Start Living Your Bucket List Today!

Bucket lists – somewhat sad depending on how you look at them.

You see, in our culture right now, many people only begin to work their lists when it’s too late. A doctor announces that you have a few months to live and, all of a sudden, things that were at the back of your mind suddenly become important.

Frankly, that’s the sad part.

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Most people are not living. They are deferring their lives to some future unknown date when they expect to be miraculously free to live…finally! Apparently, they will be free from work, free from their responsibilities to their spouses, free from their responsibilities to their children, and free from everything that has been (allegedly) standing in their way all this time.

“I want to travel the world.”

“I want to learn how to play a musical instrument.”

“I want to spend more time with my kids.”

“I want to start my side business.”

“I want to go sailing.”

“I want to see the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

Oh, the lists are endless…

Most people will never get even half of them done.

British Playwright James M. Barrie once said, “The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

Just look at the yearly resolutions. Many people end the year with the same list they had at the beginning. Things will never change unless you make that decision.

A New Approach to Living

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When YOLO (You Only Live Once) started trending, it carried a negative connotation of people who don’t realise the extent of responsibility in life. Was it just something young people say? For example, can the head of an organisation with employees who depend on him/her go out to live his/her life or do they have to conform to a scripted life so that everybody under their leadership gets something for their families to eat?

Perhaps, there is another way to look at this. A better way. Why can’t the boss live and still create a great business that meets the needs of employees and customers? Why does it have to be an either-or proposition?

The above predicament is why there have been numerous discussions about life-work balance in the last few years. People know they are missing many things because they have to work to get the pay cheque. For example, some parents barely see their kids. They either leave for work early or get home late when the kids are already asleep. Their children’s entire childhood is passing right before their eyes and they can do nothing about it.

Our cultures create the expectation that you have to work very hard and save up some money so that you can do everything you ever wanted once you retire from your job. That’s sad.

There is a lot of living that people are missing. The time to live is NOW. The time to hold your loved ones is NOW. The time to be quit that dead-end job is NOW. The time to start doing something you’ve always wanted to do is NOW. The time to take risks is NOW. Do everything NOW. You don’t know what awaits you tomorrow.

Someone who postponed going jogging every day is now in a wheelchair. Someone who always wanted to sing has been diagnosed with throat cancer. The person who never took the time to enjoy their surroundings is now blind. Several people in different parts of the world have just suffered a stroke and their lives are changed forever. How long do you plan to wait before you start living?

Effects of Living

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This is what living will do for you:

  1. Make you Happy

You will be smiling from ear to ear and you will have a great positive energy about you. You will create great memories with your friends and family. You will be healthier than many other people in the world will. For years, researchers have shown there is a link between negative emotions and poor health. Having a positive outlook on life (e.g. being happy, optimistic, enthusiastic etc) makes a great difference to your health.

According to a Harvard Magazine article written by Sara Rimer in 2011, Associate Professor Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) said, “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed.” She also added, “Everyone needs to find a way to be in the moment to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”

  1. Help you Grow

The more you do, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you grow. The more you grow, the better you will be at making decisions that will affect your life. Some people are stuck in jobs they don’t like but a trip away from the office gives them a new perspective of what they would want to do in their lives.

  1. Give you Perspective

When you are not living, you tend to have a narrow view of the world. When you push your boundaries, your skills, or your experiences, you get a sense of what’s important to you and how you should react to things that are out of your control.

There is an African saying that says, “If you think you have problems, go visit a hospital and you’ll see people with bigger problems.” (Paraphrase). The idea behind this saying is to give you a perspective of what you are going through.

  1. It will Inspire you

Living is inspiring. You find yourself wanting to do more things; trying new things. Every day you wake up energised because you look forward to what the day might bring. That’s usually not the case with depressed people. They can barely get out of bed. They have nothing to look forward to. They don’t have hope for the future. They are so miserable that they push everyone they love away.

You will find that when you are inspired to live your life to the fullest, other people gravitate toward you. Many opportunities will also start presenting themselves in your life. You might even end up changing careers if that’s something you were thinking about.

  1. Fill you with Love

The most important thing in life is love. When you start living fully, you will draw love into your life and spread love to others. It will be a perfect cycle. Many people in the world are desperate for love, but you will be overflowing with it. That’s what you get when you start living.

So what are you waiting for? Make your bucket list today. Do not wait until you are about to die before doing something about it. Start living your bucket list TODAY.

 

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Do You Have ‘Bounce Back’ Ability?

I was recently surprised by someone’s actions. One day they were sad, not psyched up to do anything – either feeling lazy or just unwilling to get out of bed; then the next day they were buzzing around full of energy.

It might not be a remarkable feat since many people do that and have done that before. What piqued my curiosity is how some people are able to pick themselves up while others wallow in their sadness till it trickles into other areas of their lives. Next thing you know, they are sucking the joy out of an engaging conversation or they are complaining about how life has been unfair to them.

Which person are you: the one that wallows or the one that picks themselves up? Where do these positive people get this bounce back ability and how can you get this trait today?

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Life is full of roses…and thorns!

I have said it before, life can be difficult. You hear all these motivation gurus say that the world is your mirror and if you are being negative then you will attract negative stuff into your life. In truth, life just happens. Even the most positive people get unexpected curveballs in their lives.

For instance, you get a phone call from the office telling you to come and pick up your stuff because you’ve been laid off. Then they insult you by saying it’s not that you were doing a bad job, it’s just the economy is in shambles. How do you respond to that? What if you have a family and they were counting on that pay check? What if you had just taken a loan and now you don’t have the income to pay it back? What if you had a medical condition and being employed helped you tap into the health insurance cover your employer provided. Where do you get the money now?

While all this is hypothetical, there are people who have gone through such problems; probably even worse. It is in stories such as these that you discover whether you have a bounce back ability or not. Some people lie down and complain about the problems they are facing. They go around looking for an audience to hear their sob stories. In time, they refine their stories to the point that deep down they enjoy sharing it. Other people try to get back up as quickly as possible.

Here is how you can bounce back:

  1. Don’t let yourself wallow

I’ve read before that if you are feeling sad you should allow yourself to feel sad and that it will eventually ebb away. Some of us look for every excuse to listen to our favourite sad songs. The musicians just seem to understand exactly what we are going through. But isn’t life too short to spend it being sad? Wouldn’t you rather be smiling?

Recently, I’ve discovered this principle that while feelings cause actions, actions can also cause feelings. For instance, if you are sad (feeling) you are likely to listen to sad music (action). However, if you listen to uplifting music (action) you are going to be happier (feeling). Try it out.

Writers and people in other creative professions understand this concept well. If you don’t feel like writing, you will stare at your Microsoft Word for hours. But if you decide to start writing something anyway, you will start feeling psyched up to write even more than you had originally planned and the words will keep flowing.

  1. Take out the emotion and understand your problem

Simply put, you can’t fight against what you don’t understand. For those who’ve had a big problem such as being fired unexpectedly, it usually comes as a hammer blow. Your emotions are all over the place. What’s worse, fear starts to kick in spinning all types of tales about your imminent demise. It is a bad place to be mentally.

If you can somehow strip away all the emotions you are feeling and confront your problem with solutions in mind, you will be able to come to terms with your situation.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Figure out what you are good at e.g. perhaps this is your chance to become a freelancer in writing, a consultant, a businessman, a salesman, develop a product from home etc.
  • If your quality of work led to you being fired, come up with ideas on how to tackle that problem so that it doesn’t threaten your next job.
  • Could you go back to school to improve your credentials?
  • Had you been planning to take a break from work to go on a sabbatical or extended holiday?
  • Do you have a connected network that can help you get a new job?

These are all ideas that can take the emotion out and help you focus on solutions.

  1. Go for counselling

There is a stigma around seeking support through counselling sessions no matter what problem you are facing.

Counselling should not always be used as a last resort.

It helps you get out of your head and see your problems from a different perspective. You get to speak to someone who is concerned about your well-being and wants to see you get back on your feet again. Most importantly, you get to share your thoughts and fears in a non-judgemental environment. Going for counselling can help you bounce back sooner than you would have if you did it alone.

Plus, it doesn’t always have to be a professional counsellor. Maybe you have someone who cares for you and always gives you an ear when you need advice. Seek them out and share with them. As I always say, be there for others also. If you see someone who you think is struggling with a problem, reach out to them and offer to help them find solutions.

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  1. Take it on the Chin

Unfortunately, the more you go through negative situations and come out of them ‘alive’, you build character which helps you every time you face adversity. Bounce back ability is a learned trait.

What happened the first time you fell off your bike? You had to get up and try again till you finally got it. That is true of life. You will face different tough situations and each time you will have to decide whether you will shy away or you will take on the problem head on. The more you face your demons, the greater your bounce back ability will become.

  1. Have faith

I am reminded of the story of the origin of the Christian song ‘It is well with my soul’. This man put his family on a ship and was going to meet up with them later but then received word that the ship had capsized. What a devastating moment! But do you know what happened when his ship got to the spot where his family had died? He wept for them and wrote “It is well; it is well with my soul”. You can imagine all the pain he felt at that moment. Yet he spoke from a point of faith that everything will be okay.

It would be a lie if I said that you won’t have scars; that you won’t face overwhelming battles. That is just part of life. The key is to have faith that everything will be okay in the end. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, “It is much easier to have faith when everything is going well.” But it is in those moments when you are afraid, when you are in pain, when you are beaten down that you have to find a way to have faith. Once you lay hold of it and believe in a positive outcome, you are able to cope with whatever you are facing.

All these tips will help you as you develop your bounce back ability. Just remember, even fighters who are champions get hit from time to time. The only difference is they keep coming back over and over again until their problem (the other fighter) is defeated. You can bounce back as well!

 

Happy New Year!!!

Sometimes it feels like a whole year has just flown by. But in truth, a lot happened last year; you experienced more, learned more, and became more.

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With the start of 2016,  I am wishing you a great year filled with blessings, lessons, growth, peace and joy.

If you have a blog, may this be the year that you work out new ways of engaging with your audience and meeting their needs. If you are a reader, may you discover endless ‘mind riches’ through all the blogs you follow and those that you will discover.

To all those focused on mental health, may you learn more about the subject and about yourself. May you gain valuable insights that may help you help those who are experiencing mental health problems. I hope to play a role in that journey.

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Life is going to throw a lot of surprises at you this year; some good, others bad. But all in all, the most important thing will be the state of your mind and how well you take care of it. Please do not forget to also look out for the well-being of others.

All the best to you in your lifelong pursuit of happiness.

World Mental Health Day: Key Points From Social Media

Today is World Mental Health Day!

It is a day to raise awareness on mental health illnesses. For others, it is celebration of triumph over diseases and conditions that strike at the heart of our being.

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Many people probably didn’t notice this day or even know much about it. That sounds eerily similar to the indifference observed when it comes to issues of mental health.

But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes, unless you have been touched by a situation, a person, a condition, or a disease, it is unlikely that you will care a lot (or at all) about a certain issue. That’s why it is important to speak up and let others know what’s going on. Here is where social media comes in.

Key Points from Social Media about Mental Health

The interesting lesson from today is that a lot of people DO CARE about mental health issues. Just browsing around social media, you realize that you are just one voice among many; hoping that other people will awaken to the reality that mental illnesses are among us and there are those struggling everyday with such issues.

Here is a list of some of the key points that people shared:

  1. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health

One of the greatest frustrations for those who know about mental health issues is that people don’t think it matters as much as physical health. Check your blood pressure; check your heart beat. But no one is wondering about the mind.

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The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body.

Just look around the internet and you will see more “work out your body” pieces and few “mental workout programs”. It’s just not as important.

We are here to say “Mental Health is Very Important”.

  1. Mental Illness does not discriminate

It does not matter who you are, what you do, where you are from, who you know or how much you workout, mental illness can affect anyone.

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Knowing this should make people stop all the name calling, shaming and stigmatizing because mental illness can affect you as well as your friends and loved ones.

  1. People should stop trivializing Mental Health

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Have you ever heard a statement that sounds something like this: “I didn’t have anything to do today; I’m sooo [sic] depressed”? This is just one of the things people do. They don’t understand that there is a world of difference between simply being sad (or bored) and being depressed.

There were other comments on social media such as “Bipolar disorder is not being moody”. These are just a few examples of how people trivialize issues that affect many lives. If people had any idea what others go through – how much pain and sadness others feel as they are struggling with mental illnesses – then they would show more compassion.

  1. You are NOT Alone

I’ve said it before but when you are going through a mental health issue, it is easy to feel that you are the only one suffering; That life chose to punish you.

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The reality is that there are many other people from all over the world going through their own version of pain. Like you, they have had to suffer in silence. When they tried to raise their voices, they were shamed. People just don’t understand until they have walked a mile in your shoes.

But fear not; you are not alone. There are many people who have a sense of what you are going through. There are many organizations and groups geared toward raising awareness and helping to find solutions for mental problems.

  1. Take care of your health

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Another point was that people need to take responsibility for their health. Go for check ups, analyze your family’s mental health history, take the medicine prescribed to you for your mental illness and educate yourself on mental health.

  1. There is a lot of support out there

Who do you turn to when your life is in turmoil? As I have said before, it is good to have a support system around you.

The beauty of our interconnected world means that you can join support groups online and you can meet people going through similar mental illnesses and exchange ideas.

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It was also great to see comments from people who have had mental health problems encouraging others and saying things like “You are not alone” and “Things get better eventually”.

Take heart and believe that you will find a way to manage your condition or cope with a loved one’s struggle with illness. It will not be easy, but you can find a way.

Takeaway

It is great to see a lot of people united in spreading the message of love for those with mental health problems. No matter what problem you have, do not be ashamed; it was not your choice to become mentally ill.

We love you and wish you well.

Depressing Music: Is it Bad for You?

Some songs seem to resonate deep inside you. You don’t know why and you don’t know how, but every core of your being tells you that this song was made just for you.

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Even with all the dangers that depression poses to our lives, we seem unabashedly drawn to sad songs. You feel the sadness coursing through you. Your eyes well up as you feel the pain the artist is expressing. All the experiences you’ve ever had that relate to the song spring quickly to your mind. This song was made just for you.

Why are we so drawn to depressing music?

Music has always been an integral part of human culture. Particular sounds – even the basic humming of a song – arouse our curiosity and activate our pleasure centers. Everything about life is about rhythm. Our hearts move to a particular beat. We walk to a particular rhythm. Even the birds gliding together in the sky seem to be moving to a particular rhythm. They are the unnoticed songs of our lives.

But with a wide variety of music that we can choose from, why do we seem extremely drawn to sad songs?

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A study published in 2013 on Interpersonal Relationships and Preferences for Mood-Congruency in Aesthetic Experiences by  Chan Jean Lee, Eduardo B. Andrade, and Stephen E. Palmer said that the songs we choose to listen to are influenced by our most recent life experiences.

In another part of the world, researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, concluded in their journal that sad music comforts us and acts as a coping mechanism during trying times. In her interview on Today Health, one of the researchers, Liila Taruffi, said that sad music has the “potential to regulate negative moods and emotions, as well as to provide consolation… In this sense, sad music can play a role in well-being.” She also pointed out that sometimes we listen to sad music for “pleasure”.

This positive effect conclusion was also reached by researchers from the Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. In their published study in the Frontiers in Psychology journalthe consensus was that “Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness.”

Another study by researchers in the University of Kent and Limerick found that sad music improved people’s moods especially if the song was held in high aesthetic regard. Dr Annemieke van den Tol explained that “people’s music choice is linked to the individual’s own expectations for listening to music and its effects on them.”

Despite this glowing praise for depressing music – and the fact that we are the ones who choose to listen to it – is it possible that it has the potential to affect our health negatively? Unfortunately, Yes!

Potential Danger of Listening to Depressing Music

As we have said in past articles here and here, depression isn’t something that strikes you overnight. It is an insidious threat; slowly getting more and more power over your life until you feel overwhelmed. So why would you risk feeding such a dangerous adversary?

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Dr. Brian Primark, ​Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health and Society in the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, undertook a study on the effect of music on teens. He concludes that, “It is not clear whether depressed people begin to listen to more music to escape, or whether listening to large amounts of music can lead to depression, or both.

In the above quote he does not specify whether depressing music causes depression. He merely states that listening to music for long hours can cause depression. Very interesting.

But in the next quote he seems to draw the same conclusions as those from the researchers mentioned above:

“Sadness is a common theme in popular music, and it may be that individuals with depression turn to these messages to make themselves feel less alone in their sadness. Conversely, it may also be that individuals with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) turn to happy music to ‘tune out’ their negative moods or to elevate their moods.”

We tend to become what we normally feed our minds and what we repeatedly do. If we continually listen to dark and depressing music, this constant state of sadness, re enacting negative experiences and ruminating about our failures can turn into depression.

It is a fine line between allowing ourselves to feel pain and sadness in order to let it go, and actually letting sadness become our state of being. Those who already have a genetic disposition toward depression are even at greater risk.

Even though people use depressing music as an escape from their actual pain, it still holds sway over their feelings and emotions. Once the emotions get raw and intense, it can lead to other negative feelings of guilt, self-pity, anger and feeling unloved. Remember, depression takes over slowly.

Thoughts

So yet again, why would you risk feeding such a dangerous adversary? Is the pleasure you derive from the beautiful but depressing song worth the potential danger that it poses to your health? Does our desire to temporarily allow ourselves to feel sad enable us to cope with our feelings or are we slowly and slowly plunging ourselves into the clutches of depression?

We are using music to escape from our lives. We are trying to avoid facing the reality that we are in pain because of a negative experience that we have gone through. Feeding that pain and searing our hearts with the sad emotions that ensue when we listen to depressing music can alter the brain chemistry. Once the brain is affected, then we are already treading on a dangerous path. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Is it worth it?”.

Even as we come to terms with the potential pitfalls of music, we must still pay homage to something that is part of our being; something that moves us and inspires us to the greatest ideals in living. Friedrich Nietzsche put it best when he said, “Without music, life would be a mistake”.

Example that Choosing to Live is Better!

I was combing through the BBC Website when I came across an article that caught my eye. It was something familiar to me, in a sense, because I had heard a little bit about this man who does amazing things despite what most people would call “A major handicap”. You see, the man in question is Nick Vujicic; otherwise known as “The man without limbs”.

If you’ve ever had an injury to your arm or leg, you know how helpless you feel and how you constantly want to curse your bad luck. You just can’t wait till the day the doctor declares that you are healed. Now stop for a second and imagine having never had those hands or legs. How would you even survive?

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Nick Vujicic’s Story

Nicholas James Vujicic was born with a physical disability which doctors admitted was very rare. He has therefore lived the whole 32 years of his life without arms or legs.

Not many people would have made it through all those years without – what many people feel are – the necessary tools for survival in an already difficult world. Indeed, not even young Nick expected to survive with the reality of his life. He was born “different” and despite all the love he received from his family and friends, he already felt disadvantaged. This cloud of negativity hung over him for a long time and he became depressed. At only 10 years of age, he attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, he failed.

The struggle to cope with his physical, mental and emotional struggle took a great toll on the young man as it would for many of us. Though life offered him moments of joy, it was the bad moments which really weighed heavily on him. Therefore, he tried to commit suicide a few more times. Thankfully, again, he failed each time.

At age 17, he was inspired to become a public speaker and it was during his first attempt that a sobbing girl’s gratitude changed his outlook on life. As Nick says in one of his websites attitudeisaltitude.com, “I realized that we all need love and hope and that I was in a unique position to share that with people around the world”.

Choosing Your Attitude toward Life

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Nick now has several organizations such as LifeWithoutLimbs and AttitudeisAltitude which seek to help people in their lives through inspiration and by providing perspective. It is by no means a stretch to say that Nick Vujicic has helped millions of people. After all, how would you respond if someone handicapped was doing more in his life than you were with all your limbs and faculties intact? Yet, here is Nick, who can swim, type, speak in front of thousands of people, and even goes sky diving. He is happily married and has a child, just like any “normal” person.

Nick’s circumstances would have overwhelmed many people but he chose to have a positive attitude even when negative thoughts threatened to derail his life.

Many people give up when life continually throws obstacles their way. No one can stand in another man’s shoes and claim they would respond positively to any negative circumstances. The interesting thing though, is that positive attitudes and unshakeable willpower trump life’s obstacles any time.

It is difficult when dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. But as Nick Vujicic shows, your life is important. Just like him, you can turn your negative circumstances into a story that can inspire others to choose life over death.

Just from following Nick’s example, you can lay claim to the attitude that the future holds something positive for your life. So choose life today!

Find the Meaning in the Suffering

Life isn’t easy. It can be painful especially when you’ve tried so many times and still failed. This is the point when you just throw your hands in the air and declare, “I have had enough of this!”

Who could blame you for giving up? After all, you have tried and tried without much to show for your efforts. That’s not the issue though. The problem is what is going through your mind right now. By putting the label ‘failure’ to your experience you have altered the mindset you should really have about what has happened. Thus, you are now feeling depressed because you think that you are not good enough. At worst, you are even contemplating suicide. There are a lot of people who are winning and achieving great things, therefore, you mistakenly think that no one will miss a failure like you.

Hope in the midst of suffering

But I wonder; after putting so much effort into succeeding, will you let all your energy, desire, work and effort go to waste by stopping now? You have suffered a lot already. See it through to the end. Someone once said, “When you are exercising, the real work out begins when you are tired”. It BEGINS when you are tired. Not when you are strong, motivated, or succeeding. The real work begins the moment you want to give up.

In life, it’s never really what you accomplish, but rather, who you become by accomplishing a particular goal. You learn new things; you build your character; you build your strength; and you increase your belief the moment you decide to push through the pain. What would have become of the electric bulb if Thomas Edison had given up after failing over a thousand times? You have something to give to the rest of the world. You might not know what that is right now. Nevertheless, the world is lucky to have you. You are important.

Pain in Suffering

We hurt deeply when we lose something amazing in our lives. It’s always unexpected and painful. But no matter what you go through, you are stronger than you know. In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Dr. Viktor Frankl describes how he lost his family, his house, his job as a respected doctor, and his unpublished book manuscript. He found himself at a Nazi concentration camp where he lost many of the friends he made and lived everyday amidst dying comrades, starvation, spreading diseases, harsh weather conditions and the threat of being taken to the gas chambers. There didn’t seem to be any point in living.

But despite this harsh existence where it was easier to die than to live, Dr. Frankl said that regardless of what happens to us, we don’t lose everything. We are still left with the one thing that matters: the power to choose how we will respond to the crisis in our lives. We have the power to decide whether we will approach life’s hardships with a positive mindset or a negative one. He describes the essence of his book as this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “To live is to suffer; to survive, is to find some form of meaning in the suffering”.

Dr. Frankl suffered, but he left a profound legacy on the world that has helped many people. He chose to survive and to share his life with others. As a result, he inspired many people with the message that no matter what you go through, there is a lesson to be learnt.

Tough Lessons

It is important to avoid the mindset of absolutes. Good things will not stop coming to your life. That isn’t to say that losing something precious won’t hurt because there are good things yet to come into your life. It will hurt. It will not be easy but you shall survive.

There is always a lesson in our suffering. Once you learn, you can teach and inspire others. Don’t give up. Choose to face life’s tough circumstances and soon you will find yourself on the other side. It won’t be easy, but only you can find the meaning in the suffering. And when you do, you will realize that you are a better ‘you’ than you were before.

Believe that you can get through life’s hardships. Just find the meaning in the suffering.