Handling Adversity 101: Sometimes We Aren’t UP Against a Problem, We ARE the Problem

How to Make the Voices in Your Head Work For You

Bigger Dragons

I’m a pretty big advocate of self talk – or, to be more precise, positive self talk.  For one thing, I’m ALL about positive affirmations, positive reinforcement, and… well, positivity in general.

Another reason I’m a component of self talk is that I’m dang good at it. Seriously, I’m so good at talking to myself I could go pro.  I think I can speak for all only children when I say it’s a trait we learn early and master well.

We just try not to do it when anyone’s looking. People talk, you know.

Truth be told  we all talk to ourselves – we just don’t do it out loud. More times than not, the conversation takes place quietly in the mind… kind of behind the scenes. Yet, even there, self talk is as powerful as any superhero’s superpower.

Not long ago, I was up against something (work-related) that seemed uncommonly large. I felt like a fly in the shadow of the Empire State Building. My initial thoughts were, “Maybe if I ignore it, it’ll go away…” What are the chances of that, though? How many times do we have a task in front of us that suddenly magically disappears, as though a magic wand had been waved in its direction?

Maybe I’ve watched too many fairy tales over the years.

The problem wasn’t the big task, even though he was a beaut. I wasn’t facing a problem, I was the problem.  More to the point, my attitude (or my “self talk”) was the problem.  Without even realizing it, I kept the following conversations on repeat in my brain:

  • I freaking can’t do this!
  • This is too much for one person…
  • What the what, dude?!?!
  • Why can’t this just disappear?

Round and round went the negative thoughts and on and on went the negative self talk. And since nothing positive ever springs from a pool of  negative, I never made a bit of progress.

Then it hit me, right in my laundry room. I’d stepped away from my computer to answer the dryer’s relentless buzz. While folding towels, I heard a familiar voice in my mind (the reasonable side of me that I hadn’t heard from in a while) and the words were clear, distinctive, and empowering:  “You’ve slayed bigger dragons than this.”

Clearly I have watched too many fairy tales over the years.

While finishing up the laundry, I thought of the dragons I’d slain over the years. While the dragons had employed different means of attack ( illnesses, loss of loved ones, professional challenges, staggering disappointments..) –  they all had one thing in common: They were smoked.  Put in their place. Laid out.

In fact, when I thought back on some of this dragon’s predecessors, he seemed more like a gecko.

When I returned to my computer, the big fire-breathing dragon that had been sitting on my desk was nowhere to be found. I went about the task at hand and everything fell right into place. Nothing tangible had changed – I hadn’t been granted more talent, the task had not diminished…  Everything was the same while, at the same time, nothing was the same.  The only thing that had changed was my attitude and my self talk.

The good thing is… that’s the only thing that needed to change.

The next time you’re up against your own dragon, think back to the dragons you’ve laid out… then tell him he’s next.  Don’t get in your own way with a pattern of negative thoughts or waste time throwing up wishes that the dragon would just disappear.

You’re the only one that can make that happen, slayer.

Self Help Lessons from The King’s Speech

Or 6 P's on the Road to Success

The King's Speech Movie Poster

My husband and I recently saw the movie The King’s Speech.  King George (Bertie) had a problem which must be one of the most irritating, maddening, and frustrating issues in the world to deal with.  He stuttered.

The King’s Speech (an outstanding movie that’s worthy of all the praise it and its stars have received – Colin Firth as King George gives one helluva performance) is the inspirational story of King George VI of Britain.  In spite of his royal blood, “Bertie” was just a man – flesh and blood, albeit royal.  He had doubts and insecurities like all of us – thanks to his speech problem and to a father who handled the whole matter poorly (as well as a brother who badly needed roughing up).  His sudden ascension to the throne corresponded with a time of great turmoil and trouble for Britain.  They needed a leader they could put their confidence in but their leader had to find it first.

King George had an all-important speech ahead of him.  He simply had to make his words reflect the strength and conviction that resided inside of him.

Fortunately, the king had been working with an unconventional speech therapist, Lionel (brilliantly played by Geoffrey Rush).  His wife Elizabeth  (played by the always sublime Helena Bonham Carter) had found this wonderful man, at a time her husband had all but given up. Lionel and Elizabeth formed a little team that refused to let him go under.

I was about to type, “Before this post turns into a movie review” when I realized it already had.  I might as well cap the review portion of this post off:  The King’s Speech is an utterly fascinating, hilarious, and breathtakingly beautiful movie.  The cast is sheer perfection and you really should see the movie, at least once.  It’s outstanding.

And that concludes the impromptu movie review – I guess we know now why I don’t do that for a living!

The King’s Speech actually holds – within its gorgeous scenes – a self help lesson for us, and as you’d expect, I’m all over it.  King George VI’s life played out on a long, winding road that essentially had 6 Mile Markers.  Had he stopped at any of the 6 and refused to continue his journey, who knows what would have happened.  Fortunately, he found the courage and determination to make it through each.

While we are each on decidedly different roads, with our own gorgeous scenery and individual challenges, but we have the same 6 Mile Markers, the Six P’s, if you will:

Mile Marker #1:  PROBLEM

Like King George, we all have problems. You may have a particular problem right now that looms in front of you like one of Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghostly visitors. The first step in overcoming a problem is to admit it exists.  King George acknowledged his problem.  He didn’t hide from it, blame others, or try to make excuses.

When we face problems in our own lives, we have to look them in the eye, take ownership of them, and set out to find the solution. Pointing fingers never accomplishes a darn thing. Even if King George had a specific person in his life who he felt caused his problem – what good would pointing the finger at him or her do?  What good would come from unleashing hate and revenge?  Wouldn’t the speech problem still exist?

Why waste that kind of energy?

If you have a particular problem in your life, stop concerning yourself with the Why’s, Who’s, and How Come’s. In the time some people spend chastising and belittling others for not “measuring up,” they could create a masterpiece in their own life.

Shouldn’t that be the plan?

Don’t find blame. Find answers.  Acknowledge your problem and accept it as that: YOUR problem.

Mile Marker #2: PRESSURE

Was the heat ever on poor King George?! He had the speech of his life coming up!  George had a lifetime of struggles with this cursed problem, and each time he’d squared off against the enemy (his speech problem), it had won.  It had the last laugh – each time.  How could he DARE hope this time would be any different?  His people, and the country he dearly loved, needed him now more than ever before and he was up to his crown in a pressure cooker.

Most of us know the feeling, whether a crown is or isn’t on top of our head.  Finances, relationships, careers, education, mortgages, health, challenges…. We all feel pressure.  Sometimes we put it on ourselves, and other times someone else has the honor.

This the intersection where most people jump off the road.

When she was around 3 or 4, our daughter Brittany was sick with one of those lovely wintertime viruses.  The kind that aren’t serious but make you feel seriously sick.  For this little live wire, being sick was a complete and utter inconvenience and seeing her so lifeless broke all of our hearts!  I remember the entire scene just like it was yesterday.  She had on a little yellow gown with Snow White (with her elves in tow) on the front.  I had made a comfortable place for her in the den with pillows behind her, orange juice nearby, and cartoons on the tv.  I’d given her her favorite coloring books and crayons but she didn’t even have the energy to color.

My dad, who knew one of his little angels was sick, came by on his lunch break.  He’d brought something special for her (and her sisters) but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.  The gown I’m all over, but what the loving grandfather brought isn’t clear.  (Just like a female to remember the clothes!)  He sat on the floor beside her and said, “How do you feel baby?”

Brittany weakly said, “A little bit good and a whole bunch bad.”  I laughed.  My dad melted.
Anyway, Pressure feels a little good and a whole bunch bad.  On second thought, maybe it doesn’t feel good at all.  Which is why so many bail when it hits.

As I said earlier, who knows what would have happened if King George had been a quitter instead of a fighter.

Mile Marker #3:  PURPOSE

This one’s obvious. We have to have a purpose in life! If we have a problem that stands between us and our purpose – the answer’s pretty clear, the problem has to go.  King George’s purpose was great: He had to be the king his nation needed him to be.  In the face of war, his people needed someone they could count on, someone with conviction in his voice.  King George purposed in his heart to become that person.

He didn’t look at the circumstances and didn’t allow the problem or the pressure to keep him down.  He decided that his PURPOSE carried more weight than either his PROBLEM or his PRESSURE.

That’s exactly what we all must determine.  Purpose > Problem and Purpose > Pressure.   Not Purpose = Problem or Purpose = Pressure and darn sure not Purpose < Problem or Purpose < Pressure.

Every now and then I just like to prove to my math teachers that, contrary to popular belief, sometimes I actually did pay attention.

Mile Marker #4:  POWER

There are many sources of power – and there’s no way on earth (or off) I’d ever try to lessen any of them. Whether it’s the single greatest power on earth (from God, Himself),  the power that can change the world (Love), or the power that defies all reason (the power of family and friends) – power is all around us.  When we want to do great things or overcome great obstacles, we’d be smart to call upon all the power we can.  It’s always my first course of action!

King George had a very powerful team in Lionel and Elizabeth.  Without them, I’m not 100 percent sure the speech would have gone as well as it did.  However, for the purpose of this post, I want to address the power that, had it been absent, I AM 100 percent sure the speech would have failed…

The power from within. King George would not have… could not have…. achieved anything great solely on the power from Lionel or Elizabeth.  You and I can not… will not… achieve anything great solely on the power from those around us.

The kind of power it takes to move obstacles and jump over hurdles comes from deep inside. Sometimes you have to dig deep.  Sometimes, like King George, years and years of disappointment and pain build up a wall of resistance.  Our defenses are up, so to speak.  Renovations often have to take place inside before we can take the first step. King George had to dig deep – PAST pain, humiliation, disappointment, embarrassment, and shame.

What he found on the other side of all THAT was THIS – power to overcome and power to have the last laugh.

The power is inside all of us, we simply have to dig deep and find it.  Once we have acknowledged our problem, have gone toe to toe and nose to nose with pressure, determined our purpose, and gotten in touch with our power… it’s time to lay it all on the line!

Mile Marker #5: PLAN

That’s right, it’s time to plan.  You know the saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Whatever it is you want to accomplish, don’t sit on the sidelines, waiting for it to happen.  Remember the little girl on the couch a few paragraphs ago?   Let’s just say she doesn’t wear Snow White gowns anymore.  She is still beautiful, hilarious, full of life though.  It still breaks my heart to see her sick and… yes, she is still my baby.  Always will be.  A few days ago we were talking about something in particular and I basically asked her if she was planning for it.  She laughed and said that she guessed she just thought it’d happen.

As someone who all too often operates the exact same way, I had to laugh too.

Whatever it is you want in life, or from life, requires a plan.  If you do nothing else today – I hope you’ll think about one particular goal and literally write out a plan to make it happen.  I want you to have that goal – unless, of course, your goal includes defeating my beloved St. Louis Cardinals – then I’d have to lovingly say I hope you come up short!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I don’t guess any of us can hear that often enough.

Mile Marker #6:  PERSEVERANCE

The first part of any journey can be the toughest – whether it’s a journey to lose weight, launch a business, overcome a destructive habit, or conquer stuttering in order to deliver the speech of a lifetime.  Setting out on the course takes a great deal of courage.  Standing up to pressure without batting an eye takes conviction.  Digging deep for power and purpose takes strength.  Making a plan takes boldness.

Wouldn’t it be a shame of epic proportions to achieve all of THAT just to throw it all away.  Whew, fortunately that never happens, right?  No one ever loses weight just to gain it back.  No one ever quits smoking just to pick the habit up all over again.  No one ever squanders a fortune they worked years for or throws away a good name they spent a lifetime earning…

Right??!?! Right?  Oh.  That’s right, it happens all the time.

A lot of people excel at planning, some are even wonderful at addressing problems and dreaming up solutions.  There are even some people who could light up a major city with the power they generate.  However, few… precious few… have what it takes to really make it to the finish line because they start strong and finish weak.  They have the boldness to begin but lack the conviction to follow through and the courage to finish.

Make no mistake about it, perseverance is the most important mile marker of the six.  Why?  Simple – she has the power to undo ALL of the others.   Years of overcoming obstacles, powering through pressure, silencing critics, and achieving your wildest dreams can all be wiped out by this one mile marker.   She can make it as though none of it ever happened – sending you right back to the start.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Think of it this way:  By perseverance, the snails reached the ark. Can’t you picture the diminutive couple as the sky began to turn dark?  As other larger, decidedly faster animals gracefully made their way to safety, it would have been easy for the speed-challenged snails to pucker up and kiss their tails goodbye.  They could’ve thought, “Well, life’s been sweet but this is where we check out.”

Not an option.

They set out – slow and steady – for their destination.  That journey must have gotten tedious fast!  Watching hundreds of legs sprint past couldn’t have been fun, but they kept on keeping on.  The snails knew the right time and the right place to quit.

How about you? Do you know the right time and the right place to quit?  Think about that for a second.

If you answered, “When you get to your goal… when you have success… that’s the right time and place to quit,”  you may be surprised to hear that you’re not just wrong, you’re dead wrong.

The right answer is NEVER. It is NEVER the right time or the right place to quit.  The minute you think you can sit back, put your feet up, and bask in your victory is the minute you begin sliding back to the start line.   Keep digging deep, keep finding the power inside, keep your purpose in front of you, and use pressure to work FOR you. Let it propel you further down the road than you’d be able to go on your own.

Look pressure in the eye and say, “Thanks! I needed that push.”  That ought to catch him off guard.

When you need answers, find them.  When you need a plan, make it.  When action is called for, take it. Most importantly, remember the right time and the right place to quit.  NEVER!

The poster at the top of the post can be found here. (Pssst, see the movie.)

Grabbing a Second Chance at Life

From Chilean Miners to Climbing Morning Glories

I don’t have to tell you how much I love inspirational quotes.  I have a whole giant section devoted to them on Self Help Daily and I have (literally) notebooks filled with favorite quotes I’ve collected over the years.  From television, the supper table, books, etc.

My “favorite” quote change frequently because there are just too many to choose from… So when people ask me, “What’s your favorite quote?,” I always answer, “Well, today it’s….”

Then I tell them my favorite quote for that particular day.  Some days a quote stays my favorite for days, even weeks.

My current favorite quote has obvious staying power – it has been my favorite quote for over a month! Here’s the quote that I’m so in love with:

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” – Anonymous

Could I love this quote any more? No, I don’t think I could.  It’s just so beautiful and so inspirational.  And so true!  How often do we think we’ve reached the lowest point possible in life just to see a new dawn on the horizon?

Just this past week I witnessed, joyfully, this quote play out.

First of all, one of my dearest friends recently went through a terrible experience.  He found the courage to end a long-term, rocky, even emotionally-abusive relationship.  The sorrow and pain that accompanied not only the years he was abused but the final chapter, as well, left him feeling much like a caterpillar would.

Think about it for a minute.  Let’s imagine that a caterpillar is capable of thinking in the same way we are.  He’s at what he feels is surely the end of the line.  He looks back over his life and recalls the peaceful, even happy, moments.  Then he tries to console himself.  “It’s all over. All of life’s good times are behind me, there’s nothing left…”

Talk about being as low as you could go.

My friend e-mailed me a few days ago and his wonderful, hopeful mood was contagious.  It jumped off of my computer and whirled around me!  I couldn’t help smiling as I read how he had someone in his life now and how he was hopeful that the relationship would continue to grow. He weathered the storm and now life is once again a beautiful, magical, wonderful place.  Once again, he has reason to want to get up in the morning and see what wonders await him!

I also saw this sort of a re-birth in my own yard.  We have a trellis beneath the window of one of our bathrooms.  All summer we’ve had a gorgeous display of purple morning glories growing up the trellis.  You can watch out the window as butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy the purple blooms as much as we do.

Temperatures cooled off mightily recently and I noticed that the blooms had stopped opening.  Even the leaves looked droopy and “spent.”  I made a mental note to tear the straggly vines down as soon as I felt better.

Lo and behold, the weather warmed up a few days ago and, wouldn’t you know it, the trellis was filled with purple morning glories again. Even though it’s late in the season, there were even colorful butterflies enjoying the last hoorah.   I thought about the quote above and couldn’t help but smile at the irony.

Finally, we all watched – with tears running down our faces – as the Chilean miners were rescued.  How bright and beautiful everything must look to them!  They lived through the darkest moments and now are able to enjoy life even fuller.

That’s the funny thing about adversity, and perhaps why it’s sometimes referred to as bittersweet.  It allows you to see things in a whole new light – and everything is more beautiful than ever.

So, what’s my favorite inspirational quote?  Well, today it’s “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Just When The Caterpillar Mug