There are times when many of us feel we are on top of our game when it comes to managing daily duties and responsibilities. We buy into the notion that we're untouchable. Life is good - we've got this.
Then, the unexpected occurs and it completely derails us. Our "perfect" plans suddenly go up in smoke and we're forced to come up with new solutions. Now I know what you're thinking, "how could this happen to me?" After all, you had a plan. You were prepared. But what now?
Unfortunately, when it comes to these kinds of situations many people waste too much time and energy trying to alter the facts of their reality, as they believe it will bring them true happiness and contentment. We have a tendency to think, "If I only had X, my life would be better". Despite these beliefs, the odds of them happening are dismal at best. The reality is that we cannot always control our situations or circumstances, but we can control how we react to them and how we handle the situation at hand. Life's messy, but we can learn to live happy.
So, how can we seek out happiness and find the silver lining when things aren't 100% in our favor? Here are a few common scenarios that may prove challenging to change at first, but are definitely more manageable than most realize:
Problem #1: My job drains me of my time and energy, leaving little to no family time
Solution: Get wholehearted! The real antidote to fatigue is being fully present, not vacations or downtime. We will never be able to fully balance between work and life, but we can live balanced at work and in life. Let's stop trying for a 50/50 balance between the two and work to be balanced wherever we are, in the moment -whether at work or your daughter's soccer game. This will help you conserve and have more energy when you need it and will also be more fulfilling because you will get more out of the experience -especially during those precious moments you do have with your family. Once you take on that attitude, the energy that emerges will shock you.
Problem #2: I get caught up in daily drama that drags me down and stresses me out
Solution: The average person spends 2 hours a day in drama arguing with reality. My advice? Ditch the drama! Realize that the stress you feel is not from your reality, but rather, from the story you make up about your reality. Our realities are never as harsh as we think they could be. For example, what if you told your friends you would meet them for dinner after work, but ended up having a hot project handed to you at the end of the day? You may feel bad about the fact that you now have to work late, but odds are your friends will understand and be open to rescheduling. You are not the world's worst friend. Stop believing everything you think and focus on the facts. Once your story is gone, your stress and suffering will diminish.
Problem #3: I allow change to rob me of peace and happiness
Solution: Ok, so your cat swallowed a marble this morning and needs to see the vet despite that big meeting that awaits you at work. Whether or not you torture yourself over this unexpected change of events is your choice. Life happens and the unexpected will occur. Happiness is a choice. You can either choose to go through the day in misery (arguing with whatever changes came your way) or in happiness (embracing what is and using your energy to move forward despite the circumstances). Can the meeting be rescheduled or can someone else fill in while you are at the vet? If you explore your options, you will likely uncover an appropriate solution. Suffering is optional, so choose happiness.
Problem #4: I often worry that I'm not the perfect parent. Help!
Solution: No parent is perfect. Odds are there will be a time when you are late picking them up from school or forget to pack a lunch for the field trip. But the minute we start judging ourselves and others is the minute we become less effective parents. Research has shown that the most capable kids in their teens and twenties were taught resilience by learning from mishaps, not from the protection of helicopter parents. Stop judging and start helping - take these opportunities and use them to encourage resilience in your kids rather than shielding them from reality. In the end, your kids will be well adjusted and more prepared to roll with the punches.
Life can throw us curveballs when we least expect it and these changes can be intimidating. But we can't let our challenges and fears dictate our lives. We must learn to find a way forward and find the balance we're all ultimately seeking. We are more powerful than we realize and have the ability to turn challenges into opportunities. We just have to believe it for ourselves and take action. Once we achieve that, the rest will fall into place.
For more on how to effectively navigate life's unexpected challenges, check out my recent segment from NBC's TODAY Show.