrases to ourselves enough, we start to believe them. During a difficult period in your life, in that moment, things will suck.

Image Credit: OIVIND HOVLAND/IKON IMAGES/CORBIS

The way to get out of your head is to see the truth: this will pass. In one day, one month, or one year this tough situation will have passed and you’ll be onto the next part of your life.

Nothing lasts forever unless you allow your mind to trap you in the moment and believe a lie which is that this moment won’t pass. It will. You will come out the other side.


“I’ll be stronger having dealt with this situation”

Woman Lying on Blanket Under Man on Her Legs Holding Hands during Golden Hour

When you reframe your tough times into strength building exercises, they take a whole new meaning.

All of a sudden, your current situation that may be wearing you down becomes like reps at the gym. The reps are a struggle and it hurts, but if you keep moving forward, you end up with mental toughness and strength.

“Exchange your tough times for mental toughness”

See this challenging situation for what it is. It’s the chance to come out the other end stronger.

Stack your tough times up like gold medals.

Free stock photo of city, sky, art, landmark

Have you dealt with cancer? Good, then you won’t take your health for granted ever again.

Have you lost a loved one? Then you’ll never take the rest of your family for granted and care for them more than you did before.

Did you lose your job? Amazing! Now you can work somewhere else and discover more of your hidden talents!

Without tough times, you won’t have the strategies you need to deal with the impossible. Your heroes are your heroes because they’ve used their tough times to become stronger.

Failure and rejection are the building blocks to whatever your definition of success is. Tough times make you hungry and that’s a good thing.


“Keep taking baby steps forward”

Tough times can feel like quicksand sometimes.

If you don’t keep moving forward though, you’ll eventually sink into the quicksand. The best thing you can do during the toughest of challenges is take baby steps.

Image Credit: François Coutu

When I battled severe anxiety, I took baby steps such as these:

  • Walked 15 minutes a day
  • Drank an extra glass of water each day to hydrate my body
  • Read one book a month on anxiety
  • Exposed myself to one small fear each day. It started with going two levels in a lift (something I couldn’t do before). Then I’d go three levels the next day and so on.

That last dot point is critical. Overcoming tough times requires you to take baby steps in the form of being uncomfortable. When you’re growing each day, you don’t have time to be too concerned about a particular tough time.

My battle with anxiety eventually led me to flying long distances (another thing I couldn’t do before) and then speaking on stages in front of a lot of people.

As you can see, the first few steps — like going two floors in a lift — are quite small. Then the steps get bigger and bigger until what used to seem impossible becomes a piece of cake.

Take baby steps.


“It only takes one person”

Two Woman Sitting on Bench Near the Table

Tough times often require someone to believe in you. From my experience, you only need one person.

One person to believe in your idea.
One person to love you.
One person who has gone through the same tough times as you.

This one person exists. You have to go out there and find them. That one person for me was a team leader when I was working in a call center. He believed in me enough to take me aside and coach me one on one.

He believed I was going to go on and change the world through personal development. He was right and I did!

Don’t give up. Your one person exists as well.

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These four things are what I tell myself during a tough time. One of these phrases will always be the right one depending on the circumstance.

Believe that there is a way out and you’ll find one. It’s during the tough times that you’ll develop the skills and experience to help others.

Image Credit: The Atlantic

What I’ve learned is that to get through the tough times, one of the best hacks is to focus on helping others. When you’re focusing on how you can serve, your own selfish problems become insignificant.

Seek out people who have even bigger problems than you do and listen to them. See if you can help them.

That’s how you deal with the tough times.

Tell yourself the truth. You deserve to hear it.

Why Do People Give Up?

 

Everybody wants to eat, but no one is willing to hunt.

Everybody wants to be fit and strong, but no one wants to lift heavy weights. If only they could pay someone else to do their pushups for them…

People give up for a number of reasons. The following list contains 16 of the most common of them.

Okay, let’s take this one by one…

1. Expect fast results.

I often say that expectations can break your heart. It is sad but true that most people like the idea of something happening to them, but they don’t want to put in the time and effort required.

The idea is this: nothing works the way you expect it too. It takes longer. The matter of fact is that nothing works the first few times.

2. Stop believing in themselves.

If you are looking for someone who’s going to make all your dreams come true, take a look in the mirror.

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Resilience is the ability to face disaster with a smile and keep on fighting for what you want.

3. Get stuck in the past.

The past is a place of reference, not of residence.

Learn from your mistakes, move on.

What happened, happened, and the more time you spend there, the more you’ll break your heart.

4. Dwell on mistakes.

You learn more from failure than you ever do from success, it is true, but it is equally important not to let said mistakes affect your current performance.

No one is perfect, and wishing for perfection is a waste of time and energy. Strive for progress – which means making a lot of mistakes, over and over again, until you become better and stop making them.

5. Fear the future.

The future doesn’t exist yet. Tomorrow is but a promise at best. You cannot control it, so let it go.

Carpe diem, so to speak.

Live in the moment, do the best you can with what you have.

There’s no reason to fear what has yet to present itself to you.

6. Resist change.

Keep an open mind. Embrace uncertainty. In fact, make it one of your principles and understand deeply that one’s ability to face uncertainty usually determines their level of success.

Change is the one true constant of life, and the most adaptable individual is the one to survive.

7. Give up their power.

People give up their power when they think they have none. They also like to find excuses.

Don’t.

Just don’t.

You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.

You are the only one who’s responsible for how you feel, how you act, and how you react to what happens to you.

And that is your power.

8. Believe in their weaknesses.

No one’s perfect. Accept that you aren’t either. Accept your faults. Understand that you can progress and learn. You can develop certain skills.

Nothing is set in stone.

Remember the previous part about change? Well, the good news is nothing ever stays the same. Neither will you.

9. Feel the world owes them something.

Being an entitled prick is one of the worst way to go about life.

No one owes you anything. No one. Don’t break your own heart by thinking that they do.

10. Fear failure more than they desire success.

Failure is inevitable. It’s not the opposite of success, but a part of it.

An integral part of learning.

We stumble and fall, over and over again, until we learn how to do it.

Winners keep on going. They do it and do it and do it, and they fail and fail and fail, until they succeed.

11. Never visualize what is possible.

Would you be able to hit a target you do not see? Or cook a dish without knowing the recipe?

12. Feel they have something to lose.

You are going to die. Whether you want it or not. What more do you have to lose?

In fact, the more you hold on to something, the likelier it is that you’ll lose it.

Loss is a part of life. Accept it.

13. Overwork.

Work hard.

Or is it work smart?

14. Assume their problems are unique.

Maybe your parents, your teachers, or your friends told you that you are unique.

You are not.

Someone else went through what you are going through right now. Learn from them.

Someone else accomplished what you are dreaming about right now. Learn from them. Let their feats inspire you.

15. See failure as a sign to turn back.

Failure is a sign you are trying. Failure is a sign you should try harder. Failure is a sign you are getting closer to success.

Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.

16. Feel sorry for themselves.

Don’t. Just don’t.

Worrying and feeling sorry for oneself never solved any problem. It just gave people who felt powerless something to do while still feeling powerless.

Like sitting in a rocking chair and pretending you are going somewhere.

How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Fear doesn’t discriminate.

Regardless if you made it to the top, you just joined a successful team or are considering launching your new venture — everyone is afraid of failing.

Fear is hardwired into us. It won’t go away — it’s a needed defense mechanism for survival. However, you can learn to distinguish real from imagined attacks.

Fear of failure is the anxiety you experience when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen. You put your creative juices to work against you instead of on your behalf — by imagining infinite threats your mind gets you paralyzed.

When was the last time you failed?

When I ask this question on a workshop, most participants avoid answering. Acknowledging our own failure is like having a rare disease. No one wants to be on the spot. Ironically, the fear of failure can cause more pain than failure itself.

Many people are so scared of failing that they get stuck. The fear of failure is the most significant obstacle that stands between you and your achievements.

Your success depends on your ability to conquer, not your fears, but your idea of failure.

Anxiety drives confusion. One question helps me regain clarity and overcome the fear of failing.

Dance with fear, not with anxiety

“It is foolish to fear what you cannot avoid.” — Publius Syrus

Fear is an emotional response to a threat in the present — for instance, if you are caught in a fire or being bullied by a colleague. It’s a natural response to an attack that can be either perceived or real.

Anxiety is emotional anticipation — it’s the thought of something going wrong in the future, not now. Health professionals use the term ‘anxiety’ to describe a persistent fear or a chronic sense of worry, the sources of which seem unclear.

We can see what we are afraid of; anxiety clouds our vision.

When all your negative fantasies are being projected in front of you, it’s hard to see things clearly. Either you tame your thoughts, or they will eat you alive, as I wrote here.

Anxiety will get you stuck; fear will keep you in motion.

As Seth Godin says: “Dance with fear. As you dance, you realize that fear is, in fact, a compass — it’s giving you a hint that you are onto something. Even though there is that possibility of failure, the fear-as-compass pushes you to persistently, consistently, and generously bring your creative work forward.”

If you want a different outcome, start by changing your mentality.

When your expectations are too high, your fears become bigger and bigger. Worrying about the future is pointless too — most things are out of your control. Focus on what you can manage, not on the infinite possibilities that might occur (or not).

What the worst thing that can happen?

We don’t fear to do stuff; we fear the outcome because we can’t control it. Failing makes us vulnerable — we feel exposed to other people’s judgment. However, that speculation prevents you from living life to its fullest.

I use a simple mantra to defuse the fear of failure.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

That simple question has helped me deal with anxiety and uncertainty throughout my life. It allows me to recover clarity too, especially in the darkest hours.

Regardless if I was planning to move to a new country or thinking to start my own firm, this mantra allowed me to distinguish real from imaginary threats. And to focus on the now rather than getting stuck anticipating the future.

That’s the most powerful thing about asking yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen. Most of the times, you’ll realize that most scenarios are not as bad as you feel.

Every time I ask that question, it reminds me of similar situations I faced in the past. Though the challenges and what’s at stake are different, there’s always a common theme: I don’t know how things will turn until they happen.

So, what’s the point of worrying?

You are probably thinking this sound too simplistic. That’s okay. I will give you some practical steps to put this into practice in a second. However, before you write a simple method off, consider the following. Overcomplication drives worries and anxiety — we start overthinking potential outcomes and then get paralyzed.

Simplicity is the antidote to overcomplicating.

Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness, recommends dealing with worry through the cultivation of right attitudes.

“A process can be adopted with regard to anxieties. When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked at this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all, it would be no such very terrible disaster. Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance.” — the British philosopher wrote.

We need to rewire our brain to avoid overthinking from making us more anxious. Realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around us, as Russel suggested, removes the need to be in control. It invites you to take a more relaxed approach to life.

Fear is just one of the many emotions you have. Use your other feelings to offset being taken hostage by what you are afraid of.

Five ways to overcome the fear of failure

“First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.” — Dale Carnegie

1. Distinguish real versus imagined fears

Asking what’s the worst thing that can happen is not a magic cure. It’s a first step towards finding clarity. You need to stop worrying and focus on the root cause.

Write down all the potential scenarios. Avoid exaggerating — the goals is to focus on probable situations, not to test your creativity. Categorize the answers in real and imagined fears. Discard the latter. This exercise requires practice until you build confidence.

Master your fears, or you’ll become their servant.

Bertrand Russell said: “Worry is a form of fear, and all forms of fear produce fatigue. The proper course with every kind of fear is to think about it rationally and calmly, but with great concentration, until it has been completely familiar.”

2. Don’t idealize life

If we expect life to be perfect, we will always be afraid of leaving our cocoon.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated that when we have a too optimistic vision of our future, we become less energized and accomplish less also. That’s because we are not prepared to face struggles.

Life is not perfect; it’s not bad either — happiness requires embracing balance.

The same research has shown that successful people visualize a positive outcome, but also acknowledge future obstacles — the real ones, not the imagined ones.

3. Experience is about learning, not just achieving

If it’s hard to define what success looks like, what’s the point of defining failure then? Life is not perfect — there’s no point in trying to anticipate the future correctly.

When you focus on the outcome — what you want to achieve — you get distracted from playing your best game.

Winning is an outcome, focus on playing at your best.

There’s no such a thing as a perfect decision. A right decision made at the wrong time won’t do you any good either. Minimize risk by making decisions in small doses now. You can always course correct.

4. Standing still is more dangerous

Fear is not the enemy; paralysis is. The world will continue its natural course even if you don’t do anything. That’s the most hazardous part of standing still — everyone around you will move on as you keep rehashing things over and over.

Fear is a signal for you to wake up. What is the universe trying to tell you?

The world keeps changing even if you stay put. Failing to adapt can be more dangerous than experimenting with something new.

5. Defeat is temporary

Nothing lasts forever. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said:“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”

Mistakes are learning opportunities. Life requires a trial and error approach. We don’t come to this world with instructions manuals; we create our own as we live.

You battle the fear of failure every day.

Anticipation is the need to have the answers before you know what the questions are. Don’t let anxiety get in your way. Babies learn to walk because they don’t know there’s a thing called failure — they follow their instinct to get back on their feet again and keep trying.


The best way to overcome fear is by not being conquered by it.

Fear is a signal that something might happen. There’s no need to overreact. The future is uncertain because it’s meant to be designed on the go, not lived in advance.

Fear is not the enemy; paralysis is.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?