So you’ve hit a hard point in life and you’re probably wondering what to do.
Just about all of us have been through this at some point, and you ARE going to get through this too.
Things are probably looking pretty bleak right now, and you might be in the middle of a downward spiral, feeling that you’ve ruined your life irreparably.
Sure, you may be in a pretty dire situation at the moment, but considering that you’re still breathing, and reading this article, things are definitely salvageable.
To repair and rebuild you life after you ‘ruined’ it, take some of our advice.
Consult a life coach to help you get through this challenging time and make a brighter future. Use the quick and simple form on Bark.com to have qualified life coaches email you to discuss their coaching services and provide quotes.
12 Ways To Approach Your ‘Ruined’ Life
1. Write a gratitude list.
Once, when I was riding a train cross country, a very wise stranger I met told me: “Be grateful for what you still have, because everything could always get worse.”
I was going through a pretty horrible time just then, and his words helped me to re-center myself.
You probably don’t want to think about all the other things that could possibly go wrong right now, so let’s shift perspective and focus on the good for a moment.
Write down all the things that you have to be grateful for right now. This could include anything from a working pen and a box of tea in the cupboard, to an affectionate pet, or a plant that hasn’t keeled over on you just yet.
Be sure to write down every single thing that might help you shift your attention to the positive.
Are you wearing warm socks? Doesn’t matter if they match, so long as your feet are warm. Is your pen working? Good, write that down too.
All these tiny little fragments of positivity will help you to build the new foundational framework for how you’re going to rebuild your life.
2. Stop catastrophizing the situation.
It’s hard to think rationally when you’re mind is focused on all the ways you think you have ruined your life. But you have to ask yourself this: are things really that bad?
And be honest with yourself. Try to imagine that this same thing has happened to a friend and consider whether you’d be so negative about their life.
So, you dropped out of university and now work a low wage job whilst trying to pay off the student debt you racked up. Oh, and you’re still living with your parents because you can’t afford to rent, let alone buy a home. And you’re single but don’t want to be.
Is your life over? No. Can you still work hard to create a future of significant emotional and material wealth? Yes.
You may have suffered some setbacks and you may have to forge a different path to build the kind of life you want, but very few situations in life can’t be turned around.
Often, the most important step is to accept that your life isn’t nearly as messed up as you think. Once you stop believing that you are helpless and start believing that you can assert a level of positive control over your life, you will be able to take action.
3. Realize that no ties = freedom to change.
One of the things that people panic about the most when they feel that they’ve ‘ruined’ their life is all the changes they’re about to face.
For example, someone who’s been caught cheating might suddenly be faced with the prospect of a divorce, losing their house, and dealing with a drastic change to their relationship with their kids.
But those changes don’t necessarily need to be a bad thing.
Think about it for a second. Although it may not feel like it right now, this is an amazing time and opportunity for complete change. When you don’t have any shackles, you are free to change direction entirely.
If everything you’ve worked on so far is broken, and all you’ve built or accumulated is lost, then you have no ties binding you. To anything.
In essence, you’re free to live the life that you’ve always wanted.
This entire situation may feel utterly awful, and although you might not believe it right now, this can be a blessing if you allow it to be.
After all, when you’re working with a blank slate, then a complete re-ordering of your world is more within your grasp.
When you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose. And thereby, with the desperate fire and courage pounding through your chest, you can make incredible things happen in a very short amount of time.
4. Let go of prior expectations you had for the future.
If you’ve made more than your fair share of poor decisions in life and this has led to some rather unwelcome circumstances, you might feel a sense of loss over the expectations you used to have for your future.
If those expectations have been shattered, you might be angry at yourself for your mistakes, and sad that your future may not now look how you had hoped it would look.
But the truth is, you can never accurately predict your future. And you may not have enjoyed what you once saw as your ideal future should it have come to pass. The only thing you can do is to make peace with the reality of your situation and keep working to improve it.
Yes, you should set goals. Yes, you should aim for better. But don’t become so attached to a particular vision of the future that you feel like a failure if you aren’t able to achieve it.
Remain flexible, see opportunities when they arise, and learn to be content with your present and less concerned about the precise details of your future.
5. Address any regret, guilt, and shame you are feeling.
If your actions or choices have led to the less-than-inspiring situation you find yourself in, you are likely to experience some regret, possibly some guilt, and quite likely some shame too.
These are all emotions that will weigh you down and make everything seem far more desperate than it really is. So it’s important that you get a handle on them and work to overcome them.
Dealing with regret is a multi-stage process that involves taking responsibility for your actions, NOT taking responsibility for things that you had no say over, focusing on the silver linings that came from your actions, and more.
In terms of feeling guilty about past mistakes that may have hurt others, you have to accept that what’s done is done, forgive yourself for your flawed decisions, seek to make amends to whoever you might have wronged, and reflect on the lessons learned, among other things.
Shame can be considered as the damaging result of regret and guilt being focused back onto yourself as a person. It involves internalizing events and equating the things you have done with the worth you have. Dealing with shame involves examining your actions in a new light, working to neutralize emotional triggers, and separating your self-worth from your actions.
Working to overcome all three will put you in a far brighter mindset regarding your future. If the effects of your regret, guilt, and shame are impacting your life in a big way, you should seek the help of a certified mental health counselor. If they are just background feelings that are holding you back, a life coach might be a better fit.
6. Ask yourself: who do you want to be?
Please know that there is a tremendous power within you. Deep within your heart and soul lies the ability to recreate yourself.
Within your fear there will be a desire and a passion. It’s not easy to see past the fear and it will require consistent effort to not allow it to cloud your vision, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find some important truths there.
These things are what can help you become who you’ve always dreamed of being.
But beware; what you find when looking inward is not always what it appears to be.
Analyze deeply whether the things you desire (or believe will make you happy or fulfilled) are things of worth and substance.
How do you feel when you’re doing whatever it is you believe makes you truly happy?
Do they inspire you? Do you truly enjoy doing them? Or do you do them grudgingly because you think you “should”?
Do you think you want those things, but then find every excuse to avoid taking the actions required to achieve what you’re dreaming about? This generally means that you aren’t truly sincere about wanting those things in the first place.
As you write a list of things you want to do to build your new life, only pursue things you truly love. By doing so, you’ll be sincere in your endeavors, and you’ll put real effort into pursuing them.
7. Try to accept these changes with courage and grace.
Often, when people lose things, their instant response is to grasp to get it back, but they need to ask themselves whether they really and truly want it.
Were you happy and fulfilled where you were?
What were the negative aspects and repercussions about the situation(s) you were in?
Sometimes, what feels amazing and ideal in the moment, thinking that’s what we really wanted, turns out to be less than ideal in hindsight.
Acceptance is not something that simply happens, however. It’s a mental process like any other.
Every time you feel yourself longing for the past life that might now be beyond rescuing, you have to bring your mind back to the positives of your new situation.
Revisit that gratitude list. Make a new one in your mind at that precise moment to reflect the good that’s around you.
The more you can feel better about your new situation, the easier it will be to accept it rather than fight against it.
That’s not to say that your feeling that you’ve ruined your life isn’t valid. It’s absolutely okay to experience many difficult emotions when your life has been turned upside down, especially when it is through your own actions.
You should feel these feelings and allow yourself to work through them. Don’t bottle them up and hope that they’ll disappear because they’ll only resurface at a later point.
Accept the situation you find yourself in, accept the feelings you feel, but also accept that inevitable reality that things will improve with time.
8. Identify actions you can take to improve your situation.
First and foremost, try to be comfortable with your current discomfort. Yes, things are difficult right now, and that’s okay.
Try to avoid running from or numbing the pain because those things will not address the causes of your discomfort.
The best way to feel better is to take action.
So, return to your list that details who you want to be and the kind of life you want to create.
Then, work backwards from that end point and construct a number of steps that are needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
Turn these steps into goals – both long term goals and the short term goals that lead to them.
Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. Merely getting off the couch is the first step to being able to run a marathon.
By doing just a bit of effort every single day, you’re working toward the person you want to be.
9. Don’t allow fear to hold you back.
Your belief that you have ruined your life may be born out of fear. You are afraid that you may not be living up to your potential. You are afraid that you have let others down. You are afraid that you are going to suffer because of the choices you made.
Fear can make you feel powerless, which can mean you don’t take positive action to make your situation better. Fear is especially paralyzing when your past actions are what have gotten you into your current situation in the first place. You may be afraid of making things worse than they already are.
Fear breeds doubt in your abilities. Fear breeds lethargy. Fear breeds excuses. You need to break down the walls of your fear in order to see that not only is your life not ruined, but it’s got every chance of being happy and successful if you do the necessary things to make it so.
Often the best way to overcome a fear is to expose yourself to it head on. By doing the things you are afraid of, you prove your mind wrong when those things lead to positive – or, at least, neutral – results.
10. Do things that generate positive emotions.
Aside from the gratitude list you’ve already made, there are plenty of things that you can do to feel good in the present moment.
And while they cannot fix the problems in your life, they can give you the resilience and motivation you’ll need to get past this difficult stage.
A positive emotion amidst all the negativity you are probably feeling right now could be enough to pull you out of a downward spiral and see the opportunity that you’re now being presented with.
Some of these things might include:
Getting out into nature: there is something so mentally and emotionally cleansing about escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immersing yourself in a natural environment.
Visit some green spaces, the ocean, lakes, or pretty much anywhere away from the concrete jungle of our towns and cities. Try not to take your phone with you if you can, or keep it on silent and avoid looking at it.
Hobbies you already enjoy: when you feel like you’ve ruined your life, it can be easy to give up on the activities you currently do on a regular basis. After all, who cares about that team sport or jam making when you’ve screwed up and are facing the consequences?
But you did those hobbies for a reason, and that reason was hopefully that you enjoyed them. Sure, you may not get quite so much enjoyment from them right now, but they can help to give your mind a rest from the worries of your life and boost the feel-good chemicals your body releases.
Spending time with people whose company you enjoy: you might feel like shutting yourself away from the world right now, but I’d urge you not to. Social interaction with the right people will make you feel better.
You can discuss your problems if you like and see if they have any advice, but it might be a better idea to talk about something else instead. Ask them about their life; get them talking and really take an interest in what they are saying.
Engaging with other people will make you realize that life goes on and you have people in your life who love and care about you.
Moving your body: you might not be much of an exercise person, but there are great mental health benefits to getting active and raising your heart rate.
Not only is it empowering to know that you can run or swim or walk and push yourself, your body releases endorphins and other chemicals as you do it which improve your mood.
11. Address any mental health issues you may have.
The lens through which you see your life can be tinted in various ways depending on your state of mind. If you think your life is ruined, there’s a good chance that you are seeing it from a rather negative perspective, and that could be down to a mental health condition that makes it difficult to see the positives.
When you are suffering from depression, for instance, it is hard to be optimistic about your life or your future. It can be hard to muster enthusiasm of any kind, and this will make it difficult to act in the ways you need to act to get your life back on the right track.
Low self-esteem can also be a roadblock to personal growth and the improvement of your life. If you don’t hold a very high opinion of yourself, you won’t believe yourself capable or worthy of enjoying better circumstances than those you currently face.
And anxiety about your future can be crippling. If you are constantly stressed and worried that you’re failing at life, you might not have the mental energy reserves to persevere with the plan of action you need to make your future look a little more rosy.
These and other mental health issues should be addressed with the help of a professional as soon as possible. Not only will you then be able to see your life in a better light, you’ll feel more able to tackle some of the issues that might be holding you back.
12. Give yourself a break.
Finally, you need to avoid blaming yourself over and over again for ruining your life.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t take responsibility – because you 100% should if this is a situation of your own making – but there is a big difference between responsibility and blame.
Taking responsibility means owning what you did whereas blaming yourself means finding fault in who you are as a person.
Taking responsibility is the thought, “I know I made a mistake.” Blaming yourself is the thought, “I am stupid, weak, useless.”
See the difference?
So don’t be so hard on yourself for whatever actions you took that led to where you are now.
Sure, it might represent a flaw, but we’re all flawed in many ways. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
If you are to pull things together and take forward steps toward a brighter future, you need to be kind to yourself and be patient with yourself.
If all you do is talk yourself down – both out loud and in your head – you’ll find it more difficult to take the kind of positive action that is required.
Still not sure how to move forwards if you think you’ve ruined your life? Speak to a life coach today who can walk you through the process. Simply fill out this short form to get quotes from several coaches along with details of how they can help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I stop being such a loser?
‘Being a loser’ is a mindset; a view you have of yourself that is far removed from the reality of who you are. So the main thing you can do is to shift that mindset to one where you are far more positive and compassionate about yourself as a person.
It’s simple, but make no mistake, it is not always easy. Your thoughts and feelings will not change overnight and you will need to do some work to change them. You need to be more objective about your life and your accomplishments and accept that you have done better than you give yourself credit for, even if your current situation is not the one you had hoped to be in.
You ought to avoid comparing yourself and your life with others and their lives. That is a road to ruin that many people unfortunately walk down. You are not those other people and what you see of their lives is a mere fraction of their overall truth. They experience many of the same doubts as you and go through rough patches too. Putting them and their lives on a pedestal is not healthy.
There’s a lot more to it, of course, which is why we recommend you read our article on how to stop feeling like a loser.
When is it too late to turn your life around?
Short answer: never. It depends on your drive and willingness to make your future into something you want it to be. You could be 80 and still achieve goals that you doubted you could achieve when you were much younger.
Sure, you might have to reassess certain goals as time goes by and be realistic about what you can and can’t do – physically and mentally – but the potential for a happier and more fulfilling life is always there.
Just remember this: the sooner you get started, the longer you’ll have to reap the rewards of your efforts. There is no time like the present.
How can I start my life again from scratch?
If you feel that you have genuinely ruined your life, you might be wondering whether you can just start again with a blank slate. In some respects, yes you can. You can change all the circumstances of your life and try to start afresh.
The key is that this has to include your mindset if your new life is to work out better than your current one. You cannot take a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence with you and expect to forge a beautiful new life that somehow cures these things. The same goes for mental health issues too.
But, the process of addressing those things is one of the major steps in restarting your life and giving yourself a second chance.
Other than the mental side of things, you’ll probably want to move to a new location – possibly even a new country – to help sever the ties you have to all the things that bring you down in your current life. Putting physical distance between you and the things and people who aren’t good for your mental health can be liberating.
Don’t expect it to be easy – you’ll need to put the work in to making new friends, finding work (or more likely forging a new career if your old one didn’t bring you joy), and being more independent.
A fresh start will come with its own worries because a blank canvas means freedom, and freedom can be daunting when it involves major decisions about what your new life will look like.
But it can be done and many people take this kind of leap into the unknown every single day. You could be next.
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- How To Cope When Going Through Life Transitions