Have you ever had a big setback? If not, you will, because we all do if we’re living. At the time, it’s painful, and it might feel devastating. Then, a week, a month or a year later, life turns upside down; you finish a project, or win a game, or gain something you’ve been working towards. You experience that moment of being on top of the world. And it’s intoxicating!
Spencer Johnson calls these moments Peaks and Valleys, and wrote a book of that name. Every major philosopher and spiritual leader spends most of their time guiding others through these peaks and valleys of life. Because we all have them. In fact, they’re unavoidable.
To understand this, think for a moment of the straight line. It’s what you see when a person’s heart stops. What it represents is death. Not life. Life is change. And change is a natural process – a natural wave. Every wave movement has a peak and a valley.
This isn’t simply a metaphor. Because when you reduce anything to it’s basic form, what it is, is a form of energy. That includes us – we are, basically, energy. And whatever we do is energy. And as such, there will be high and low energy, wins and losses, trials and triumphs.
It helps me to remember this, and to also remember that we, as humans, need to try out things – sometimes several times – before we succeed in getting what we want. When I think of valleys like this, then I can see them as fertile ground – places where I have a chance to discover something new out of the ashes of something else that crashed and burned.
We rarely seek help when we’re on a peak, so here’s some tips from the world of experts for next time you find yourself in a valley.
Take a moment. The first thing I’m tempted to do when I have a setback is immediately move towards trying to “fix” it. But, whenever I do this, I miss out. I miss out on feeling and acknowledging the pain of the loss, and then truly letting it go. That means it lingers. Even though I feel like I’m making progress and not letting this setback get in my way, it actually is, because I’m dragging along the unfinished business of grieving the loss.
Adjust my attitude. About setbacks. If they’re natural and to be expected, that means they are actually a part of the eventual triumph. If what I strive for – what gives meaning to my life – were easy, then it wouldn’t be worth much. And the more it’s worth to me, the bigger the challenge – and the bigger the chance of experiencing a setback. So, the real choice is: either play it safe and never challenge yourself, or take a risk and experience failure.
Don’t give up. It’s like learning to ride a bike. I remember learning to ride a bike. It was my great-aunt’s bike; I was around 12, and my cousin Beverley volunteered to teach me. You probably know the drill. I’d get going, then wobble and fall. Then with her insistence, I’d get back on, eventually wobble and fall. Finally, she said she’d keep her hand on the seat so I wouldn’t fall. She did, for a few seconds, then I was on my own. Soaring!
Anything worthwhile – learning a new skill, gaining recognition in your field, building a meaningful relationship – takes time, patience, tenacity, and the wisdom of hanging in there until the magic happens.
Elizabeth Gilbert another way of receiving success and failure
Quote of the Week
Success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats. -Amos Bronson Alcott
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages. For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .
Georges St. Pierre is a champion in Mixed Martial Arts. Even if you don’t care for the sport, his approach to it might still inspire you.
Georges was born and raised in a small town in Quebec. He was small for his age, and as happens with many small boys, he was picked on and had to learn to defend himself – hence martial arts. He grew to love it, not only for the self-confidence it gave him, but for the discipline it taught him. Through martial arts, he learned how to appreciate what really mattered, and to live according to what gave his life meaning.
I thought I’d share with you the three things he found essential to living well: discipline, attitude and confidence.
Discipline – our brains and cells build up a memory of what we do habitually. There’s research showing that the myelin sheath that surrounds each nerve has muscle memory, so that the more we perform a specific task or gesture, the better we become at it. Discipline – the training of our mind to do certain things regularly, no matter what – is how we develop good habits and strong instinct. I have a rule in my own life that helps me maintain my own discipline: I never go to bed without checking in with myself and planning my next day. What habits do you have that help you live well?
Attitude – have a balanced attitude toward how you live. What truly supports you? Challenge helps us stretch and grow. Self-honesty, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, can build in us a healthy attitude. Willingness to keep putting one foot in front of the other will always eventually get us where we wish to go, and boost our attitude in the process. Here’s a challenge from St. Pierre for you: see if you can see any empty space you encounter as room to grow.
Confidence – we can really only do something if we believe we can accomplish that thing. This means preparation. Know what the worst thing is that can realistically happen, then prepare for it. Establish new habits daily that build your confidence in dealing with worst-case scenarios, if they should happen. For instance, I set daily, weekly and monthly goals; I look at my success in meeting my goals, determining what didn’t work and why, then resetting them accordingly. My confidence in accomplishing what I want to accomplish grows every day by doing this.
Discipline, Attitude and Confidence: Following through with positive attitude, knowing you’re able. And knowing you’re worth it.
Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions. In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.
This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.
George Strait – Living and Living Well
Quote of the Week Optimists think badly, but live well.
― Marty Rubin