“Pay attention to your patterns. The ways you learned to survive may not be the ways you want to continue to live.” Dr. Thema
On a recent excursion with my daughter to ice fish, we passed a beautiful heard of elk that was awe-inspiring how their instincts drove them to find food in this harsh winter and how they didn’t mind sharing hay with cows because it meant survival. Even the concept of rainbow trout is incredible how they survive months of a long winter deep under the ice and still have so much fight in them. What’s even more special about humans is that we have ability to not just survive, but change patterns, habits, grow from our experiences and make choices in what we do in our lives.
The other beautiful part about surviving is that it doesn’t have to be just existing, but choosing to live each with the attitude that your outlook can make the difference. We can’t always control our finances, stress, people around us, health, family, even the future, but you do have control over your feelings and outlook in your life each day. Each person must find the strength to keep fighting and each individual is unique. What fills them back up each day. What helps them cope with what they can’t change. So many tools in this day and age are right at our fingertips, but we have to dig deep for the courage to utilize them.
My daughter’s school counselor sent out a great email recently to all the students that I thought was so insightful in an era where children are sometimes forced to grow up too fast and are handling problems that have never existed in our society. It was an image with two circles one labeled, what I can control and the other what I can’t. The smaller circle of what we CAN’T control including concepts in how others treat us, others taking care of themselves, who likes us, past mistakes and physical appearance. While a child or any of us for that matter might hope and wish these might be things we can change, more often they are out of our control. In the other large circle of what we CAN control including how we respond to challenges, being kind, accountable, our decisions, forgiving, being productive, working hard, asking for help, not giving up, the friends we choose and respecting ourselves. What powerful words and reminders we all can think about. How much better is our energy put into focusing on what we can control in our lives each day.
All of us have to survive things in our lives, some are larger than others. But, you do have a choice in how you let those heartbreaks and challenges affect you, especially long term. Don’t allow trials to make you bitter, harden your heart, make you lose faith in love, change your positive outlook and most of all cause you to give up. Even when making mistakes, it can be insightful to find the balance of looking humbly at the past but not too long that you don’t keep moving forward. Forget it enough to get over it, but remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again. While this seems like an easy concept most would agree with to do this takes self-reflection, time, asking for help, honesty, and integrity. As T.S. Elliot said, “Survival is your strength, not your shame.” We can be accountable for our actions and acknowledge mistakes, but true growth can only happen when we can forgive ourselves, acknowledge our weaknesses and then chose to be better next time. There are many paths we can find help along the way, but we have to want to do the work and break patterns that do not serve us anymore. Sometimes it’s better to end something and start another than imprison yourself in hoping for the impossible. Some battles require learning to lose to recover long term.
While life has peaks and pits it’s good to remember as Norman Vincent Peale stated you can, “change your thoughts and you change your world.” Chose to focus on making the best of things on hard days and being grateful for the small moments that make you smile. Take the time to reflect on who you want to be regularly. When falling, acknowledge the mistake and see not only what you can learn from it, but use it to grow in empathy. Remember you are in control of your life and with effort, strength, and determination, you can not only survive but thrive. Live whole-heartedly no matter what. You’re stronger than you think you are.