When Life Sucks!

September 15th, 2013 by LaRae Quy
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In college my room mate was one of those perpetually perky people. In a visceral reaction to her unrelenting positivity, I responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.

As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. As an over-achiever, this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.

As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.

When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucked, a case looked hopeless, or a barrier appeared unsurmountable, there was a difference between agents who just survived and those who thrived in their circumstances.

The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life throws a curveball (click to tweet). Follow these tips:

1. Accept that reality will change.

Life evolves, so be smart and stop acting surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

2. Change is always preceded by chaos.

Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as FBI teams would prepare for an arrest, there was always the element of the unknown—would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Chaos can keep us on our toes to anticipate the unknown, and the changes it will bring with it (click to tweet). This means being diligent, alert, and aware of our surroundings.

3. Choose your new reality with intention.

As situations change, you will be presented with multiple new realities and you will have an opportunity to chose your new one. Choose the one that is most likely to lead to positive growth.

4. Chart your new reality with care.

Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.

5. Take small steps.

Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.

6. Reframe your situation.

As long as you are learning, you’re are growing (click to tweet). Even if the circumstances are not ideal, or of your choosing, there is always something good to take away from them. Reframe your situation by asking a simple question: “What am I learning from this?”

It is not always easy to find the positive when life throws us a curveball. But reality changes with every shift of thought and attitude. For me, the reality I am experiencing today is not what it was when I was a student. Mental toughness is that strength of mind that allows us to react with agility and flexibility when confronted with the unexpected.

How have you found the positive when life has thrown you a curveball?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

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18 Responses to “When Life Sucks!”

  1. Karin Hurt says:

    Your post reminds me of all the wasted angst I have over the years, just before an important shift happened and changed the game….so much betterto focus on your bigger vision and let go of the frustration. Needed this post today. Thank you.
    Karin Hurt recently posted..4 Surprising Reasons You’re Hiring the Wrong CandidateMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Ahh, so much easier said than done, Karin! But you are correct…if we can just pull ourselves away from the small (albeit important) issues that keep us from focusing our vision on the bigger picture, we can move forward with intentionality. I hope today is a better day for you…I miss seeing your cheery face!

  2. Yes thank you LaRae for reminding me that one of the great qualities of a leader is resiliency. It is finding something positive in one’s adversity. Hence, it is when the road is darkest that one musn’t think of giving up. This is based on the “11th hour principle” found in Andrew Matthew’s book Being Happy which says that things can really look gloomy before the dramatic turn for the better. The author sites as an example the pain and trauma a woman experiences before childbirth. Yet, after the sufferings comes the gift of life- and every mother can attest that all the pains they went through were definitely worth it. It is always darkest, and coldest just before the dawn breaks- so just don’t give up, you may be nearing daylight!

    ” When everything looks black, it could be time to celebrate. You may be nearly home.”
    -Andrew Matthews, ” Being Happy” -
    Claire Farnell recently posted..Coming Soon – Watch This SpaceMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      I love your example of pain and childbirth preceding a dramatic turn for the better! Thanks for joining the conversation and I hope to see you again soon. I think we’re now following each other on Twitter!

  3. LaRae,

    Thank you for another great post! I just spent the morning visiting with two expats that endured very serious medical challenges in this big sandbox we now share. Both women are always so positive and funny. When I asked if they have ever really struggled their answers evidenced that both of them have VERY STRONG MINDS!!! Thank you for continually focusing all of us on how to have a strong minds and warm hearts! :)

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Chery, thanks for your kind words. Strong minds mean nothing if not accompanied by warm hearts…we can choose our reactions when confronted with obstacles and adversity, and it sounds as though the women in your sandbox have done just that! It takes mental toughness and strong minds to survive in your environment. Others may endure, but you and your friends are thriving, and that is a wonderful example to all of us.

  4. Alli Polin says:

    Loved a lot about this post, LaRae. One thing that stands out to me is to intentionally focus on the positive lessons even in the depths of our challenges. “What am I learning from this” is a perfect question. I also ask “What will I be grateful for in the end?” “What’s present that I would never know if I were not going through this?”

    Mental toughness is so important. Thanks for showing all of us how to cultivate more of it in our life.
    Alli Polin recently posted..Guest Post: Leading Others to ChangeMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thanks, Alli! Yes, I think the word “intention” is loaded with wisdom when it comes to how we live our life. Too often we do not stop to intentionally think about choices and reactions to live’s events. We may feel we don’t have a choice, but we do have a choice about how we think about it, and that will ultimately determine the direction we go.

      I admire you…I think you’ve shown remarkable mental toughness in your situation. It’s also called “grit” and you have it in abundance!

  5. As you know LaRae, it seems life has been pretty hard on me lately. It sucks and I’ve found myself in some of the deepest depths I’ve ever known.

    And then there are the bright, shiny days. They’re not always happy but they’re showing me there’s hope and goodness. And maybe what I’ve had to do was for a reason.

    After we put Zane down, I’ve seen so many friends and family members experience loss. Whether it was the miscarriage of a child, the death of a parent, or they’re decision to put down a loved pet.

    I’m beginning to look on this experience as a building block of compassion as I’m able to show those closest to me that they’re not alone. They can make it through this trying time.
    Joseph Lalonde recently posted..Take The Steps To Become A Better YouMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Wow, your words almost made me cry! I don’t understand the “why” when life sucks, or worse, but I do believe life has a big design and that whatever I’m going through will make me a stronger person. As iron sharpens iron…one of my favorite verses from Proverbs.

  6. Bill Benoist says:

    You mentioned how the strong minded know how to look for the positive when life throws a curveball. I think those strong minded are always on the lookout for positive.

    I know a few folks like the old roommate you described, and the one thing all these people I have met have in common is a strong ability to show gratitude for even the simplest of things. It’s the secret sauce!
    Bill Benoist recently posted..Zen of Ethical LeadershipMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Oh yes! Gratitude is the key! If we can focus away from ourselves for long enough to be grateful for what we have in life, we can find the positive.

      Thanks so much for making this important observation, Bill. Have a great week.

  7. Terri Klass says:

    Loved this post, LaRae as I am also a big believer in positivity!

    I think when we face each challenge with a more positive outlook, we do empower ourselves to be both mentally and physically stronger. Negative self talk just brings us down and prevents us from thinking logically.

    And I also think that leaders who can help others reframe a less than perfect situation into a more manageable opportunity, are empowering those individuals with a life strategy in developing a positive perspective.

    Thanks for another great one!
    Terri Klass recently posted..Are You A Change Freak?My Profile

  8. Great post LaRae. I especially liked the step of “Taking Small Steps”. When life is overwhelming, it’s best to break down the larger goal into smaller tasks and gain confidence along the way as you reach each goal.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Yep, those small steps can really add up, but sometimes it’s frustrating to be confined to small steps when you really want to jump out of a crappy situation! I think relaxing into small goals and steps helps me move cautiously and wisely because I can be more alert to my surroundings. In the middle of chaos, move slowly.

  9. Dan Forbes says:

    Great post, LaRae. As you know I’m going through a challenge of my own at present. I feel like you wrote this just for me. Every point speaks directly to me. Very insightful.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      I thought of you as I wrote this…it’s very hard to find bright spots in a tough situation. It takes a lot more than trite phrases – I think the key is “intentionality.” If we look around us with intention, there are more possibilities available than we first assumed…

      Have a great week, my friend.

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