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5 Tips For Moving Through Challenging Times

Anxiety | Health

Chances are, if you’ve picked up a self-help book, a “spiritual” text, watched any of the countless videos of inspirational speakers chatting about life, or even caught the end of a soda or sneaker ad, you’ve encountered the advice to “find the edge of your comfort zone,” or “overcome your fears,” or “do something that scares you,” or “try new things,” or “challenge the norm,” or, or, or….

It’s true, this life-tip comes under various guises (I myself use the “edge of your comfort zone” riff), yet the quality of what is being said is all the same—and is essentially this: life deserves our exploration. Life deserves our undivided attention. Life is more than what it seems, and the only way to know if this is true, is to LIVE IT.

Product advertisements aside, this advice hinges on the fluidity and ever-evolving nature of existence. The advice is timeless, relevant, and illuminating.

And yet…

We are born into circumstances we can’t control. We encounter situations that don’t always feel like we can control. There is much about life that appears to be an obligation. The standard fare for living life (good job, suburban home, etc.) is a compelling option—promising security, social acceptance, even happiness.

We see people doing extraordinary things with their lives. We wonder how it’s possible, before shrugging it off and curling back up on the couch. This is the average person’s dilemma. We are oppressed by the dominating narrative; a narrative that suggests “business as usual,” despite the experience of emotional, mental, or physical turmoil.

The voice nags. Occasionally we hear it in the corner of our thoughts—“THERE”S MORE, THERE’S MORE, THERE’S MORE,” it says. We feel the truth in its emotional power, its strength of authenticity—yet we lack the capabilities to “see” how honoring the voice is possible. We lack the vision and the mental fortitude to accept the urging.

How We Go About Our Days

What I have in front of me is all I know. It’s my thing. I go to work, I have my habits—my routine—and sometimes life is a drag, and sometimes it’s pretty good. There is much about the world that is troublesome though as one person there is little I can do to change it.

We protect our lives. Protect it from the ravages of nature. Protect it from the ravages of societal dysfunction. Protect it from change. This is often how we go about our days.

Then — something happens.

The nagging voice in our head gets louder, the words—stronger. The circumstances of our life shift, seemingly bringing us closer to the entities we have been guarding against. Despite our best efforts to mitigate disaster, to live life comfortably, our personal edge is moving to meet us. The illusion of “we are in control” smacks us right in the face.

Faced with this certainty, our options are twofold:

Option #1

We can continue to construct the walls of protection. We can try harder to inhibit the effects of change on our life. We can go to greater lengths, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally to circumnavigate the confrontational opportunity presented us for transformation. We can, in essence, delay the inevitable.

Option #2

We can, as the cliché goes—LET GO. We can accept, and not only accept, but initiate the rhythm of change in our lives. We can embrace our life as a perfect collaboration of universal circumstances resulting in the creation of ME—a ME with a purpose, meant to do more than protect, survive, and live out the days.

As is likely evident, I’m interested in option #2. I’m interested in the flow, the discomfort, the vast unknown, the unshakable, constantly moving life. I’m interested in what is possible, rather than what is probable.

Why Choose Option 2?

Every time life moves me to stare down the edge of my own comfort, my own sense of what’s real and true, something more spectacular emerges. For lack of a better description—I grow. I change with life. Me and life—we become best buddies again.

This is not the easy option. Choosing option #2 often requires deep self-inquiry, dissolution of a relationship or life circumstance. Option #2 might put you on the next train to Kamchatka, or enroll you in the Cirque du Soleil. (Actually, that wouldn't be so bad would it?)

Being An “Option 2 Member”

The other, less-discussed hidden beauty of choosing Option #2 is that it immediately connects you with others who also choose Option #2. You become initiated into a tribe, whose membership card is stamped with the similar experience of challenging their personal norm.

This tribe will support you on your journey. They’ll offer the perfect book or advice at the perfect time. You’ll be introduced to other members of the tribe and you’ll soon begin creating circumstances in your life vastly different from what you previously thought possible. As a member of Option #2, I’d like to get the advice rolling—here are a few suggestions as you contemplate the next move on your path.

  1. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. The answers will find you.
  2. It’s ok to be afraid. Fear is really hard to sit with. And it’s the same for everyone. Be cool with it and contemplate it. Get to the bottom of what really ails you, and you’re likely to find an ability to move through it.
  3. We all share the same emotions. We are all also self-doubting, sad, angry, critical, anxious…It’s ok to be these things. When you’re feeling lost on the path, know that everyone goes through this.
  4. Trust. You’re making powerful choices in your life that may make you feel isolated, like you’re all alone, and that they’re not the right choices. They are. You’re not alone. And it will all work out in one way or another.
  5. Be patient. Remember, this isn’t about getting somewhere. It’s about being ok with where we are. If you’re trying too hard, chances are life is asking you to be more patient. Heed the advice and relax.

Moving into new territory in our lives is no small task, yet when we do it, when we push ourselves beyond our sense of comfort, beyond our sense of the realm of possibility, life will become “born again” within us.

Of course, up until we need to do it all over again.

Featured in New York Magazine, The Guardian, and The Washington Post
Featured in the Huffington Post, USA Today, and VOGUE

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