We often hear stories about struggle and suffering from successful people. No less often, we back those up with “There’s always sunshine after the rain,” or “The bigger the storm, the brighter the rainbow.” But what differentiates people who struggled their way to success from those who just struggled their way through life? Better luck? Support of others? Prayers? Oh, maybe, magic? Absolutely NOT. It was their response to struggle and suffering, as well as coping capacity that ANYONE can develop.
So, what does it take to not get stuck in your struggle and get the most out of it? It’s the control over your mind and an absolute desire to turn things around. Here are some facts to consider and recommendations to follow to help you move from where you are to where you want to be.
• Fail Faster
First thing we need to remember is that the human brain is designed to focus on negative. The amygdala, which is a part of our brain that regulates emotions and is responsible for motivation, is naturally programmed to use three-thirds of its neurons to pay attention to negative information. That’s why we often overthink and focus on our mistakes, replaying negative moments and scenarios in our minds. Women are more inclined to overthink due to the increased blood flow in limbic areas of the brain (which are emotional areas responsible for empathy, vulnerability, and anxiety). But, ladies, even though it’s a scientific fact, let’s not take it as an excuse. 😉 This dragging of failures from yesterday into today and from today into tomorrow increases duration of failure. Seriously, instead of beating yourself up, you could fail a few more times instead. Learn something from it!
• Take action
Another important step is avoiding stagnation. Once you’ve identified that you’re stuck in a rut, taking any kind of an action is vital to create a momentum. Stay away from time-stealers and time-wasters. (e.g. mindlessly browsing whatever in your phone or turning TV channel surfing into a full-time job.) Do anything that will keep you away from wallowing in misery. Ten push-ups is better than no push-ups and cleaning your place is better than just another nap. (as long as you don’t get stuck in there 😊). By the way, aerobic activity is a sure way to increase dopamine concentration, which will lead you to improved life satisfaction. Little wins are super important. Every day, complete something that will give you that dopamine boost: take a good photo. Write a small verse. Draw a cute picture. Cook a good meal. The time is always NOW.
• Change Your Story
It’s easy to get off track when telling the story of your struggle and misery. You’re likely to get compassion and support from your audience (because they’re also humans with three-thirds of neurons in their amygdala focused on the bad news). Also, most people will relate to your story and will be very likely to share theirs. Long before you know, you’ll turn into a group of whining miserables who have forgotten why they started the conversation in the first place.
A small tip here: don’t share the story of your struggle unless you’re already emotionally stable (aka got over it). And what’s more important, unless you PLAN TO FOLLOW IT WITH A STORY OF YOUR SUCCESS. No success story yet? Then you’re not allowed to share the story of your struggle and misery yet 🙄. Why? Because you risk being thrown back to and drowned in your emotional swamp once you realize you’re still not where you wanted to be. Let’s face it – you can’t continue telling the story of what it is if you want it to change. What’s done is done, and there is no way to change your past.
• Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is not only a spiritual concept; it’s a scientific one as well. It has much to do with humans’ reticular activating system, which is a brain’s ability to focus on particular objects and situations and make you pay attention to them next time they’re around. A simple truth is this: even if you feel like you are the most miserable person in the world, there’s still someone more miserable than that. Start with simple things like your vision and hearing, your ability to walk, your intelligence, your ability to learn, your food even if it’s scarce, your home or temporary dwelling, even if those are far from what you wanted to have by now. If you read this on your phone/tablet/lap-top, you are already privileged – you have your device, your eyes can see, your brain is healthy enough to translate what you see into what you can interpret and comprehend. Once you shift your focus from what you don’t have to everything good that is yours, congratulations! You’ve made a big step out of your struggle.
Is there a way to become successful without struggle? Probably not. But the time you spend in your struggle defines whether or not you’ll have time left to enjoy your success. Pick it up from where you are. Own it even if you don’t like it. And always, ALWAYS remember – wherever you are is never permanent.
Stay safe 🙏
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Want more from Marina? Check out her article on Intelligent Eating!