We all feel lost at one point of our life. Yep, all of us. What else would explain the robust amount of self-help books in store? And you know what? Feeling lost is OK. Because without challenges, we would never recognize our strengths.
But when your are in that miserable moment, it can be overwhelmingly difficult.
In today’s post I’m going to show you the 5 steps that will get you through struggles without losing your positive attitude. These steps helped me get over the most difficult times of my life. They also helped me get a great job, my first online sales and more confidence and determination in what I want to do in my life. Believe me, a year ago my life was in pieces and it was hard to see the light…
LOST DEEP IN THE TUNNEL
2015 late October… Toronto’s busiest railway hub, Union Station seemed like an ocean of black, puffy winter coats. A jungle, filled with the buzz of hundreds of people and the sweet smell of thickly glazed Tim Hortons doughnuts. I was standing in one of the cave-like underground tunnel that lead from the platforms to the ticket offices and… well to other cave-like tunnels.
I had a firm determination on my face even though part of my life just fell apart. My husband lost his job, I was at the end of my maternity leave and we had to leave Cute, Bohemian Montreal for Big, Busy Toronto where we know almost nobody. To escape from the long, cruel Canadian winter, we decided to fly back to Hungary and spend the holidays with our family and friends.
But there was one tiny problem in our genius plan: I had to travel all by myself… except of course my tiny travel companion, our one-year old son who was hanging on me in a baby carrier. My husband were driving a UHaul filled with all our stuff from Montreal to Toronto and only joined us weeks later.
I looked to my right: a big, black Samsonite with an eventful history was staring at me with bad anticipation. On the top of it, tied to the handle was a hell of a monstrum Chicco car seat planning to fall any minute dragging the suitcase with itself.
I looked to my left: a smaller Ruby red baggage was covered with our coats, with a life-saving diaper bag and my laptop backpack on top… My Montreal life squeezed into a handful of luggage.
I looked at my son. He was sleeping peacefully.
“What will happen next? How will I get home?” It seemed impossible without turning into Hulk’s female equivalent. I felt even more lost for a second. Then I did my first step out of the tunnel…
Step #1: Grab a book
When you’re feeling lost, the first and most important to remember: you have to leave Self-Pity behind.
Self-Pity isn’t cool, it’s not sexy and it will never be. The only thing it does is alienating the friends who are there to support you. So leave your miserable self behind. Just cover her with 5 layers of comforter and let it stay in bed. She will try to go after you and pull you back with her. But the more actions you take to improve your situations, the less likely she succeeds.
I’m quite lucky in this. Although self-pity sometimes drops by for a visit, I’m quite good to turn her down after a few minutes of chit-chat. I’m an Optimistic Idealist for life.
But what about those who have less luck? My most important advice for them is to read.
“Read, that easy?” – you might ask.
Well… read a lot. And not just the Reader’s Digest. Be the Queen of Bookworms.
How can books help you to leave Self-Pity behind?
- Stories trigger your inner child. Have you ever saw a kid giving up or feeling miserable (well maybe around September). You inner kid is the opposite of your Self-Pity. She has hope, energy and she wants to enjoy life.
- There’s no better way to experience hundreds of years of wisdom than reading a lot. Reading helps you learn about yourself, the reasons you have your challenges and how others dealt with them before you.
- Stories put your situation in context and inspire you. What you might feel impossible to solve suddenly shrink into a tiny no-brainer when you’re reading about heroes fighting for freedom, explorers pushing their limits.
You don’t have time for reading? What about audio books? Even the most frustrating traffic jam can turn into an exciting journey when you switch your radio to an audio book.
Step #2: Have a Strong Vision
During my journey from Montreal to Toronto and to Budapest, I had one main goal: getting home to Hungary. But when you’re feeling lost, goals don’t always help. Even when you make awesome Smart Goals life does not become easier, motivation does not come quicker. You must have a clear, driving vision that worth the struggle.
You must have a clear, driving vision that worth the struggle. Click To Tweet
A picture you see when you close your eyes. Something so important that you would fight with crocodiles, or eat the smelliest blue cheese on Earth if that leads you closer.
On that crazy day at Union Station, I closed my eyes and I imagined hugging my parents and friends, seeing my sister’s newborn son for the first time and taste my grandma’s delicious Christmas menu.
Sounds lame? Not at all! You can have “small” visions for small projects (like mine was at that time) and big visions that define how you want to live your life. Some people call this a life purpose but I prefer the word vision because it demands you to visualize the outcome.
Don’t forget: your vision can change over time, as of course your personality changes too. So don’t be shy or too perfectionist, create yours now.
Here’s 3 tips to create your vision:
- Write down the values you find the most important. Imagine how would it feel to reach the top level of these values. What would the top level mean for you? Would you have freedom, a nice beach house and a happy family? Or maybe you would have your own little bamboo forest with chubby pandas playing around happily? It’s your choice. Create a collage to visualize the top level of your values.
- Start a dream book or board. Your vision is like a dream. A dream that you are ready to take actions for. Fill your vision book with photos, quotes, articles cut out from magazines.
- Picture your Hollywood movie trailer. You know those movie trailers that are exciting, raise curiosity and make you want to go to the cinema immediately? What about imagining one that tells the story of your future life? Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to grab a camera for this step and it’s ok if you’re not Steven Spielberg. Just close your eyes and imagine your future life like it would be a Hollywood movie. You might need to repeat this to see all the details. Jot down all the details into your journal or use it to add more details to your dream book.
- Read The Right Brain Business Plan from Jennifer Lee – she has even more tips on how to visualize your business (or life) dreams.
These tools only make sense if you regularly revisit them. So don’t hide that dream book in the depth of your drawer. Keep it by your bed or in your office. This way you’ll be able to easily get some extra motivation in the most difficult times.
Step #3 : Don’t eat the elephant in one sitting
When you’re feeling lost, big visions can easily intimidate you. They seem unachievable, unrealistic so you procrastinate to do the first step that would actually take you closer. And before you blink twice, you find yourself at the border of “Give up” Land.
Instead, cut your plan into bite-size steps and do something – even something small – each day to get closer to your vision.
At Union Station, I was looking for the next clue, that could take me to the airport shuttle train. I wasn’t worrying if I have to pay extra for my luggage at the airport check-in. I wasn’t thinking about the flight and how will I sleep and eat with a baby in my lap. My eyes were looking for maps and signs showing me the right direction. Not worrying about all these questions made my journey much more efficient and pleasant.
Note: There’s two productivity books that I highly recommend because they teach you how to break big projects into smaller, achievable steps:
Step #4: Ask for help
As much as I believe that reading can help you, I also believe that we can’t grow without the help of our family and friends. And even strangers!
We can't grow without the help of our family and friends. Click To Tweet
I’m lucky because I lived in a city (Montreal) where people were quite laid back and also eager to help others. We lived in downtown, just a few corners away from the central train station. The same day, a few hours earlier than my arrival to Toronto, I faced a logistic challenge: getting all the luggage from our door to the train station. As always, I was optimistic… It’s just a few blocks, eh?
A few blocks… uphill.
You must know, that the name Montreal comes from Mount Royal. The whole downtown area is built on the side of Mount Royal hill. While it’s not even close to Mount Everest, it still enough for a great, San Fransisco-style exercise. And in my case, enough for a big fight with my disobeying suitcases. I soon found myself dripping with sweat, feeling lost again.
Fortunately a young man came to my help. I almost refused, because I like to be able to solve my own problems. But I had to admit that I would never made it up to the train station without him.
Why are we so afraid of asking help? Is it pride? Is it because we want to look capable and confident?
We live in a world where everyone’s Facebook profile is perfect, filled with rainbows and unicorns. Admitting that we need help while our friends’ life looks so awesome is difficult. But why do we have friends if we can’t be totally honest with them?
Believe me they are as human as you with the weird combination of struggles, plans, anxiety and hope. So put your pride aside, call you friends and ask them to drop by. If a total stranger was so eager to carry 20 pounds of baby clothes, your bestie will be more than likely to knock on your door with a big box of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy and a huge hug.
Step # 5: Open Your Positivity Bank Acount
With hard work, hope and belief, you will overcome any challenge. And the funny thing, it won’t even feel as big a deal than at the beginning. This is the time when you must stop for a few seconds and be proud of yourself. Write down in your journal:
- the things you learnt from that challenge,
- the goals you achieved,
- who helped you,
- who and what are you grateful for,
- which one of your skills helped you deal with the problem
- what made you the proudest
Think about it as a bank account. When you have lots of positivity, you can save up some for later. New challenges will come with a new load of confidence issues and tears. But when you re-visit your Positivity Bank account, you’ll see how much you have achieved already. You’ll be able to withdraw some of your past positive experience to gain new strength.
I learned from my travel experience that bit of determination can get me anywhere in the world. And I think that’s pretty awesome. And when I say, get anywhere, I don’t only mean a travel destination. These 5 steps kept me optimistic when I was applying for jobs in Toronto.
A few days ago, after 8 month in an in house design team, my boss came to me and said that the very reason he found me sympathetic is my attitude. They hired me and promoted me after 6 month of work because of my positive, “can do” attitude. Because of the 5 steps I took when nothing looked as sunny and promising.
Now it’s your turn: what helped you when you were feeling lost and you had to face challenges?
Share it in the comments. I’m really curious about your past experience in dealing with life or business problems.