“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” ― Mizuta Masahide
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For a number if years I struggled with grief and alcohol addiction, and after a long battle I came out on the other side stronger and more confident that before. It comes down to a simple idea:
"When nothing is going right, go left; when you have nothing left to give, move forward; whatever you do, don't move backwards."
This can perhaps be taken the wrong way if considered out of context, because sometimes when you're lost, retracing your steps by going backwards can be the best course of action. But, when if you're struggling with addiction, going backwards into your old ways is a detrimental strategy.
Instead, I suggest a different strategy, one that has worked for me and many others: Keep your eyes forward. Put another way, what can you do to co-conspire with reality to make a brighter future, even if you're struggling to find something to enjoy today?
It's been my experience that it is important to find things to be grateful for and enjoy in the present moment—and there's always something to be grateful for. If you're struggling to find something, then I can suggest a practice I'm currently working on myself:
Every week, write a positive note to yourself about one thing that you experienced that week that you're grateful for or that you especially enjoyed. Then fold the paper and place it into a jar. I like to keep my jar in a place where I can see it every day as a positive reminder of what I'm mindfully focusing on. Then, at the end of the year, you'll have 52 reminders from yourself about all the positive experiences you had that you can be grateful for.
BUT WHAT IF?
But what if you are really struggling to find something to be grateful for? This is a fair question, because it's not possible for every moment to be a positive experience. To every day there is a night; to every rose there is a thorn; to every Jekyll there is a Hyde. In these moments it's important to have something to look forward to with reasonable hope.
For example, something I'm engaging in now to have something to look forward to is graduate school. I decided that I wanted to be able to provide the greatest amount of value for the people I serve with Hashtag Positivity, so I went back to school to earn a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Learning Design and Technology. This is a vigorous program with a lot of work involved, but it gives me something to look forward to—specifically one day being done, and also being able to be a more effective source of positive influence for the people I impact.
An important point to keep in mind is that looking forward can only be done with reasonable hope, because there's no guarantee that this future we're imagining will come to be. For example, I might experience a sudden life changing event that throws my life course off in a new direction. I may run out of money before I graduate and have to drop out. I may become seriously ill or I may even die. But looking forward with reasonable hope with the belief that engaging in the process with a positive growth mindset—a belief that you can succeed so long as you tend to what you can control and you keep moving forward—then regardless of what actually transpires you'll be encouraged to keep doing your best regardless the present circumstances.
And that, my friends, is a big part of how I conquered grief, alcoholism, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
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Jonas Cain is a Purveyor of Positivity and Facilitator of Fascination, offering support to emerging leaders and their influencers to develop resilience.