When things get tough

How do you keep going when the going gets tough?  We all have this problem from time to time.

There are a multitude of problems, big and small that can trip us up. Like, what should you do with your life?  What if you find out you made the wrong choice?

The heart of the problem of how to keep going when the going gets tough is the stress of uncertainty.  And while I’m a big fan of seeing a psychologist when you need one, these are largely philosophic problems, not psychological ones. (Though – psychology can help if you response to these problems is severe).

The philosophic problem is how to be ok with uncertainty.  Instead of trying to gain certainty, or taking drugs to reduce the stress caused by uncertainty – which if you need them – get them.

Another option is to philosophically come to terms with the fact that life is uncertain.  Here is how I approach these common problems humanistically.

What if you are putting in all this effort – for nothing? Well – maybe you are and maybe you aren’t.  The point is – you don’t know. Accept that you don’t know – and then decide – what you are going to do about it.  Do you want to keep going – and see if you could succeed? Or will you quit and never find out if you could have succeeded?   Asking whether I will succeed or not is not the right question to ask. A better question is – if I succeed, will it be worth the effort?   That’s a question I can answer that will help me to decide whether to keep going or not and to feel good about the answer.

What if you are headed in the wrong direction?  You may be headed in the wrong direction. Then again, you may not be. Do some thinking and figure it out. If what you are doing isn’t working, then perhaps it is time to change course.  If you do decide to change direction, here is how to do it without too much emotional stress.

Sure – you have invested a LOT of time and energy into whatever it was you were trying to do. But, if you are pretty convinced that what you are doing isn’t going to work, it’s ok to abandon it. The only thing worse than being wrong, is continuing to be wrong out of bullheadedness.

Don’t know what to do? Only know that what you are doing isn’t working?  Take a time out.  Time outs – are ok and are allowed.  Sometimes, timing is everything.  I find that allowing myself to take a break often gives me the emotional distance I need to see my problem more clearly. I did this with my business plan. I started working on a speaking career – realized, I really didn’t like it. Took a break for a few months, without knowing what I was going to do – and my current business plan – just sort of came to me.  Taking breaks doesn’t mean not working. It just means  - not working on one particular project right at this moment.

Regarding the lure of magical thinking. I think we are all prone to this. It would be really nice to have a way to see into the future.  Or to use magic to solve a problem. I myself have attempted magical solutions – like the time my friends did Wiccan ceremonies to rid me of a stalker.  My feeling on this is indulge yourself a little. These ceremonies can be great are relieving some of your stress, or to act as a way for you to take a break without taking a break.  Why? Because magical solutions don’t work. They are a way to spend time and money – on nothing. But that may be just what you need – a break.  Just remember to get back to reality and get back to work.  Otherwise, you will be in limbo for a very very very long time.

The Humanist approach?  Instead of wishing things will change, we make things change.  Decide on a course of action, and do it.  And if you make a mistake, correct it. Just remember, in the grand scheme of things, all these hugely important issues, aren’t all that important. So don’t take yourself so seriously. Relax and enjoy the ride and the mistakes you make along the way. And when you need to – apply the effort you need to scale that hill to see the sights beyond.  You are living your life, you might as well enjoy it.

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