How many of us have started 2017 thinking; “This year I want life to be less tough”? It may have felt like 2016 was tough, doesn’t every year feel that way by December?
We heard a lot in the media about how awful 2016 had been, how many celebrities and top musicians we lost, the US election, the NZ Earthquake. I’m sure like most years 2016 has had its ups and downs for all of us, but in reality it’s less about what happens to us and more about how we react to it. Toughtimes are always going to come so how do we navigate them better? This quote sums it up well I think and puts us back in control.
Unfortunately we all have a tendency to focus on the bad and remember the negative more so than any positives, it’s how our brains are wired. But how do we break this cycle? Now it’s not about ignoring the bad and being Pollyanna or unreal, but more about remembering to acknowledge the good too. I found this particularly true relfecting on the end of the year.
Like most 2016 had been a long year of hard work, I’d achieved a lot and I’d had some failures too, things had gone wrong and there were goals I’d missed. I found myself reflecting on a recent failure to deliver on a personal milestone (which admittedly in hindsight was way over ambitious!) and feeling like 2016 had not been a good one as a result. What I wasn’t thinking about was all the wins I’d had along the way, the previous 11 months that had gone well and all the things I’d achieved throughout the year. There were plenty of wins when I did sit a think about it so why was this one failure (albeit very recent) weighing on my mind?
We can be too quick to move on from our successes and too slow to wallow in our failures, giving us the perception that if a few bad things have happened everything is bad, it’s been a bad year and life is hard. What about all the good things, even the little things, especially the little things. How often do we ever pause to consider all the things that have gone right?
Why don’t we take a minute to do that now? List all the things that went well last year and all the things you’re currently grateful for and lucky to have – it may surprise you how long this list can be and how little time we may have spent celebrating the items on it.
It’s never all bad so let’s spend some time remembering the good. Think of all the things now you’re lucky to have; family, friends, health, money in the bank (even a small amount), food in the fridge and roof over your head and all the things that make life good that so often we take for granted.
This came home to me recently when I took my annual trip back to the UK to see family over Christmas and whilst this meant leaving summer behind and a new relationship I was excited to reconnect with loved ones. As sometimes is the case though, things don’t turn out how we expected, bad things happen and things don’t turn out the way we planned. This was one such occasion.
After a 33 hour trip I landed in London to make my way to my parents house. Unbeknown to me my 90 year old grandmother had a massive stroke the night before and was not expected to live. My first port of call upon landing became a hospital stroke unit, and then for many days after as she struggled to let go of the life that was clearly leaving her. Shortly after arriving I got sick, the kind of respiratory infection you only seem to get after long haul flights or English winters! It left me bedridden with energy for nothing. I was trying to enjoy being back but really I just wanted to be curled up at home in the sun with my girlfriend. I found myself feeling guilty that I only get this chance once a year and people are looking forward to seeing me and I can’t be happy about it. I also find myself feeling like a failure when I become unhappy, after all it’s what I teach others!
The reality is we are all human and life is always going to be imperfect, rough and smooth. Tough times will always come and sometimes all we can do is feel the pain, grieve a little and then move on. It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to stay there.
My grandma passed away just after Christmas. I was in bed by 730pm Christmas Eve and again at 5pm on Christmas Day. Yet during the times I was awake I made the best of those moments. I played with my nephews, had dinner with my parents, walked the dog and spent time with friends.
There is always a silver lining in every cloud but just sometimes we have to look real hard. If we are alive then we have something to be grateful for and it’s being grateful for the small things that helps us through the tough times, gives us perspective and strength to weather the storms. And knowing when the storms hit that this will pass, it always gets better eventually. As the saying goes, you can’t calm the storm but what you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.