If you’ve ever considered giving up, giving up on life, giving up on a task you’ve taken on, giving up on a new hobby, giving up on a job, giving up on a career, giving up on a relationship, giving up on anything at all, you know the agony and the simplicity of giving up.
I’m not dealing with one now, but they are always right around the corner, waiting for me. Dealing with adversity and problems has taught me many life lessons.
1. You can fix it. Think of anyone who has survived a terrible blow to their personal life, health, family, career and you can find someone who fixed their problem.
American playwright, Neil Simon, was watching one of his plays during rehearsal. Something wasn’t working, Neil Simon knew it, the director knew it. A piece of paper passed from Neil Simon to the director. It read “Don’t worry, I can fix it.” Neil Simon is best remembered for plays like The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys, he has written over thirty plays, he’s received more Oscar and Tony nominations then any other writer. Simon has been married five times. He and his current wife, Elaine Joyce, have been married since 1999.
I’m a fixer, I like to think that I can fix anything. It’s nearly impossible for me to think that something can’t be fixed. It’s what gets me through the hard problems in life. It’s easy to wallow in the misery of the problem, and sometimes that’s what gets you through. Sooner then later, you need to pick yourself up off the floor and get on with it. Action is better then no action. Worrying and being depressed won’t solve the problem, action will.
2. Every problem has a solution. You may not like the solution to the problem, but it will solve the problem. Shimon Peres said “If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.” Shimon Peres is 92 and until his retirement in 2014, he was the world’s then-oldest head of state. He wrote 11 books from 1965 to 2011. He and his wife, Sonya Gelman, married in 1945. When became president in 2007, they separated. She didn’t want him to take the position and she lived in alone in her apartment in Tel Aviv. She died in 2011.
A problem may seem to difficult to overcome at first, giving up without considering other options may seem like an easy solution. I like to analyze a problem, identify my solutions, consult with other people to get their ideas and then attempt solving the problem by trying the best alternatives.
3. Don’t isolate yourself. When you’re dealing with a problem, your first instinct may be to push others away and isolate yourself. You lock yourself away in your comfort zone, away from others. It’s okay to take some time to yourself to deal with the issue. At the same time, you need to get outside and breathe the air. Take a walk, go somewhere there are people. Visit your local coffee shop, the park, the bookstore (they still have them). Go see a movie. Go do something for someone else. Volunteer at a hospital, visit a senior center, volunteer to bring meals to the housebound. Focusing on others will help take your mind off what you’re going through, and help you to realize how you aren’t alone.
4. Reach out and connect with family, friends and others that you trust. The act of discussing the problem with someone can help you to see the problem more clearly and give you a new perspective on the solution. If you can’t trust someone close to you, consider reaching out to someone outside your circle. Therapists, counselors and if you are religious, a clergy, an attorney, a coach, some are available online, may be able to give you a new angle. Above all don’t push away someone who can help.
5. React, but don’t overreact. If you have a tendency to see any problem as a horrible problem without a solution, you’re going to spend all your time worrying and fretting. Stay calm and listen for that little voice that tells you the problem is insurmountable. That’s the voice you want to ignore. If you overreact to the problem, you are going to make poor decisions.
Charles R. Swindoll, an evangelical Christian Pastor, said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
6. Dealing with a problem is a process. Let it happen. Acknowledgement and acceptance are part of the process. Don’t avoid the issue, don’t ignore the process that needs to happen. Most problems don’t go away without some kind of change. Sticking your head in the sand only works for ostriches. Life is a series of changes. You walk along your path, there is a valley is in front of you, no way to get around it. You descend into the valley and it looks like you’ll never get out. You finally reach a plateau, just enough of a change to get you out of the valley. Free from the valley, you amble along on this new found plateau for a while. You see nothing changing, it seems like you will never be doing anything but traveling this plateau, forever. Excitement envelopes you when up ahead is a mountain you need to climb, a way to get out, but a huge obstacle you might not be able to surmount. After a lot of climbing and slipping down and climbing again, you reach the top. Its beautiful up there, you’re out of the valley, off the plateau and on top of the world. You don’t see the missile that hits you and you’re back down in the valley. You aren’t dead, just right back where you started. Relish the process, the problem and the process are meant to teach you something. Figure out what you need to learn to overcome and not repeat the problem. Your weaknesses got you into this and your strengths can get you out. You have to do the work.
Amelia Earhart said “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She married George P. Putnam, who proposed to her six times before she finally accepted. She disappeared during her final flight at the age of 39.
7. Write it down. When you’re going through a rough road, it helps to write down the journey as it happens. The act of writing the problem down, identifying possible solutions, the changes you can make in your life, and the steps you take to solve the problem, are a catalyst to getting to the solution. Looking back at the journal later could help you if the problem resurfaces later.
Soren Kierkegaard said “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.” He was a 19th century Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author. He journaled over 7,000 pages over his lifetime. He stumbled through life with a broken engagement, great criticism of his writing, a life long melancholia and inwardness. He wrote too many works to count, one was over 800 pages long.
8. Keep going. In the face of a big problem, the easiest thing to do is to give up. But giving up isn’t a solution to the problem. It’s surrendering to the problem, not solving it.
Winston Churchill, widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, has many quotes about not giving up. One of his most famous quotes was “We shall never surrender.” He also said “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Churchill attended the Royal Military College. Sandhurst. It took him three tries to get in. He was 65 when he became Prime Minister. He made several speeches which are memorable for keeping the spirit of the British people going in the face of adversity during World War II. He wrote a novel, two biographies and several histories. He married his wife, Clementine Hozier in 1908. They lost one of their daughters to septicemia in 1921, she was three.
George Lucas said “You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.” George is an American film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur responsible for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. He is one of the film industry’s most financially successful filmmakers. His first short film, THX 1138, was a critical success but a financial failure. His most famous film, Star Wars, was the highest-grossing film of all time for five years. He married his second wife, Mellody Hobson in 2013. They had one daughter by gestational carrier, also during 2013. They donated $25 million to After School Matters, a Chicago based non-profit the same year.
9. Hang on. When all else fails, when you’ve tried everything, it’s time to hold on for awhile. Wait out the crisis. Don’t ignore what’s going on, but don’t make a decision if you need to wait it out.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Roosevelt was the only U.S. President to serve four terms in office. He served during a time of worldwide economic depressions and total war. He survived polio that left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this, he tried many therapies and usually appeared in public standing upright. He taught himself to walk with braces in spite of being told he would never walk again.
I like to think that in spite of whatever adversity you are facing, if you can just keep going, get through it and move on, you’ll survive and succeed. I’m not an optimist, I’m more of a realist with a bit of pessimism. But what has made me get here, and many others with far worse on their plate then me, is to remind myself to keep going.
Your problem’s solution may be just around the corner.