IT TOOK ME A FEW HARD life experiences to figure out my strengths and weaknesses: college, a rough breakup, the loss of a parent, and having children. With each stressful transition came an opportunity to build my mental endurance. I don’t handle stress perfectly but compared to my early adult years, I’ve really come a long way. I think most well-adjusted adults slowly figure this out.
But what if we had the tools to figure this crap out sooner?
I was lucky because my teen years were easy. My parents never divorced, our family didn’t experience poor health or financial stress. I worried about simple things like dating girls and managing my part-time job at the mall. The first real blow to my psyche was when I first started college. I had to learn (the hard way) that time management was an extremely necessary skill. I overloaded my schedule and underloaded my time in the library. By the end of the semester I knew I was in trouble as grades were beyond repair. This rattled my self-confidence and my bank account.
A little down the line, my college sweetheart and I parted ways. It wasn’t my choice to end the relationship and it was devastating. Again, my grades suffered. I stopped dating, stopped going out with my friends, and started eating and drinking more than a healthy amount. I didn’t take the break up well.
We’ve all experienced similar trials and stress. But a pattern I’ve noticed is that if I pick my head up, things always turn back around. I can see now that life is a roller coaster of highs and lows. You should expect trials and struggles and look forward to times of peace and stability. Because both always come.
As you read, remember evidences in your own lives of these lessons, take it all in. Take peace in knowing we all struggle and we can all overcome. Having realistic expectations along the way is a major bonus.
1. Movies and TV shows romanticize loneliness.
Binge eating ice cream after a breakup, heartbreak, pain, and all the terrible parts to relationships. You need to know that yes, these things happen. But NO, there is nothing romantic about it. It’s going to hurt for real but time DOES heal all pain. Press on.
2. Not everyone is going to like you: That’s okay.
There is literally no way to please everyone but there are plenty of people that will like you. Find the people that laugh at the same things and enjoy similar hobbies. Find the people that make you feel good about yourself. Find the people that you can respect and learn from. These are your people. They are out there, intermixed with people who are going to think you’re lame. It’s inevitable.
3. Know that you can do anything you decide to do.
When life knocks you down, get back up. If it keeps knocking you down, keep getting back up. Eventually, everything turns around. But if you decide life sucks and you can’t win, then you won’t. In this life of instant gratification, we forget that sometimes progress takes time. Advancements in work, repairing relationships, achieving financial stability, these things have taken years and lifetimes but we forget that when everything we could ever want is available with the click of a mouse. Unless you’re an overnight Internet sensation or the offspring of a genie, you need to be realistic about your life goals and the time it’s going to take to achieve them.
4. Relationships take work; I hate that phrase.
That’s the understatement of a lifetime. Going back to my previous sentiments, I’m going to reiterate that life is not a social media account: we cannot expect overnight success. Learning to love someone through good times and bad is a hard but necessary experience. Good times are easy but hard times show true character. Navigating relationship difficulties and seeing trials through to the end together are experiences that teach me humility and empathy. This makes me a better man, a better father, and a better friend. I’m pretty sure that’s the point of life.
5. “If anyone can do it, I can do it too.”
This might not apply to all things physical, but you can develop a state of mind that will see you through all things. If you’re far from having the patience and determination to endure life, you can learn these traits. It starts with the tiniest of thoughts; take those tiny positive thoughts and slowly chip away at the negative thoughts that are holding you back. Replace them. Get RID of the negativity. It takes a whole lot of practice and a good chunk of time, but anyone can do this. It is all a matter of the mind. Mastering my mental capacity to handle stress has changed my life for the better.
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