I’ve had this slogan running through my head a lot lately. I don’t know where I heard it from or how it even got in my head. I’ve been telling myself that …
tough times don’t last, tough people do.
I’m fascinated with toughness. What breeds it? What creates it? How come some people seem to be born tougher? Is it actually something we are born with or is it something we learn?
According to Angela Duckworth, grit and toughness is the single most important indicator of success. Is success simply a matter of pain tolerance?
Will you keep going? Or will you quit?
I don’t know much about the subject outside of my own experience. But my experience counts for a lot. Here are some tips to help you get through tough times.
#1 – Remember, It Won’t Last Forever
I wrestled in high school. Wrestling taught me more about toughness than anything else I’ve ever done. It taught me the 40% rule, that when I feel like I am truly exhausted, I still have 40% to give.
I learned about the human spirit, and it’s capacity to endure.
A big part of wrestling is conditioning. Many times, in wrestling matches, the winner is simply the one who is more conditioned for the grueling 9-minute bout.
On conditioning days, our coach Ira would always remind us that when we finish our set, we only have to deal with the pain for 2 minutes. That’s as long as it takes to return to a resting heart rate.
We would have to do these god awful sprint sets called lucky sevens. While we were running back and forth in the room, I could hear him calling out…
Remember, when it’s over, you only have 2 minutes of pain.
That’s always really comforted me. It’s helped me push through the points of exhaustion because I could always remind myself that as soon as I stop, it will be over. The pain won’t last long at all.
Everything fades in time. Don’t get caught up in thinking that your pain will last forever.
“This too shall pass.”
#2 – Stay Focused On Your “Why”
Almost all motivational speakers talk about knowing your purpose. I know that it’s cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason.
You must have a compelling reason to do what you are doing, or else you will quit. Why would anyone want to go through pain for no reason at all? If there is no reward in it, then you won’t do it. Why torture yourself?
Which brings us back to the point… what’s your why?
It may help to do some writing exercises around this area. It always helps me. When I am uncomfortable or when I am questioning my willingness, I like to write down what my “end result” is.
For me, I work as hard as I do because I want to be able to see the world with my wife and I want to be able to travel to different places to see friends and family whenever I want.
Enjoying those life experiences of love and laughter are more important than the discomfort I feel trying to get there.
Granted, there can be many compelling reasons. For instance, I continue to work so hard on Sober Nation because I want to have a positive impact on people who are struggling with addiction.
I am going forward with this back surgery because I want to be able to hike and run and wakeboard again without agonizing pain.
I write a blog post every day because I want to practice being a writer so I can write a book.
When times get tough, I stay focused on why I am doing what I am doing. After that, it doesn’t seem so hard anymore.
#3 – One Day at a Time
When I got sober, I was taught to take my life one day at a time.
I didn’t understand how important that was for me to hear. At the time, I remember brushing it off as though it were terrible advice. Why would anyone want to live one day at a time? Don’t you want to plan for the future?
It’s not about avoiding the future, or wearing blinders as to not see your problems. It’s about staying focused on the present moment and handling whatever it is that is right in front of you.
There’s no use worrying about tomorrow, or about that thing two months from now that is causing you to fear. The more you focus on the future, the less you actually accomplish to remedy your problems right now.
I have a tattoo on my arm that says “make it to midnight.”
It’s my daily reminder to stay focused on the present moment. All I have to do is make it to midnight. I just have to get through the day.
Once I get through today, then I can worry about the next day, but not yet, because it’s not midnight yet.
When you stay focused a day at a time, you actually move further ahead than if you try to do everything all at once. Because you complete things. You finish things, and then you move on.
#4 – Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up
You won’t hear me make dismissive comments about depression or anxiety or emotional disorders.
I’ve had bouts in my life where I didn’t leave the house or weeks. I would hide from my family, I would close all the blinds and peep out of them when I heard cars that sounded like they were too close.
I’ve suffered depression bouts that made me want to end it all. I’ve been there. The shit is real, believe me.
What I have learned from those experiences is that half the battle is just getting started. If you can somehow muster the courage to get in the shower, walk out the door, and get to work, you give yourself an opportunity to make progress.
My favorite is when people are depressed and someone (usually with good intentions) says something like “why don’t you just do something to try and make yourself feel better?”
Like “oh wow… I never thought of that before. I should feel better. Brilliant.”
When you are going through a difficult time, there will be no magic answer or no fix-all solution. You need to force yourself to do it.
Something that has really helped me in these times is to call myself the general. I heard somewhere on Joe Rogan once where he was talking about forcing himself to do things he didn’t want to do. He said…
I am the general. My brain is the general my body is the troops. The troops don’t want to do it well the general says fuck you, you get up and you do it.
I don’t know if that will work for you. But on days that have been tough, I can tell the troops to listen to me and get the fuck out of bed and get dressed and walk out the door.
If you can do that much, then you will give yourself a fighting chance to feel better.
Everything is Okay
When people who are going through a difficult time reach out to me for help, they’re not looking for a pep talk or a motivational speech. They’re looking for answers. They’re looking for practical ways to get started.
This is what I am offering you.
So maybe you’re reading this and you’re having a tough time in life. Maybe you’re depressed or broke or down on your luck or heartbroken. If you’re suffering at all, you can reach out for help. People will help you.
I’m always relieved to find out how much more good people there are in the world than bad people. The bad people are just loud. But good people will help you if you ask.
Come back and revisit this article at any time, and remember that you are capable of more than you know.