Keep Smiling, Even in the Midst of a Storm
If you’re like me, you’re still reeling from the election last week. I must admit, the results were unexpected, and in the aftermath, I’ve wrestled with confusion and a struggle to resolve a number of swirling questions still floating around my head.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. ”
I believe this to the core, but it’s not always easy to accomplish. There are times when all you want to do is scream ‘why!‘
How do we handle ourselves in these moments? How do we recover when things don’t go our way?
Of course, we can get angry, and sometimes we should. We can complain, and sometimes that’s inevitable. We can even bury our head in the sand and ignore the situation into oblivion – that usually never works.
There are many options, and we’ve probably used them all at one time or another. While these options may feel good in the moment – perhaps even resulting in some quick, temporary fix – they won’t do much to move us forward and restore our sense of peace and happiness.
So what then?
When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, it’s in those times that we can find unique opportunities to go deeper – to strengthen our resolve, to maintain our calm right in the middle of chaos. It’s not always easy. We may feel like giving up or giving in to anger, fear or hate. Our ability to choose happiness, courage, and love in those moments – that’s what defines us. It’s resilience in action. Even if we have to walk through the fire, we will do it fearlessly and with a smile.
So how can we maintain our peace of mind and a positive outlook even in the midst of a storm?
Acknowledge frustration and hurt. Whatever painful emotions we feel should be acknowledged and honored. It’s not only our right, but our obligation to do so. Ignoring our feelings won’t make them go away. It only buries them like seeds to grow and fester in other ways.
Release the pain. Pain is venom and needs to be released. We should take the time to process our negative feelings and then, let it go. We can’t allow pain to fester and poison our spirit. External circumstances should hold no power over our inner world. Instead, we should use the strength of our inner world to transform our circumstances.
One of my favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning, is about Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. In the book, Frankl recounts his time in Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland where over a million Jews perished. While there he endured all manner of pain and torture both mental and physical, still he managed to find freedom. It was a freedom of the mind that allowed him to find peace and purpose and to thrive, despite being a prisoner tagged for death. He credits this mindset with giving him the will survive until his physical freedom was returned to him.
As they say, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. Our ability to respond in the manner of our choosing is the only freedom that can never be taken away.
Bring more perspective into our awareness. From a wider perspective, one-off events become less and less significant. We’re able to focus on the larger picture and take better account of the options available to us. Part of gaining perspective is reconnecting with our values. What’s most important to us, not just in this moment, but in life overall? How do we want to live? Who do we choose to be? These questions clarify our vision and untie us from the baggage of negative and unnecessary thoughts and emotions.
Stay positive and search for the opportunities. This is not a Pollyannaish outlook, it’s a winning mindset. Going negative, staying mad, wallowing in self-pity is a road to nowhere. It’s important to process our feelings and stay in our authenticity. That said, the ability to transmute those feelings, that energy, into something positive and actionable is where our real power lies.
Practice gratitude. It has a way of putting things in their proper perspective – one that energizes and motivates. When things get a bit rough, it’s best to start counting the blessings and opportunities that abound. It’s time to remember the faith we have in our tomorrows and express our gratitude for it.
In the end, we should also be willing to accept the things we cannot change, as the prayer goes. Happiness is not a product of our circumstances. It’s the result of a decision to be happy. Come what may, we must protect our joy at all costs.