Black and white photo of Muhammed Ali puching out a man with sweat flying


Has life hit you upside the head?

No doubt it has at some point! Life certainly can throw some punches: illness, angst, natural disasters, toxic food and water, presidents who tout their desecration of women and world, war-enthusiasts and death—just to name a few. Through my work inspiring people to kick their dead-end habits to the curb, I’ve seen and learned a lot about how people take life’s punches. The key to what makes one person lay down for the count and another rise up to win the match is something we all should know. In today’s article, we’ll take a look at how we can let life’s one-two punches “work for us” so we can take the high road, grow and be joyful. Let’s start with a li’l song and a short story.

Play it

The theme song for this article is “Future Shock” by Curtis Mayfield! If you’d like to listen while you read, click here:

My personal experience

Like everyone, I’ve been punched. Abandoned, betrayed, defiled, denied, divorced, depressed and ill near death—I’ve felt the distinct and opposing pull to both hide within the pain and rise up from the ashes. Ultimately, what lifted me up was taking a good look at “my life” and admitting that it wasn’t going to get any better unless I changed.

My experience coaching others

In coaching people to be empowered, I’ve observed that people have the ability—with the proper tools, to handle crises with wisdom, perseverance and grace. They can move through all manners of pain: sexual abuse, murder, rage, neglect, apathy and disgust, and into a state of openness, willingness, curiosity, and eventually—joy. I have also watched people go the other way: they wither, stagnate and suffer a life of dying on the inside. In the hope that more of us choose the former, I’d like to share with you what I’ve seen the happiest people do.

Something to consider

Our state of mind is critically important. However painful the “punch,” our perception of how it affects WHO WE ARE and WHAT WE WILL BE, can make or break us.

What’s our state of mind?

To find out, we can ask ourselves two questions.

Question #1: Am I blaming this event for “how I feel,” “who I am NOW,” or “how I can be in the future”?
If so, we have given away our power to change. As long as “it” happened, we have no choice but to “lie on the mat” and be depressed, angry, etc.

Question #2: Am I blaming myself for this event?
If we blame ourselves for causing the event, we’ve judged ourselves. This judgment results in anger at one’s self, critical thoughts like “I am such an idiot,” “If only I would have”, “I am such a failure” and punishing, denying or distracting ourselves through burying ourselves in overwork and other unhealthy, destructive habits as we try to “escape” the pain.

Healthy alternatives to blaming, criticizing and punishing ourselves

Instead of blaming and judging ourselves, we have alternatives that can help us begin to heal so we can get up “off the mat”.  Here are some that have helped me and my clients:

Scream some

Internal anger needs to get out.  And it will.  It’s our choice if it comes out in a healthy way or an unhealthy way. Some healthy ways to let anger out include: demolition and remodeling buildings, shooting guns at a range, boxing with gear, strenuous exercise, lifting weights and even screaming some can help release tension. We can sink some obscenities into a pillow, say them while inside our car or yell along with some rap music. But let’s not sink to disrespecting and abusing ourselves, others or nature. That just causes more problems.

Be open to acceptance

Accepting that life has given us an unexpected and painful punch can be difficult. However, acceptance is key. Below are a couple of steps that we can make to begin to be open to acceptance.

STEP 1: When we are ready, we have the power to simply accept that whatever happened, happened.  That it “is what it is”.  Then, we can decide what we wish to “do” about it.  If we are, in fact, the cause of the event, instead of punishing ourselves, we can make a true promise to NEVER behave that way again and forgive ourselves.  To read more on this topic, click here .

STEP 2: When we are ready, we can also choose to take responsibility for our feelings and who we become. If this means removing ourselves from people, places and things that do not encourage us to be who we wish, then so be it. It’s better to lose some “dead weight” and gain some self-respect and joy. Wherever we end up in life, we will always be there, so we might as well choose to be in good company! If we doubt that we have the willpower to make those tough decisions, we can read more here .

Give ourselves a break!!

Amidst a crisis, it can be difficult to imagine ever feeling better. However, we have all been through varying degrees of pain and hardship. If we can BE PATIENT and GENTLY CARE for ourselves in the process, we can make things just a bit better.

Be patient and gentle

By being “patient” with ourselves, I mean not forcing ourselves to be anything—whether it’s “better”, “ok”, “happy”, “involved” or “active” during periods of intense emotions. By being “gentle”, I mean treating ourselves like someone we love: not criticizing, blaming ourselves or expecting too much of ourselves. High stress situations can call us to action, but most often there is also a deep need for quiet time to feel, heal and help us better cope with the daily opportunities and weeks to come. It’s important not to try and “drown out” our painful feelings by over-doing or trying to “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol. Why? Because these methods are a Band-aid on a chainsaw wound—they just slip into the wound and get infected. Like the chainsaw wound, our painful emotions will still “be there in the morning,” waiting in our bodies and minds until we process them.  And processing emotions requires us to feel them—even if for only five minutes at a time alone in the car for months before we get back to attending to work or family.  If it’s hard to imagine caring for ourselves and our emotions this way, we can imagine how we would wish to treat someone we love very much if he or she were in our situation, and gently care for ourselves this way.

Keep on keepin’ on

If we can keep doing the regular, healthy things we would usually do every day, we can keep a feeling of normalcy in life. Although we may not feel motivated, if we continue to do things like: the laundry, eat (healthfully as possible), exercise, devotions, shower, get dressed and work as we can –these steps, although small, can truly keep us moving forward.

Do something “fun”

Although we may not “feel” like it, partaking of hobbies, getting together with friends and doing “fun” activities all add to our experience of joy. Although we may feel a little “jaded” by the punches, any healthy fun is better than none.

Prayer, meditation, quiet time

For me, there is nothing more healing and gratifying than my choice to give my time and energy in health, joy and thanksgiving (aka prayer). My dedication to choosing to make time first thing in the morning for devotions is fulfilling and nourishing. My choice to be willing to be open to receiving guidance creates a day of communication and receptivity to knowing what is best for me to be, think, feel and do.  I choose to keep connected in this way and remind myself that whenever I am feeling very emotional or distracted that “this too shall pass,” and everything is temporary—and not take any of this human experience too seriously.

What say ye?

Are you rolling with life’s punches? Please share your thoughts and feelings so we may grow in strength and willpower together …

Always with love,

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