One of the aspiring Diasporas that want to study abroad asked me the question about how to stay positive in a rough situation, especially when the stakes are high. The question sounds something like this:
“It seems like my life is becoming harder and harder every day; I failed my exams, I didn’t get to the university that I applied for, and I have a handful of family issues. I know it’s important to focus on the positive side of things, but in this case, the negatives are so bad I can’t think of any positives from it. So what should I do to keep thinking positive thoughts?”
Thought I’d post the answer here as I’m sure there are others going through the same. Negative situations happen all the time. We can’t avoid them, so how can we counteract their negative effect on our lives and our attitudes? So I sat down, and compile some of the things that I believe can enrich yourself when it feels like your life is falling apart.
1. Quit being a victim & Focus on the positives.
Playing the victim game is easy, but taking responsibilities for yourself during rough times and stay true to your goal is the trait that separates the losers and the achievers. Let go off the victim label, focus on what you can learn from each problem that you face. From there, you will be freed from resentment and bitterness that jam up your creativity and energy to get out of the mess that you currently have. No matter how dire a situation may be, there are always some positives you can find in it. It is our unwillingness to look at them that blind us to the brighter sides.
2. Accept and find solutions.
In life, change is the only constant. Many of us are resistant to change, not realizing that change is one of the greatest lessons in life that can help us to embrace reality and grow. We continuously go through changes, whether good or bad. What we must do is learn to accept that change will happen. Accepting that changes are a part of life can help us to relax and be more accepting. Try to look for the positive aspect.
For example, if you did not get accepted to your Dream University or job, what do you do? Accept it and try to make it better? Possibly. Or maybe this is the chance to make a change for yourself and look for a life that you really want. As you embrace reality, you will realize that your situation is not too bad after all? So what if you did not get accepted to your Dream University? There are others who achieved their dreams without having a degree. The only problem is not the situation, but our way of seeing the situation itself. With the power of positive thinking, we can learn to put negative situations in perspective and to deal with them as they arise.
3. Reach out to others & have a positive support group.
Having a positive support group to help each other through difficult times is crucial. Again, “positive” support group. By surrounding yourself with positive people that can help you to stay positive in a negative situation, you can see the opportunities that lie ahead and you will have a clearer perspective of things. However, there are plenty of negative people out there—avoid them! Their negative attitudes will only bring you down and be counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve by practicing positive thinking.
You’re not alone. Some have failed in an exam, some have gone bankrupt because their business failed, and some may have lost their jobs because their companies were put out of business, while others have lost someone they loved due to an accident. Talk to them, listen, and if it is within your means, offer your help, however small it may be. Helping others who are less fortunate than you also helps you to put things in perspective. And who knows, they may be the ones who lend you a helping hand when the table is turned the next time.
4. Look at the Big Picture and Focus
Think about what areas of life that you want to explore, what kind of person do you want to be, what do you want to accomplish, and what experiences that you want to feel? Look at the bigger picture and decide on what direction you want to set your life to head.
List out SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals and then start taking steps towards those goals. Even if it’s just tiny steps every day, stay focused on where you want to go and keep moving forward.
Once you get started, you will get that momentum to go towards the goal that you have set. Then the little things you’re going through right now won’t matter as much because you have an exciting new direction to focus on instead.
5. Be Grateful
Even if it seems that everything is falling apart, things are actually falling into place. No matter what happened, every day is a new day for us to start something new and that is something that we should be grateful. Write down all the things you are grateful for having happened to you today. Be descriptive of each item. This will help you to stay focused on the positive. Feel the joy those things bring you, even if it’s something really small like you have a really nice breakfast this morning.
Forget about your problems and just go out and do something fun. Go out with some fun, positive thinking friends, go for a bike ride, just do something. Get out and just enjoy yourself for a little bit. Sometimes, we just get so wrapped up in our problems that we forget to have fun. Taking a break will re-energize you and you may find that things aren’t as bad as you thought.
Lastly, I leave you with these words from one of my favorite book – Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Within limits it is up to him whether or not he succumbs and surrenders to the conditions. He may as well rise above them and by so doing open up and enter the human dimension…Ultimately, man is not subject to the conditions that confront him; rather, these conditions are subject to his decision. Wittingly or unwittingly, he decides whether he will face up or give in, whether or not he will let himself be determined by the conditions.” – Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Crisis comprises of a danger and an opportunity. May your spirit grow stronger in the face of crisis, and the light of opportunity shines bright upon you!