A few years back my husband and I navigated some very challenging times with his health. He contracted a potentially life threatening illness (Meningitis) which took him three years to fully recover from. Just as he was getting over that he required a major surgery which took him off his feet for six months. He wasn’t able to work or participate in normal everyday family life during that time.

Download your free Set Yourself Up To Succeed self-assessment workbook.

During tough times keep these three things in mind

Having a tough time? Keep these three things in mind.A few years back my husband and I navigated some very challenging times with his health.

He contracted a potentially life threatening illness (Meningitis) which took him three years to fully recover from.

Just as he was getting over that he required a major surgery which took him off his feet for six months. He wasn’t able to work or participate in normal everyday family life during that time.

He was just back on his feet after that when he was involved in a serious car crash (you can read more on that in Lessons from a wake up call). It took him a few months to recovery fully.

All three of those things happened back to back over a five year period.

It was a challenging few years. There were many dark times. It was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.

There were times during that period that were so hard and painful that it felt like climbing a mountain strewn with broken glass on your hands and knees.

Yet whilst we would never have chosen those experiences for our family, we are better because of them.

We learnt a lot about ourselves. It gave us more clarity than we had ever had before about the life we wanted as we moved forward.

As we emerged from those dark times, life didn’t return to what it was before. It moved in new, more fulfilling directions. Our lives ended up much better because of those dark times we had navigated – in so many ways and on so many different levels.

During tough times it is helpful to keep these three things in mind:

1. When the brown stuff hits the fan there is always an opportunity lurking in there somewhere.

It is hard to believe this if you are in the middle of navigating a tough time.

But I encourage you to challenge yourself to look hard for what the opportunity is.

Maybe it is an opportunity to learn something. Maybe it is an opportunity to grow as a person. Maybe it is an opportunity to change your life in some way. Maybe it is a turning point to create more fulfillment and meaning in your life.

I know from experience that seeing the opportunity during tough times can be easier said than done. But you can do it. Commit to finding a way.

2. Your tough times will serve you in ways in the future that you can’t imagine at the time.

During the tough times I mentioned above, I was working with Pamela Slim on some changes in my business. I struggled like hell with my work during those challenging years. Pam was a great support.

During a telephone call at a particularly dark time, Pam said to me “these dark times are going to serve you in really positive ways in the future that you can’t see right now.”

She was right. It is no exaggeration to say that in the months and years that followed those five difficult years, all areas of our lives transformed for the better as a direct result of what we went through.

If you are navigating tough times, it might seem never ending right now. It might seem that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But hold on tight to the fact that after dark always comes light.

That reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

“Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.” – Sara Henderson

3. You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you respond.

Be careful not to get stuck in a pity party. It will keep you stuck. You might not have chosen the situation. But you do have a choice how you respond and deal with it. Choose wisely.

When you are navigating tough times, keep those three things in mind and look for how you could use them to support you as you move forward.

Download your free Set Yourself Up To Succeed self assessment workbook.

  • Carl

    It’s the here and now that matters. Not the past or future. That’s the hardest part to see.

  • Ali Davies

    Carl, that is a great point. Those things are hard to see when you are navigating tough times. I think that is why it is so important to find a way to anchor ourselves during stormy times and find a way to step out of the situation, mentally and physically, even if it is just for a few moments, as it helps shift perspective. I find surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people helps too.

  • Gwyn Teatro

    Ali, I can relate to your article very well. And, like so many other people, I have had a share of “brown stuff” in my life…didn’t even need a fan.
    I think these difficulties have provided me with an opportunity to test my character and to learn that I’m much stronger than I thought. It has also led me to appreciate the beauty of an ordinary day, you know, the one where nothing special or exciting happens but perhaps the sun shone or I heard birds singing first thing in the morning. I know that sounds a bit sappy, but for me, happiness lies not in the grand gesture or the great leap but in the simplicity of everyday things and events.
    I became more acutely aware of this only after life for my husband and me took an unwelcome turn.
    I also wrote an article similar to this a little while ago. It’s called “I’m Fixing a Hole Where the Rain Gets in”. This is the link in case you are interested in taking a look:
    http://3plusinternational.com/2011/10/mentoring-and-resilience-im-fixing-a-hole-where-the-rain-gets-in/

  • Ali Davies

    Gwyn, it doesn’t sound sappy at all. I can totally relate to what you are saying. Thanks for sharing your article. Loved reading your perspective and thoughts. I agree about our inner strength and it makes me think of this quote from Bob Marley -> “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts Gwyn.

  • Thanks for sharing good advice. Hope life is treating your family better now. My tough times during my husband’s illness and passing taught me to have gratitude for all that I have each day and every moment.

  • Ali Davies

    Hi Judy, yes, everything is great now thank you. So sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. You hit the nail on the head when you say that gratitude makes such a difference.

  • I needed to read exactly this right now. Thank you for sharing.

  • Andee, I am delighted you found it useful.

  • I needed to hear this today! I haven’t heard that quote before but I think it’s my new favorite! Thanks

  • It is one of my faves too Jennifer. Glad my post helped you.

  • We’ve weathered some difficult storms together as well, my husband and I. We were nearing a separation when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, which changed everything. We came out stronger on the other side and, like you, we learned there is a reason we are sometimes challenged to the max. Love the quote!
    b

  • Wow Barbara, thanks for sharing your experience. These things are a reminder that we never know when something will suddenly happen that could rob us of having the life we want with the people we want – and that is why I am such a big believer in making sure we are designing the life we want every single day and making the most of it, because these challenging experiences teach us that it could all change in the blink of an eye.

  • It takes awhile to learn those lessons you’re talking about, but when you do, it does help when the storms start up. My own personal “hashtag” is #nomudnolotus.

  • Yes indeed, the lessons are invaluable as we move forward. Love your hashtag.

  • I’ve had a tough personal year with a death and health issues and thank you for this article. I’m not religous at all, but I keep coming back to *you won’t get dealt more than you can handle* quote.

  • So sorry to hear about your tough year. During my tough times I found this quote by Bob Marley useful -> “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”