Scene: It’s 7:30am and we need to be loaded up in the car headed to the girls’ daycare. My older daughter had an accident in her pants (potty training is rough y’all!), my younger daughter is screaming because she dropped her pacifier, the dog peed on the couch cushion, and then I heard my dreaded email ding. I checked it (bad mistake) and saw a new, very large bill from the birth of my 2nd daughter which happened over 3 months ago! To top it off my smoothie was leaking down my arm and I was in terrible pain as my 2 year old managed to claw my eye while trying to “cuddle” me this morning. 15 years ago, this scene would have caused me to meltdown, stay inside all day, and berate myself about what a failure I am. Today, I call it a Monday!
Life can be really hard. The scene mentioned above is incredibly minor compared to what many people go through in their morning….. poverty, illness, loss of a loved one, violence, the list goes on. I don’t know why this notion of the “hard times” was so tough for me, but somewhere in my idealistic mind, I thought if I worked hard enough, was kind to others, and stayed true to God that my life would be all sunshine and roses. In other words, when life didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, it surprised me!
While I’ve grown a lot since then, in my younger years, I resisted any notion of a struggle and fought back against anything that wasn’t “perfect.” When times got tough, instead of getting tougher, I shut down. I didn’t reach out for help and I engaged in destructive behaviors. This cost me dearly and left me isolated, angry, and lost. I pushed away many people that I cared about during these times trying to “handle it myself.” In essence, when things got hard…….I added fuel to the fire.
Now that I’ve experienced real hardship in life (much more than the above scenario), I know that I really can get through anything. I’ve learned that I have resilience and a enthusiasm for life that helps me move forward with a smile in even the most difficult of times. The tough times for me now are a time for growth instead of struggle. They are a time to see how bad I really want something and to lean into my faith, family, and values. As I’ve gotten older and entered this field of leadership and wellness, my attitude of the tough times has shifted dramatically and I’ve become a better leader and person because of that shifted.
Below are the mistakes I made when dealing with the “tough stuff” and what we should do instead to live life with an undefeated heart.
- Mistake #1: Withdraw. When the times were hard I would shut down. I stopped calling people, going on group runs with friends, and checking in with my co-workers. My door at work was shut as much as possible and I never told anyone what was going on with me. This caused me to spiral deeper and feel further isolated.
- The Undefeated Heart Way: Talk to someone! You don’t need to shout it from the rooftops or air your personal challenges on social media, but find a confidant or even a professional that you can talk things out with. Pain is easier when it’s shared and you will be shocked at how much support you’ll find by simply engaging another person. Talking things through also allows you to hear your thoughts out loud and often times can give you the clarity you need to move forward.
- Mistake #2: Engage in Self-Destructive Behaviors. I would often beat myself up (literally) at the gym as a punishment to take away the pain. I wouldn’t eat right or sleep right, watched terrible tv and refused to leave my house. This led to me feeling even worse and making terrible decisions in other parts of my life because I wasn’t taking care of my own well-being.
- The Undefeated Heart Way: The most important thing that you can do when times are hard is engage in self-care. Hydrate, eat well, and get outside – you will be amazed what fresh air can do for you. I am a huge believer in going through a meditation and yoga class when times get tough. The goal is to feel physically and mentally healthy so that your heart can take on the tough times with fierce courage.
- Mistake #3: Ignore the Issue. There were times that I just thought if I ignored the problem it would magically go away. If I didn’t confront a person that hurt me or ignored a bill payment, then it wouldn’t exist. Turns out, that is not the case and it cost me dearly
- The Undefeated Heart Way: Run headfirst into the challenge! I know this sounds crazy, but it works. If you aren’t sure what to do, do something. It always feels better to move then to sit still in these situations. The one thing I know for certain is that the longer you wait to deal with the hard stuff, the tougher it will become. And, many times by dealing with it immediately it will be much less of an issue for you.
- Mistake #4: Lose Your “Why”: Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” has one of my favorite quotes for leaders, “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” When I lose sight of my “why” I become inconsistent and inauthentic as a leader which are two essential leadership traits. Losing sight of my why takes my actions from purposeful and clear to those acted out of desperation and fear.
- The Undefeated Heart Way: Go back to your “why.” We must keep reminding ourselves over and over why we do what we do. Whether it’s a post it note on your computer or a massive sign in your office, revisit your why daily. When you get off track, spend time doing things that bring your why back to life so that it can provide the perspective you need in tough times. Perspective is everything in tough times. If it won’t matter in 5 years, you shouldn’t let it consume your thoughts for more than 5 minutes.
I use these strategies A LOT and I hope you will too. I was able to effectively work through the situations in the beginning of my blog posts by being at my strongest. I had gotten a good workout in, spent some time reading the Bible and meditating, and had already gotten a liter of water in me. I felt strong which allowed me to be strong. Next, I dove into every problem head first. I put some new pants and socks on my older daughter, rocked my younger one and gave her a rattle that she really likes to use. I called the insurance company on my way into work to get further explanation and next steps on my bill which made me feel better immediately. Finally and most importantly, I went back to my “why” which is to be a great mom and wife. There’s a quote I see posted a lot on social media that reads, “there were days when I prayed for the things I have now.” Even in my toughest times of being a mom I go back to that quote and it immediately gives me ease and perspective because there is nothing I love, need, and want more than my family.
While I can’t keep the tough times from happening (I wish that I could trust me!), what I can do is control my reaction to them. As leaders, we must model the way for others and that is never more important than during hard times. It’s easy to lead the high producing company, winning team, or fun neighborhood group, but it’s incredibly challenging to lead a group that is struggling. People get in their own heads when things go wrong and often become mad, frustrated, and insecure. It is our job as leaders to avoid the mistakes above and be a model of strength, grace, and support to help our team move forward. Our time here on earth isn’t meant to be easy, it is meant to be worth it and the power that you have to influence and impact yourself and others is immense. Don’t let history repeat itself. Learn from my mistakes and live life with an undefeated heart ESPECIALLY in the tough times. You won’t regret it!