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Overcoming a Rough Week

Photo by Carlos Yepez (flickr stream)

We all have bad days, but have you ever had one of those weeks when it seems everything is going wrong?

Monday, your alarm didn’t ring and you were late for work. Tuesday, your car broke down. Wednesday you lost your credit card. Thursday was your annual review and your employer informed you that, due to the economy, the company is not issuing raises this year. By the time Friday arrives and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you get a ticket for speeding. How do we handle a series of setbacks and bad news?

I recently had one of those weeks where it seemed that anything that could go wrong – did go wrong. The natural reaction most people have when the walls begin crumbling is to crumble right along with them.

I have developed a habit of not letting outside circumstances consume me. I have learned in the past that the events in your life do not determine the course of your life. Rather, it is your reaction to those events that will determine the quality of your life, and your life direction. In other words, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you.

Most of us can experience certain negative events and dismiss them. But when negative events seem to happen simultaneously – as they often do – they feel suffocating and impossible to overcome. This is when thoughts of giving in to that feeling of helplessness seem to evade the mind.

With the state of the economy and many people losing their jobs and homes, many of us feel powerless. But the truth is that there are many things we can do to help us cope with, and even change a bad situation.

My Story: “Did I Break a Mirror?”

I rolled out of bed Monday morning expecting my first week back at work to be a continuation of my everyday life. I had enjoyed my vacation week, but now, it was back to work. I spent the vacation reconnecting with friends, relaxing, and celebrating my 30th Birthday. I was refreshed and ready for a productive and fulfilling week.

I had a feeling that my week was going to be challenging when I opened my email on Monday and read that one of my employees will be out for a week; meaning that time sensitive assignments would not be completed until she got back. Also, because technical issues prevented me from updating my blog, my web traffic took a nose dive. Things began to get worse from there.

At the monthly staff meeting, we were asked to be patient during our merger with another company. We were also told to be prepared for some changes. We knew that “be patient” meant they didn’t know what was going on, and “changes” meant people were going to lose their jobs.

On top of that, a potential business partner suddenly stopped returning my emails. More bad news followed. A good friend and one of the nicest people I know, was moving out of the country.

To add insult to injury, someone dented the passenger side door on my car, my Blackberry started malfunctioning, and NBC cancelled My Name is Earl. All of this happened in one week!

“Did I break a mirror or offend a leprechaun last week?”, I thought.

After a brief pity party, I came to my senses and decided not to let those events determine my quality of life. I developed a plan to bounce back and regain control over my life.

Why We Must Bounce Back

There’s power in the overcoming of obstacles. Knowing that you have the ability to recover and survive the trials and tribulations of life, is a redemptive feeling. We must realize that we do not have to be victims of things that are happening around us. We are more likely to take more risk and act with courage tomorrow, if we are able to conquer the conditions of today.

Letting our circumstances consume us can lead to a false view of our life experience. Some who are unable to recover from the trying times of their lives begin to develop negative beliefs. I’ve heard people say “God just has it in for me” or “I’m just unlucky“. This mindset renders us helpless and unable to act in a way that changes our circumstances.

Being unable to cope with life’s obstacles can also affect our health. Depression and alcoholism can many times be rooted in a person’s inability to deal with the outside world. Since the outside world seems to deal multiple crushing blows, one after another, they look for an escape or close themselves off from the outside world.

Our relationships suffer also if we are unable to bounce back. We tend to isolate ourselves from the people around us. Some people carry anger and resentment inside and it reflects in their everyday dealings with people. I’m sure you’ve run it to a person who seems to be mad at the world all of the time. For these reasons and many more, it is important that we begin to face and conquer life’s tough conditions.

Bouncing Back

1. Find your foundation

The life we live should stand on a solid foundation. The mistake that many people make is to value their life based upon their possessions or social status. You are more than what you own, you are more than your worldly titles. For some people, it is their spiritual faith, or creative passion, or a strong relationship with family and friends that serves as the foundation for their life.

Finding your foundation means rediscovering the things that are truly important to you; the things that make your life worth living. You may have a passion for music or art. Use your current hardship to rediscover what drives you. Use those expressions of yourself to remind you that life can be enjoyable.

2. The Ant Philosophy

In some of his speeches, author Jim Rohn often talks about the ant philosophy. Ants are remarkably persistent. If an ant is on its way somewhere, and you place your thumb in its path, the ant instinctively tries to find another way. The ant will try to go over, around, and sometimes through any obstacle. Giving up is never an option.

Have you ever seen an ant come across an obstacle, stop and quit as to say, “Why are things always getting in my way”? Instead, the ant believes that there is a way to continue on the path and it works until it finds it.

When things get tough in our lives, we have to adopt the ant philosophy. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, and letting the obstacle win, we must attempt to find another way to get on the right path. We must be persistent until we reach our destination.

3. Verbalize It

Humans were not designed to be isolated. We need each other in so many ways. One of the major mistakes that I made when everything seemed to be going wrong was I began to isolate myself and suppressed my problems. I thought that if I threw myself into my work, eventually I would feel better. That may help to improve some circumstances, but I still felt a bit weighed down by everything that has happening.

During the week, a friend called me and asked, “How’s everything?

Everything is stupid!” I responded, unable to fully articulate my frustration.

He laughed knowing that I had been having a tough week. After talking for a few minutes, I realized how good it felt to verbalize how frustrated I was with how my week was going. I’m not one to dump my problems on other people, but I learned that sometimes it is better to express it in words than hold on to it.

4. Wake Up Call

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache
carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit

~Napoleon Hill

Sometimes, it is the painful or frustrating circumstances that trigger us to learn and make positive changes in our lives. With one of my employees suddenly being out, I found major flaws in the way I managed my team. Even the way I distributed assignments left room for disastrous results in the event that one person was unable to work. During this week, I recognized and fixed several problems with my management system, which I would not have done otherwise.

During this week, I was reminded that that my day job may be in danger, this triggered me to review how I could recover from potential economic setbacks. It had been about 7 months since I reviewed my recovery plan. I realized that many things had changed with my monthly income and expenses, and it was time to revise the plan.

5. Dwell on the Good

For some strange reason, our minds tend to dwell on the negative things. That is one reason the news media usually broadcasts bad news; they know that negative happenings draw more ratings and attention.

Last year, at a gathering, I met two women who worked for the local news station as reporters. When we were being introduced, I confessed that I didn’t recognize them because I don’t watch the news. To my surprise, one of them responded, “Good, it’s all bad news“.

Even though it seemed as though my life was filled with the negative, there were many good things that happened. For example, I attended a banquet where I got to see some old friends who I miss. Also, someone gave me a certificate for a free massage at a local spa. But instead of being thankful for the good things, I made the mistake of choosing to see and dwelling on the bad.

We should take the time to be thankful and dwell on the good things that come into our lives, however small or intangible they may seem. I sat down and created a list of all the things I appreciated from the week, all the happenings that I enjoyed and all the non-tangible gifts I’d received. The list helped me put things in perspective. It also reminded me that the good times will return; in fact, they’re already here, if we choose to look for them.

Learn from the Seasons

Yes, the good times will return. Most failures and obstacles are temporary but feel as though they are going to last forever. We must be subscribers to the fact that, just like seasons, bad times come and go.

Good things will eventually happen again and good things may come from your bad experience, if you choose to see them. A possible benefit to your hardship may be the potential opportunity to help someone else through their trials. It is hard to see the possible good when you are in the thick of it, but all storms must come to an end.

Spring is often called the season of opportunity and it conveniently comes after winter which is known for being harsh and desolate. The tough times will pass and in their place will be growth, and potential for great things to happen.

So, how was your week?

* Tell us about what you’ve learned through your week? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment section. See you there.

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About the author

Ralph Jean-Paul is a personal development speaker and writer. He is a student of success and achievement and enjoys sharing his knowledge of the world with the intention of helping others realize their potential. Ralph is currently working in the financial industry for one of America's largest Banks. To read more of his articles or to contact Ralph please visit his website at Potential2Success.com.

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48 thoughts on Overcoming a Rough Week

  1. Wonderful post! I cracked up when I read this line: “Did I break a mirror or offend a leprechaun last week?” I have definitely had those weeks/days when I feel like I must have done SOMETHING to upset the universe because everything is going so horribly wrong. Since so many of us feel this way from time to time, this is a great post to put out there. I, for one, will certainly benefit from it the next time I’m having a week from hell.

    Two things you mentioned really stuck with me:

    1. Dwell on the good. As you’ve probably guessed from my name (or reading my site), I really try to focus on the positive. This is not easy as it does not come to me naturally and I tend to think first about the negative. But, since I’ve started making it a priority to focus on the good in life, I’ve had fewer and fewer bad weeks. I feel like it’s more common for me to have a bad moment or a bad day than it is for me to have a bad week and I owe that to the power of positive thinking.

    2. Learn from the seasons. This is SO true. Life is always filled with highs and lows, good times and bad times. I’ve had my share of really rough times, but I’ve also had some amazing times. The good will come back around. If you’re facing a winter of a week, remember that spring will be back soon.

    Now, back to my week… I’ve learned A LOT already (and it’s only Wednesday!). I’ve leanred how to better deal with my unexpected run-ins with the past. I’ve learned how many amazing, supportive people I have in my life. I’ve learned more about how happiness is used in advertising and how this affects us all every day. I’ve learned that I can admit that I have a shopping problem and, by facing this vice head-on, I can move forward to a happier existence. I’ve learned that I can spend a single hour in therapy and learn more about myself than I would have ever thought possible. I’ll admit — not all of this was painless, but so far it has been an eye-opening week and I am grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced so far.

  2. Sometimes you just need to get away from all the action.

    Distance yourself for a day and breathe.

    It’s what works for me when I hit the breaking point. ;-)

    Marc

  3. Ralph,

    Really nice post. I agree with everything you said, especially the part about “…Rather, it is your reaction to those events that will determine the quality of your life, and your life direction. In other words, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you…” That is right on. In fact, I wrote a post on my own blog called “When Everything Seems To Be Going Wrong” that addresses this same issue. Interested readers might want to check it out at:
    http://happinessinthisworld.com/2009/04/19/when-everything-seems-to-be-going-wrong/

    Enjoy!

  4. I like the ant analogy. It’s so true that persistence will overcome any obstacle in one way or another. Most happy and successful people are remarkably persistent; sometimes in subtle ways, but dogged none-the-less.

    :-)
    John

  5. You’re right, I’ve never seen an ant give up. That was a great analogy. An ant doesn’t rationalize and interpret the things that happen to it, ants just keep heading directly to it’s focused destination. I think it’s the meaning that we attach to the happenings that make it feel that much worse.

    BTW, it’s not that hard to offend a Leprechaun, those things are crazy!

  6. Martin

    Ralph,

    Great post! It was thoughtful and well written. This week has been an unusually good week for me, but I will print out your article and put it on my bulletin board to get me through the rough weeks that I know are comming.

    Martin

  7. Life is not always a bowl of cherries. At times everyone faces frustrations, setbacks, assorted unwanted situations and temporary road blocks.

    Good tips to remember when we are going through a bad phrase.

  8. Tanya

    As usual Ralph your words of wisdom are like precious pearls. These last several weeks have been so overwhelming. At times it seems as though it never lets up. When you look at the storm all you see is the rain and disaster. Focusing on the negative is very draining not only to your body, but also your spirit and mind. I enjoyed your post very much. Actually, I feel I have regained some peace and control over my negative focus. My troubles keep adding up trying to consume me but I know it is my faith that comforts me. (My father told me about a year ago that when you look to God your troubles are no longer giants but mere ants. Thank you for unknowingly reminding me.)

  9. Raj

    Chasing the Dragon has me by the balls

  10. It’s funny. This makes me think of the positive aspects of my post-bschool unemployment period. Because of that whole period I’ve started my blog, put massive effort into it, and made it grow. Sometimes what seems like disaster is just away of things working out.

  11. Yomari

    Great article! I have to say that although I lost my job few weeks ago, last week was a good one; I had the chance to come back home and share with all my family, play with my niece and share with my nephew, I also had the chance to show a little bit of my country to my boyfriend and he had the chance to meet my family and some of my friends. I also had my first interview since I lost my job and although I do not know what is going to happen, the fact that I had the interview made me feel more confident and positive about finding my new way again. I have to say that it was a great week!!!!

    I think this is a great article and it could help many people during tough times…specially now when most of the people are living in uncertainty…

  12. I love the ant philosophy. This is the first time I heard it and I always believe persistence in our course of action will help us to overcome any of our obstacles.

    Cheers,
    Vincent

  13. I love the ant philosophy! Also, I personally find #5 Dwell on the Good to be the most effective. I believe that whatever you focus on is what grows (similar to the power of intention), so especially when I have a difficult day I try to take a step back and focus on what I am grateful for and what is going well. For the same reasons, I don’t watch the news either and suggest that to my clients as well. Thanks for the post!

  14. Monday, your alarm didn’t ring and you were late for work.

    Very minor incident. Train your biological clock.

    Tuesday, your car broke down.

    Appreciate that you have a car.

    Wednesday you lost your credit card.

    Whose fault is this? Did someone stole your wallet? :-)

    Thursday was your annual review and your employer informed you that, due to the economy, the company is not issuing raises this year.

    Feel lucky that you have a good job. That you’re not being told you performed badly, etc.

    By the time Friday arrives and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you get a ticket for speeding.

    You deserved it. If you were really speeding.

    How do we handle a series of setbacks and bad news?

    By feeling gratitude and taking responsibility.

  15. Ahh! Persistence and focusing on the good have keep me going on many a rough week. I know it’s tough sometimes, and one thing that’s so simple and has had a huge impact for me is this:

    Go outside for a walk.

    Seriously, walking off certain events or pent up anxiety has worked wonders for me. :)

  16. DANCINGBUTTERFLY

    Some of us have a rough week and some a rough year ….or two. How is it possible that so many bad things could keep happening, driving a person to their edge and dangling there? How is it that such simple steps can change ones path? It is truely in the simple acts of positive thinking, integrity of the word, of being true to ones self and staying on a path toward awareness that we find a lighter brighter day. Celebrating our daily, simple joys and embracing that bigger picture.

  17. Persistence is power. I like the ants example.

  18. I’ve learned to role with the circumstances I’ve been given instead of rebelling against them. Relationships are about helping and supporting people, adjusting to their needs as well as mine. I used to believe they were more black and white. If people didn’t go along with what I thought was right or wrong I usually suffered.

    By going with the flow I realized that my foundation for happiness was much stronger. By being less rigid I opened myself to the people around me.

  19. Thanks for the comments. I’m glad that my experience could help some of you who are going through rough times too.

    Yeah, the ant philosophy has done wonders in my life.
    There have been times when I applied that mentality despite wanting to give in. When I reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I would think, “what if I would’ve quit 2 days ago?”

    With rough days, weeks, or even years, it is the same thing. We first must decided that we are not going to give up and then stay true to that decision.

  20. A person can also decide no such thing exists as a rough week. The ‘no excuses!’ philosophy is all about choosing to make time for priorities and outgrowing perspectives that no longer serve you.

  21. BT

    “Everything is stupid!” – That’s been my feelings for the last 10 weeks as I’ve been quitting smoking. There have been withdrawal issues that I never imagined….spending an hour or more in bed bawling every night that ‘everything is stupid’ being one of them! I never expected the emotional instability. :(

    I’m smoke-free, and trucking along, but the last 10 weeks have definitely been rough. I’ll try to implement a few of these ideas to see if they can help (or at least distract).

  22. That post was spot on. Definitely when things are going wrong, they seem to spiral. However, we definitely need to focus and realize it’s just Murphy’s law at work. Things that are sometimes out of our control. Realize this is just a normal order of things at certain points with your life and decide to simply bypass the bad things. Read less newspapers, watch less news determine not to let these little life nuisances take you off track and you will be good to go.

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