Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever — not even bad times — and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practising using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.
If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better? Here are ten ways you can make that happen today.
1. Realize How Far You Have Come
Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.
In order to keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look how far you have come since you first began. Look how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.
The benefits of reflective practice((Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness)) are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.
Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.
2. Remember Why You Started
When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important why, you will be quick to wander from your path.
Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through. As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:
“‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”
Sometimes life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself, so having your reasons for continuing will always help to pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look every day to help them have even more of an impact.
3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward
Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.
The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.
Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.
Contrary to what most people say, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be better every single day for the rest of your life. There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course. Moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you will always be able to get closer to where you want to go.
4. Use ‘If-Then’ Planning
When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called ‘if-then’ planning.
This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention((American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans)), a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s. It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.
The simplified process is as follows:
“If x happens, I will do y.”
“If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”
“If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”
If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.
The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.
5. Find Some Mentors
With the internet more expansive and accessible as it has ever been before, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and to see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.
Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.
Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.
6. Get out of Your Head
Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.
Yes, some things can be solved by thinking, but when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.
When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down and can’t stop the incessant thinking and worrying about the past, present, and/or future, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.
The mind and body are much more connected than most people think — especially when it comes to emotions and fears((The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection)) and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.
7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself
One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.
A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and in order to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.
Made a mistake? Forgive. Still giving yourself a hard time? Forgive. Still getting angry over small things “even though we talked about this”? Forgive.
The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when this happens.
8. Take Smaller Steps
It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.
The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps — the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have — can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.
If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.
9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage
Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods of time that we simply cannot manage.
The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life — including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough — come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.
Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out to, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.
Standing up and walking into your boss’s office, getting the gym kit on, picking up the phone or sending the text — you only have to be courageous in these few moments, and then you can relax and let life unfold.
Twenty seconds? You can do that, easily.
10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane
One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.
When we start a project or enter a relationship or take something new and exciting on in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.
However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.
When this happens, you have two choices: 1) You can put on your rose-coloured glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was, or 2) You can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.
The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realise that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act. It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?
So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough are versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.
Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.