Have you ever heard one of those country music songs in which the singer is lamenting his fate?
Usually it goes something along the lines of his wife has gone run off with someone else, taking his pickup truck and dog with her, and then his favorite wheelbarrow broke, and a drought wiped out his corn, and and and…
…you get the idea.
Well, that kind of thing can happen in real life, albeit in a slightly less twangy scenario.
Many people will one day find themselves at rock bottom. A place where literally everything in their lives goes wrong all at once. Where they’re left lying in a heap by the side of the road, whether metaphorically or literally.
Should you find yourself in a heap like that, there are a few solid ways for you to get your life back on track.
Accept The Hell Out Of The Situation
Western culture has convinced many people that we need to be positive all the time, no matter what the situation.
This can actually do far more harm than good. It forces people to put on a false front of positivity instead of being authentic about the fact that everything has gone to hell, but they are working on making it better.
That doesn’t mean that we should just lie there in that ditch, bemoaning our fate. It means we should use the opportunity to be present about the situation so we can better understand it, and the next steps forward.
It’s only by being honest with ourselves about where we are in the moment, and contemplating all the factors that brought us there, that we will be able to improve our situation.
In her book When Things Fall Apart, renowned Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön says:
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of sh*t and not squeamish about taking a good look.”
Being real, and open, and authentic about how we feel in a given situation is incredibly freeing.
We don’t have to pretend to feel something other than we do. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can be honest with others.
Triage To Determine What Can And Should Be Tackled First
In the grand scheme of “my life has gone to hell”-ishness, there are always degrees of urgency to prioritize.
For example, if your house burned down on the same day that you’ve lost your job, prioritize which is more important to you: being housed, or employed.
Most people would place housing at a higher priority than a job, so that would be the first thing to sort out.
Being housed and fed are two of the most important things you need to sort out. If those are already taken care of, you can shift your focus to the next point, which is…
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Take Responsibility For Your Life, And How You Got To Where You Are
It’s very rare that things happen to us without us contributing to the situation or being involved in it in some way.
Did your relationship fall apart? Now is the time to be honest with yourself about all the factors that led to it.
Did you get fired at work? Okay, why? If you really don’t know, ask your (now previous) employers what led to your being let go.
Make a list of everything you feel has chucked you in the deep end. Then take the time to be very self-aware about the factors that led up to each misery.
For example, if your relationship finally ended because you were sabotaging it, because you weren’t “present,” or because your partner/spouse cheated on you, take some time to really figure out why all of that happened.
Were you with this person out of a sense of obligation, rather than a sincere desire to be in a loving, equal relationship with them?
Had you lost attraction to them and withdrawn from any intimacy, pushing them toward someone else?
If you were fired from your job, was it because you hated it and were thus careless in your work?
Did you call in sick a lot? Were you passive-aggressive toward others in the workplace?
Did you lose your entire life savings because you went on a shopping spree?
Determine why it was that you felt you needed to buy all that “stuff.” What internal chasm were you trying to fill with material possessions?
Whatever happened, please be compassionate with yourself. We all make mistakes at times, but that’s how we learn and grow.
In fact, determining the contributing factors behind our not-so-great actions is valuable, because it allows us to make major changes in our lives.
Consider that when you hit rock bottom, you can’t sink any lower. You have the opportunity to begin again and rebuild your life.
Be Honest About What Makes You Unhappy, And What Brings You Joy
This goes along well with the previous self-awareness step quite well.
If you lost your job because you hated it, now is the ideal time for a career shift.
What was it about the previous job that you loathed so much? Were you in a career that you went to school for, but resented and sabotaged?
Okay then: what would you prefer to do?
How can you best serve other people?
What skills do you have that you want to use on a daily basis?
It’s incredibly important to sort out what makes you unhappy, and what would make you happy instead.
There are people who left highly paid jobs to work in nonprofits or nature reserves because those are the situations that their hearts were longing for.
Similarly, there are people who had spent most of their lives in long-term relationships, but were elated to be single for a while.
This is your opportunity to rewrite your life’s script, and move in a direction that you’ve always wanted to go.
Make a list of your priorities and a solid step-by-step action plan about how you will go about achieving them. Then follow this plan to find your bliss.
Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out To Others
Remember that there is no shame in asking others for help when you need it.
You’re probably one of the first people willing to lend a hand when someone you care about is going through a hard time. Others undoubtedly feel the same way toward you in turn.
No person is an island unto themselves, and communities exist to support one another.
Whether it’s your family, your close friends, your spiritual community, or your cultural hub, chances are they will be willing to lend a hand to help get your life back on track.
Be honest with them about what’s going on, and where it is you want to go.
Make it clear that you are striving toward goals rather than foundering around in the muck, and you may be amazed at how they’ll step forward to help make that happen for you.
When you give people an opportunity to be awesome, they are often far more awesome than you might expect.
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