Unfortunately, there are many situations that can develop in our lives which can seriously drag us down, test our faith and resolve, and threaten us with serious uncertainty and emotional turmoil.
In such situations, it’s essential to employ the right techniques to meet the specific challenges we are confronted with. Just as there is a particular art to properly ignoring a narcissist and escaping their abuse – and a mindset that has to go along with that – so too are there approaches and mindset shifts that are required for all of the other challenges we might face in life, too.
We always encounter and interact with the world through the lens of our own perception – and so the way we choose to interpret things can have a truly enormous impact on the course of our lives as a whole.
Here are some psychological techniques and viewpoint shifts to help you deal with a tough time.
The Stoic dichotomy of control
The ancient Roman and Greek Stoic philosophers are known for being pretty hard and resilient people, and withstanding all kinds of personal tragedies and hardships with grace and poise.
While there are parts of the ancient Stoic philosophy that you might prefer to avoid, there are nonetheless elements of the philosophy that might really help you deal with a tough time you might be facing.
The fundamental idea at the heart of Stoicism is the “dichotomy of control,” or in other words, the idea that only some things are in our control, and that excellence and virtue lies in focusing on right action, and accepting whatever else comes as if were a change in the weather.
The Stoics essentially believed that only our actions and reactions are under our control. So, when faced with financial ruin, a Stoic wouldn’t rage against the gods, but only look to their own behaviour. Throughout your hardship, are you acting rightly?
Systems versus goals
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, and later habit writer James Clear, have both gone a long way to develop the idea of “systems” versus “goals,” with “goals” being specific targets for some point in the future, and “systems” being everyday habits and routines.
The idea from both writers is that goals can be highly detrimental if focused on too strongly – not least of all because focusing on goals puts you in a permanent state of unfulfilled longing and dissatisfaction.
“Systems,” on the other hand, are much more immediate. As long as you act out the right habits on each given day, you can take satisfaction in “achieving” your system.
The idea is that a good “system” – such as doing 30 minutes of exercise a day – will more reliably take you in a positive direction than goals will, and with much less stress and uncertainty.
Focus on small actions – and see each action as a vote for who you want to be
If you’re dealing with a difficult situation, you likely want to do whatever you can to escape that situation and turn things around in a hurry. Often, this leads to an urgent desire to take major decisive steps, only for those steps to prove too daunting, and for further discouragement to set in.
Try this, instead: focus on any small actions you can take that will move things in your life in a better direction in some small way. Something as simple as clearing up your living room table is a great start.
The key here is not to view the action itself as the decisive “end point.” Rather, view each small action as a vote for the kind of person you want to be. The more of those “votes” you layer top of each other, the more your destiny changes for the better.