• A Few of the Things I’ve Learned From Life’s Crises and Challenges

    cartoon boy with light bulb over his head

    Some people insist that within each challenge and crisis is a lesson you need to learn, as if the crisis is somehow your fault for not having learned the lesson earlier. I call BS. But just because it’s not our fault doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from these situations. Actually, we can learn something from just about every situation, if we’re paying attention.

    So Genius… Gonna Share?

    First, I’m not a genius. It’s just that I’ve been trying to pay attention when I, or loved ones, have a challenge and crisis in our lives… Because there’s no use making the same mistakes twice.

    The lessons I’ve learned fall into 3 categories, so that’s how I’ll present them.

    What I’ve learned from others

    Who says you can’t learn from others mistakes and missteps? Not me.

    1. Use Your words – No one knows what you need if you don’t actually say it. Don’t make broad or cryptic comments and expect people to know what you need. Don’t make statements about your problems and expect people to offer to help you. If you need help… ask for what you need and be specific.
    2. Don’t assume – This is hard, but so important. Don’t assume anything about: 1) other people’s motives, 2) that someone will offer/do something just because you would, 3) that others know what you want or need, or that 4) others have the time or energy to do what you want or need.
    3. Take care of yourself – Every person on this planet has got a full plate just taking care of themselves and their immediate household. If you won’t at least try to take care of yourself, why would someone else step up and do it for you?

    Improving Life Skills

    1. Better time management – Nothing will force you to better manage your time than a life challenge that limits the amount you have to spend on your normal everyday activities. The sooner you embrace the notion that, for now, you have less time to spend on your favorite games or other time-killing activities, the less frustrated you’ll be. When the crisis is over, you’ll find that this new productivity allows you to have more time for hobbies, exercise, or even naps.
    2. Boundaries – After a while, you learn that you can’t do everything yourself and you can’t be everything to everyone. If you don’t learn to set, and hold, boundaries you’re going to burn out quickly. Boundaries allow you to have time for self-care, which is vital if you want to make it through the challenge in one piece. They also allow you peace of mind and banish your need to beat yourself up for doing too much because you don’t take on more than you can chew.
    3. Prioritizing – While in the midst of a life challenge or crisis, it doesn’t do to project into the future or try to recapture or ruminate over the past. At times like this, there are only 2 questions that matter. The single most important question is “what is the next thing that needs to be done?” If you don’t ask yourself this question first, you may get hung up on the next question which is, “What’s the most important thing that needs to be done.” Sometimes the next thing that needs to be done isn’t the most important, but it has to be done now, or very soon. The most important thing is often a biggie that will bog you down and keep you from seeing the smaller things that aren’t as big but are still required. Sometimes the next thing that needs to be done is investigation or prep work for the most important thing. You may literally have to take things minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day for a while. If you can manage this method of prioritizing while in a crisis, I promise it will pay countless rewards in your normal, everyday life when the crisis is over.
    4. Cut the clutter – Now is a great time to get off those email lists you don’t read anymore. It’s also a great time to give yourself permission to not keep up on all the horrifying details of all the horrifying headlines that assault us all on a daily basis, unless your job requires you to know those details.

    Emotionally Important Lessons

    1. The things people say and do have nothing to do with you – It may feel otherwise but ask yourself this, “Do I say or do things just because I know a certain person will be inconvenienced, upset, or otherwise made unhappy?” If not, remember that. If so, you may want to address your passive aggressive tendencies, because they’re not making you any friends or helping you get your needs met in a way that’s not full of strife.
    2. You must have a safe emotional outlet – Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what’s going on in your life. Make sure it’s someone who can/will be objective, empathetic, discreet, and compassionate without trying to fix things for you. Those people can be hard to come by, so if you can’t think of someone like that in your life, go see a professional counselor. It’s hard to understand just how much a counselor can help you get a handle on things until you go the first time. They can give you a necessary perspective that’s hard to obtain on your own when you’re in the thick of things.

    If you’re going through a difficult time now or will be going through a difficult time in the future (Hint: You will), know this: You’re not the first one to deal with whatever it is, and you won’t be the last. Take whatever wisdom you can get from those who’ve gone before, then pass along your own wisdom to those who come after.