The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places
Bad things happen. We all know that. But so do terrible things, unimaginable things and things from which we doubt we will ever recover. As with anything else in life, it’s our response to these heartbreaking, soul sucking and demoralising experiences which determine the quality of the rest of our lives. In short, these testing times can either make or break us. Whether it does the former or latter, is simply a matter of how we frame the incident, and how we respond to it.
We hear and read this everywhere, but the fact that our response to circumstances determines our quality of life, is not something that I fully appreciated until last year. Of all the things which I had worked on over the years for my personal and professional development, resilience and my response to negative situations was never one of them. As a result, for much of my life I would take 1 step forward and 2 steps back in everything I did. By this, I mean that I would research, plan and act upon something and really build momentum only for it all to fall apart at the first hint of a problem.
Something bad would happen and I would reason that I had done everything I possibly could, so the problem must be down to outside circumstances and bad luck. My confidence would take a beating, and I would give up, telling myself that I was a fraud and that I was not good enough and would never amount to anything. I would then work to repair my confidence, and try the same project again or attempt something else. All would go well until the first problem was encountered. I’d lose hope and confidence, and find myself giving up without a fight. This was a vicious cycle which I was well and truly trapped in. Everything bad which happened was exaggerated and became the worst thing in the world, and I was the victim of a cruel and vindictive world.
Then, last year, my world fell apart. For real, this time. Within a few short weeks, my dog was put to sleep and my fiancee left. Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any worse, I was hospitalised with pneumonia, developed sepsis and had to be put into an induced coma in order to stabilise my condition and save my life. I cheated death 4 times. I made it through, but my physical condition was so bad, that I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had gone from an independent and healthy 35 year old to someone who could barely do anything for himself. I spent my days in a hospital bed twisted like a pretzel. I couldn’t relax as I had to be positioned in a certain way because I had tubes in me, all the way down from my neck to my thigh, and because I couldn’t relax I found myself unable to sleep other than the odd nap here and there.
These were some of the longest days of my life. I couldn’t read because I wasn’t able to pick anything up or hold it. I literally had nothing to do. I couldn’t even chat to the nurses, as I couldn’t talk. All I had to look forward to was visiting time.
So, basically, all I had to do all day was think and reflect. Normally, in a bad situation my mind would go to war with me, and this was the worst situation I had ever faced. But..something strange happened. I reflected on my life to this point and how it had fallen short of what I want for myself. I reflected on why, and realised that the only thing that really held me back was myself. I wasn’t where I wanted to be because I had developed a habit of giving up as soon as times got tough. Most importantly, though, in that bed I never once saw myself as a victim of bad luck.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt grateful. I was alive. I had survived a serious illness, and was in the best place to fully recover. In my head, I had been given a second chance which should not be wasted. I was spared for a reason. My work here on Earth is not done. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started to feel excited for the future.
I also discovered who my real friends are, and this was sobering to say the least. Much of my support came from the least likely sources. Overall, I felt blessed and as though my eyes had finally been opened. I realised that I had been a people-pleaser and prioritising others above my own needs, most of whom deserted me when I really needed someone.
I left hospital feeling grateful, confident and positive about the future. I may have lost everything I once held dear, and had my savings replaced with a mountain of debt, but nothing was going to stop me. I had amazing family and (real) friends, a job to eventually return to and a roof over my head. I was luckier than many people in the world today.
The recovery was very slow and tough, but I persevered. Not only that, but the months following my discharge from hospital last November have been some of the best of my life, and continue to get better the harder I work.
I share this today in the hope that it might help someone else who might be stuck. I learned, firsthand, that by switching your focus and perspective, you can change the course of your life. Even though i’d hit rock bottom, I spent my days in the hospital focusing on the positives – everything which I had to be grateful for, the lessons I can learn and apply from what happened, and the potential for my future if I put the work in consistently. This shift in focus led to a more positive outlook. In turn, this new outlook has helped me to keep going whenever I faced a challenge.
Before, I would give up and feel sorry for myself. Now, challenges get my adrenaline levels up, because I see them as opportunities to learn and bounce back stronger. I am more confident, more resilient and happier than ever. Of course, bad things happen, it’s just that I view and respond to them in a very different way now.
Please don’t think that I became an overnight billionaire and married a Hollywood actress with my newfound mindset, confidence and resilience. I am just a normal (I hope), mid-thirties guy who is passionate about learning and development, and what separates high-achievers from those who fall short of their goals. I have discovered the power of reflection, developing self awareness and resilience, and changing the way you view the world. Putting it all into practice has made 2018 a year in which my goals have been tumbling thick and fast as I approach them with a newfound confident and resilient attitude.
I want this for you, and that is why I share my story today. If I can do it, so can everybody else. I didn’t need any books, online courses or any other shortcuts. It took a lot of time and work, but my life changed for the better when i focused my attention on the things in my life which I am grateful for. It opened my eyes to the support and resources which I have available to me. Most importantly, I finally understood that the things which had been holding me back from living the life I wanted were not important at all, such as the opinions of others.
Bad things break us. All of us go through this, but it’s up to you how you frame the experience and how you bounce back from it. Play the victim, or use it as fuel for a bright and happy future? The choice is yours.