By Herbert Mtowo
Life, we all know, really doesn’t care about your good intentions. Even iron resolve and endless hard work can’t protect us from the unanticipated bumps and twists that derail our plans and unceremoniously leave us sitting on our butts, staring failure in the face. Life is filled with setbacks and unexpected twists and turns. However, in the words of Aldous Huxley, “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” By mastering some simple coping techniques, you can turn your luck around and get back on your feet, whatever life throws your way. It is your responsibility to either stay down and be a victim or rise up and dust yourself up and journey on.
The most difficult experiences and pain to endure in life was the loss of my mum, dad and siblings. It was very harsh on me, and it took me many years to recover from the loss. I either had to play the victim forever or embrace pain and loss and move on with life. I then realized late though, that pain is the best school master one needs in life. After these setbacks there were more disappointments in my life, these were much heavier on me, I have lost loads of all I had laboured for, betrayed in love and felt like my world crumbling like a deck of cards.
One response I have learnt over the years in life, is either to stick your head in the sand and hum merrily that, nope, nope, for you things will always go according to plan. The alternative is to accept (and expect) the unexpected it being “anti-fragile.”
“Basically, anti-fragile things are things that benefit from disorder, obstacles, unexpected events, change, etc.,” he writes. If you’re anti-fragile you go beyond simple resilience to actually feed off failure, letting it make you stronger. You follow the lead of the mythical hydra and the immortal advice of Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” I became resilient and soldiered on despite pain and loss.
In life, no matter how bad a situation may seem, it is always possible to find at least one positive thing about the situation if you really try. Maybe you have gained inner strength and resilience from dealing with a difficult situation, grown closer to a friend through sharing your heartbreak or learned something important about yourself. Try your best to focus on what you have learned and gained from your experience rather than on what you have lost.
It is obviously difficult to view disappointments and setbacks in life without feeling some sort of emotion. However, being emotionally involved in a situation can mean that we often build things up into something far worse than they actually are. Rather than getting carried away with your own interpretation of how disastrous things are, try to look at the situation a little more objectively. Ask a friend for their point of view or write down exactly what has happened, simply stating the facts. You may find that the situation is not as bleak as it seems when emotions are taken out of the equation, and remember those emotions will fade with time.
We often see ourselves in the worst light, particularly when life isn’t going how we want it to. However, it is important not to be hard on yourself and blame yourself just because something in your life hasn’t worked out. Instead, think about what you would you say to a friend in your situation and show yourself the same love and respect. Remember that a plan or relationship failing doesn’t make you a failure, and even the world’s most beautiful and successful people have faced failure and rejection at some point in their lives.
You may think that dealing with your problems all by yourself is the “grown up” thing to do. However, all of us need support at times, and asking those you love for help is not a sign of weakness. It can help to talk things through and to have someone on your side to make you feel good when life feels too hard, so don’t try to cope with your problems alone. If you don’t have any friends you can, or want to, confide in, it may be worth considering counselling to help you get things off your chest and get you through this difficult time.
It is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and “why mes” when things go wrong in life. However, dwelling on your disappointment will not help the situation. As my mum used to say, “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” The situation may not feel great and it may not seem fair, but what has happened has happened, whether you like it or not. Rather than dwelling on what could have been, start planning now where you can go from here.
Unfortunately in life our plan A doesn’t always work out. Sometimes we have to wait a little longer than we would like for what we want, and sometimes those things just aren’t meant to be at all. However, remember there are many routes to happiness and just because one thing hasn’t worked out that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take its place. Rather than focusing fixatedly on one life plan, safeguard yourself against disappointment by formulating several backup plans in case plan A fails. By being flexible, prepared to adapt your plans and continually striving towards more than one goal, you will be better equipped to deal with setbacks and to get back on your feet in record time.
While writing this article, I did it in memory of a precious mum who was my pillar of strength, dad who was forever soldiering on and pushing on to get there, my dedicated and resilient brothers and a sister, I saw dying and wasting but couldn’t do nothing to help. These I truly loved and love immensely but terribly miss them lots. My heart yearns and longs for them, I have walked a long, tiring and lonely journey, but my strength is in admitting the gift life God has given me, and the ability to write and speak encouraging many people all over the world.
Whenever I write or speak, I remember them and it has become a source of strength and inspiration to me. Many a times you and me, often think that happiness should be something that comes to us naturally, without any effort on our part. However, very often happiness is a choice, not something that just falls upon us of its own accord.
Make a choice to be happy by becoming a positive thinker, surrounding yourself with supportive friends, doing the things that you enjoy and looking after yourself. Even if you don’t feel like smiling or being happy right now, by acting how you want to feel, the feelings will often naturally follow.