Things do not always go according to plan. Part of success is being able to cope with setbacks or obstacles. Knowing that everyone experiences obstacles can help to depersonalise our disappointment and avoid wasting time either beating ourselves up or looking for someone to blame. Both are dead ends and a waste of valuable time. It is acceptable to allow yourself one moment of grief (e.g. “oh crap”) but then you must go straight into positive mode. What are the next steps to move past this point? Sometimes it is difficult to sustain a positive attitude when you meet obstacles repeatedly. But even if you do it without being totally positive, you must not give up on the process and stop asking questions. Perseverance is the key to moving forward and in some cases even moving sideways is a positive step. Giving up means standing still which in essence means going backwards because time marches at a pace and you must move just to stand still. This is why you never “arrive”. There is always something to come. What are the next steps? Keep asking yourself the question. Keep moving.

We can sometimes fall into “all or nothing” thinking. This is a function of our ego that somehow we should not have to experience difficulties or setbacks. We ask why the world works this way or dwell on how unfair life can be. We throw our hands up in the air and say we will give up and stop trying. The reality is that although the system may be skewed against us and the way things work is almost certainly unfair, we waste time if we let these facts of the world hold us back. If we think that there is some kind of controllable problem that means we continually have issues then we should try to identify it and figure out how to resolve it. However, many setbacks are not attributable to one person’s action or they are just bad luck. Setbacks are almost always not personal and so we should try our best not to take them personally. The truth is that progress and success require perseverance and patience. Perseverance means that we do not give up under any circumstances and patience is a recognition that all things take time. We are often in a hurry for things to change once we’ve made the decision to change. If we are at all uncertain about a change, we also can find ourselves more affected by anything that slows our progress toward our new situation. It’s like we are on a slightly unsure footing and so anything that isn’t entirely smooth has the potential to throw us off course entirely.

All of these tendencies and ways of the world can unsettle us and hinder our progress towards whatever it is we want to do or be. It is therefore really important for us to understand that we ourselves are a potential obstacle and deal with our weaknesses as they arise as positively as possible. Having to talk yourself through a situation or re-evaluate what is happening is not a bad thing. This is part of the process. Key point here is that obstacles are part of the process of life! If you see that these difficulties and uncertainties are all part of what is required, you can stop asking why, why, why and get on with “do I still want to go in this direction?”, “do I need to change anything in how I am thinking or what I am doing?”, and “what are the next positive steps I need to take?” There are people out in the world who would claim not to have difficulties or obstacles but this is very unlikely – it’s more likely that they are confident and so have just worked through the obstacles in their stride such that they no longer remember or recognise these things as obstacles. This does not make them better or smarter than you, it just makes them different. Don’t compare yourself to other people – this is one of the roads to hell. It will only lead to negativity and self punishment. If you find yourself tempted, you need to stop and take a few moments to reorganise your thoughts into a more positive frame of mind.

So what happens if you totally mess it up and still don’t think you can make progress? First, is to accept that you cannot change what is in the past. Do not dwell on something that you cannot change. Ok, so you didn’t live up to your expectations – you are human, you are not a machine. Second, and most importantly, you must get up out of the hole you are in. Get up. If you fall down again, get up again. When something else happens to you and you fall down again, get up again. Keep getting up over and over again. This is really important because your success in life does not rest on how many times you messed up, fell down, and got up again. Your success in life depends on your ability to keep getting up and moving forward over and over and over again. It does matter that you lead a healthier life and pursue the things that you love. Why? Because you matter. You are valuable and your happiness matters. Yes, really. Imagine a world where everyone in the world was able to work towards building a life that made them happy. Is the world unfair? Sure, but the more people like you and I are able to build something that makes us happy, the less broken the world will be. All of our small efforts add up to a happier world.

We should all work towards justice and be willing to speak out when we see obstacles that are put in front of ourselves and others unjustly. We should all support each other because even those who seem very confident are not always as confident as they seem. But we have a unique responsibility to live our own lives first and ensure that at least some of the things that we are doing are the things that we want to do in this life. We obviously also have responsibilities to family and work but always we should be giving a proportion of our time to our own needs. To do otherwise is too much of a sacrifice, even for those we love dearly. One day we are going to die and though some of us will live a very long time, we need to remain aware that time is a limited and valuable resource that we must use wisely. True balance is hard to achieve and yet this is exactly what we need to try to do. We need to keep trying to find the things that make us happy and fulfilled. We cannot give up. Life is not a straight line from point A to point B. Life is winding road with speed bumps, road closures, diversions, bad weather as well as all the lovely things we hope for.

Not sure what you want or what makes you happy? Feeling stressed out? Take a few moments to take care of yourself and choose silence. Do this regularly if you are struggling. Begin to notice things that make you feel happy or contented. It can be as simple as the feel of warm sunshine on your skin or the sound of a fire crackling in a fireplace. Take note of these things that you enjoy and try to find space and time to experience these things. Small steps in granting yourself these moments of happiness will help you on the journey to defining what a happy life looks like for you.

Need inspiration on what small things might bring you happiness? I got the “Little Book of Hygge” for Christmas and I love it. So many nice photos and ideas for things that bring me happiness at home in small but lovely ways.

When not to choose silence