“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl
In the face of an uncertain and chaotic world we will encounter difficult moments full of worry, stress, and frustration. It is exhausting to push through challenging times in life, but when we remain resilient and persevere it can be an experience that changes us for the better. There are certain circumstances and experiences that we simply have to accept and cope with. One major way to promote courage and determination to face these obstacles is to find meaning in negative life events. The ability to make sense of our struggles and bounce back from stress is an important function in dealing with life effectively and maintaining a sense of well-being. We can endure anything when we have a compelling reason to do so. Here are ten ways to make meaning and cope when life seems grim.
1. Evaluate purpose and life goals
Having a clear life purpose is an important factor for making sense of life events. When we know what we want, obstacles are less obtrusive and our direction is evident. Life purpose and clear goals help with understanding the self and one’s place in the world. When life throws a curve ball it’s a perfect opportunity to bolster or alter your purpose and goals.
2. Freedom to choose and responsibility to persist
Knowing that we always have a choice is an empowering realization. However we also have responsibilities if we are to live a virtuous and meaningful life. A meaningful life involves a conviction for what is just and honorable, and finding a balance between our free will and responsibilities is an important dichotomy to learn about. Giving up may not be an option.
3. The right and wrong pathways to happiness
As we go through life we encounter many risk-factors that steal our joy and many protective factors that improve our happiness. We gain wisdom about what leads to happiness and if we have learned from life experiences we know what will allow us to experience greater well-being and what limits our contentment and satisfaction. Pay attention to how your choices influence your well-being.
4. Courage to accept your constraints
It can be tough to not have the talent, skills, or resources to accomplish what we desire, but being able to accept our weaknesses and current level of development is the exact next step to raising the bar. It takes courage to acknowledge what we lack but when we embrace our fallacies it provides us a freedom to take control of our decisions and move beyond our constraints.
5. Faith and belief in a better future
No matter what we go through keeping hope that our future will be bright allows us to persist and persevere. When we keep faithful and optimistic it allows us to stay motivated and driven to finish what we started. When unexpected tragedy occurs we must acknowledge that stress and grief does not last forever.
6. Commitment to growth
Every experience is a learning opportunity. No matter how difficult or painful a situation may be, we are able to use the experience to expand and grow our awareness and understanding. This commitment is how we become a stronger, wiser, and more gracious person. Allow pain to mold and shape your character honorably.
7. Discovering the hidden side of self and new frontiers of life
Some of the most profound self-knowledge comes from the most difficult moments. When we are confronted with the reality of who we are and how we are living it broadens the horizon for how life can be and what is most important. We learn what we are truly capable of, and the inner strength we possess during arduous times.
8. The power of altruism, empathy, compassion, and generosity
One of most powerful ways to develop a sense of meaning and cope with our struggles is to step outside of ourselves and be of service to others. When we can put ourselves in another person’s shoes it helps us transcend beyond our own problems and concerns. Tragic moments are often the exact experience that allows us to cultivate compassion and empathy for others.
9. Gaining wisdom to solve problems
When I consider the wisest people I know, they are the ones who have had the broadest and most profound life encounters. They also used these experiences to reflect on what life is really all about. We are all able to alter our perspective and grow more intelligent about how we live life but asking ourselves wise questions. Is this doing any good? Should I do more of it? Should I try another strategy?
10. Appreciating what you have
Even when life feels out of control and we can’t imagine ever reaching our goals there is much to be grateful for. There is always someone in a worse circumstance that is willing to live with joy and grace. Be willing to acknowledge what you do have and what you appreciate about yourself, relationships, and community. Pain is never easy to deal with. It may feel heavier than we can bare, but when we push through the pain by finding meaning and purpose we can continue living with clarity, direction, and passion. Remember that your human spirit can still shine even through the darkest chapters of your life.