Sometimes life just feels gross.
You feel like either you’re doing all the right things or that you you have no idea what the actual right things are. Life might feel mundane or like a cycle of nonsense that won’t end. The work will be hard. The reward will be small.
There are plenty of resources out there that give us ways to keep ourselves afloat during these times: yoga, ride a bike, listen to music, write in your journal, hide under your bed… that last one may just be how I like coping, but I digress.
These things, while wonderful ways to manage stress and general misery, are bandaids. They help manage the moments. But how do we actually deal with the suckiness and thrive on the other side?
Expectations are wonderful little sneaky things. It is not wrong to have expectations of how life should go. The trouble happens when we do not manage these expectations and there is a disconnect between them and our current reality.
In fact, many of the times I have felt overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or basically horrible in my life have been due to having implicit expectations. Beliefs and standards I hold that I have never defined, they just sit there like that dry corn husk that gets stuck in your teeth after you eat popcorn. You can feel it, but can’t see it. You’re not even entirely sure that’s what it is, but it affects your ability to enjoy the simple task of chewing you’ve, hitherto, taken for granted. And now life is terrible.
Here are some practical questions to ask yourself to get at the heart of this very issue. Be all the way honest. Own your answers. Ask yourself:
Whew. That was hard work. Now that you have gotten these things out into the open – you have one big decision to make: The decision to be OK.
I promise it’s not more magical or mysterious than that. We think certain things have to happen in order to finally feel at peace. This is not true. You have the power to simply decide you are going to get through to the other side and be better for it. It’s your life – you have to take control, don’t wait for circumstances to give it to you.
Granted, once you have decided to be ok, this where the work begins. Deciding to be ok comes with some necessary steps:
Decide to Have a Good Attitude: This also doesn’t happen by magic. If you wait to be happy, you won’t be. That’s pretty simple, right? A very valuable lesson I’ve learned is that we do not control what thoughts come into our minds. These thoughts will tell you that you are the worst. That nothing will ever change. Every manner of nonsense. We do, however, control the thoughts we accept. If these nonsense thoughts come your way, do me a favor and say (out loud) “I’m not going to accept that.” and keep it moving. You will be amazed at the wonders it does for your outlook.
Decide to Get Help: This is a major key. Deciding to be ok often includes getting help from people who can support you in being ok. A mentor. A leader. A youth pastor. A therapist. A parent. A coach. Find someone you can trust and, well…trust them. You have to decide to let people be in your corner and accept the help they give.
Decide to be Honest: When you are doing well, acknowledge it. When you are not doing well, acknowledge it. When expectations are overshadowing you present reality acknowledge it. When pride sneaks in, acknowledge it. Calling these things out takes the power away or gives us the encouragement to succeed. Don’t cover up your insecurities, confront them.
Decide to Count the Cost: Something in your situation may need to change. Your mental health and spiritual well being are more important than your paycheck. It’s also important to understand when it’s simply time to grow in your capacity instead of running away from what stretches you.
If changes are in order, we have to count the cost. Example:
If you leave that job you are not satisfied with, what might paying your bills look like? How can you get creative to take care of your responsibilities? Will you be ok knowing you might be eating beans every night for a while or moving in with a relative or roommate to save money? Yes? Ok.
If you drop that super hard, annoying class can you make it up? Who can you ask to help you understand what your options will look like if you do? Are you ok with staying an extra semester to finish school? No? Then perhaps it’s best to find some tools to get you through it and be ready to be stretched.
Only you can answer these kinds of questions. For myself, when leaving my job, I accepted that it will be a while before I do any shopping and probably a long time between vacations. Going out to eat will go down to a minimum. Dinner may involve a lot of potatoes, rice, beans and various cheap food groups for a bit. I stopped getting my nails done to save money (this one cut me down to the white meat.) But Andrew and I decided that was the cost and the cost was worth it.
Decide to Let Go:Some of the expectations you listed do not serve your life. Some are unrealistic. Some are products of wanting to seem successful to other people. Some are premature. Let them go. If you need help identifying which ones to get rid of, ask one of your help people to go through your list with you. Be humble enough to take their advice.
Decide to trust God: Do you believe God or simply believe in God? Do you trust that he’ll do something great for everyone but you? Decide to believe that ALL things.. Yes, ALLLLLL of them. The things that are pleasant and the things that seem like there’s no reason they should be happening. All of those work together for the good of those who love God. When those thoughts that you have decided not to accept sneak in – tell God about them. Sometimes my conversations with God sound like the following, “OK God. I really feel like life is too much right now. I feel like I cannot do this. You gotta step in. Show me how to make the best decisions because I clearly need some help. Thank you that you have a plan for me.”
These things do not guarantee that everything will improve in the blink of an eye, but they will serve to give you perspective that you can use going forward. Here’s to us thriving, whatever life may bring.