It’s no revelation for me to acknowledge that life and business are not always easy. Ask any newborn or seasoned business owner.
There are just so many things at play: the complex lives and temperaments of others, our own complex emotions and relationships, changes in desires, curiously shifting outcomes, unhealthy patterns and attachments, the seemingly infinite factors that contribute to “success” or “failure”, the perspectives that challenge and shape our views and emotions, love, loss, death, and the ever-changing nature life…perhaps, even, the alignment of the planets. It’s a lot.
Sometimes, everything! feels! amazing! And sometimes, everything feels hard.
One of my hardest times in life happened several years ago, when I was starting my business. My grandfather had just died, my mother’s health was tenuous after a life-threatening surgery, my husband and I were struggling to make ends meet, I was working two part-time jobs and working on my business at night, we were dealing with issues in our relationship, he was having a hard time as a father, I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to (none of my closest friends could relate to the struggles of getting a business off the ground, and I was too embarrassed to share about my relationship challenges), and then my grandmother died.
I felt like my world was upside-down and inside-out, and my life was rapidly swirling towards devastation.
Most people have had times when everything feels hard – even impossible. When our life feels like it’s crashing down around us, and our circumstances feel like they’re holding our happiness hostage, and just. won’t. let. go.
What keeps us from crawling into a hole and never coming out, in those times?
What prevents us from becoming bitter and resentful?
What has us find the resolve to keep going when everything feels hard?
We can find external reasons to keep going – our kids, the agreements we’ve made with others, “saving face”… And in times of crisis, when we can’t find anything inside of us to compel us to keep going, those external reasons can support us to pull through.
Ultimately, though, life continues to provide opportunities to either rise with resolve or spiral in despair, and the thing that will promise to pull us through time and again is not something outside of us, but an internal quality…
In an interview the other day, I was asked “What is your greatest strength as an entrepreneur?”
My answer is what I truly consider the greatest strength of ALL entrepreneurs, and really, a core human strength: TENACITY
Tenacity is an internal state of resolve. It carries with it a willingness to fall and stand again, a willingness to rise in the face of any obstacle, and a willingness to stand for something.
When we couple tenacity with openheartedness, we see challenges as opportunities for growth, we bring flexibility to our devotion, and that “something” that we stand for is, at its core, love.
Knowing this is one thing. Actually moving from this state is quite another, especially when things feel rough. In times of challenge, how do we cultivate these qualities?
Be willing to actually feel
When things feel hard…they feel hard. Let yourself actually feel the sadness, longing, anger…without pushing it away with stories that say “God hates me”, “things never work out my way”, “I can’t trust people”, or whatever your pet story is. Instead, cry it out, punch a pillow, write it out in your journal or talk it out with someone you love. Feeling the purity of your emotions and the sensations in your body, without the added stories, keeps your heart open and frees your mind to focus forward…
Believe the most empowering thing
If things are already feeling hard, why choose a miserable perspective to compound the despair? It can be hard – a heroic effort, even – to stand in the pain and choose an empowering way to look at a situation. But without that, there’s no way through, and there’s everything to lose. Sometimes, the most empowering thing to believe is “Even though I don’t know why this happening, and I’m hurting sooooo much right now, I know that this too shall pass.”, or “Even though it hurts to let go, I trust that I am being led to something greater for me.” (Ahem: Choosing to believe that “karma is a bitch, and they’ll get theirs” is NOT empowering, and only holds you in energetic bondage with them.)
Connect with what you’re committed to
We’re all committed to something, even if it feels like we’re just “existing”. For example, if someone feels stuck by their circumstances but keeps running the same disempowering stories and not making an effort to shift things, they’re actually committed to feeling stuck by their circumstances. Alternatively, if someone feels stuck in their circumstances, they can commit to gathering all the learnings and finding the other side with grace and joy. So in a moment when everything feels hard, what are you going to choose to commit to? And then, re-commit again and again and again…
Make an honest effort to do your best
There’s a difference between “trying” and doing our honest best. To try something, we must merely attempt it, even if feebly. Making an honest effort to do our best asks us to dig deep and find every shred of internal resource to bring to our actions. It means choosing to do the hard but necessary things to take care of ourselves, like eat well, move our bodies, sit down and run the numbers, or have the tough conversations. When everything feels hard, our best might not look like it does when things feel great, but making the honest effort is what keeps us true to our commitments.
There’s a reason why the word “isolation” has negative connotations – we are not solitary creatures, meant to be wholly self-reliant. Even if you consider yourself fiercely independent, who made your clothes or grew the food you’ve eaten today? We depend on one another. But in times of challenge, most of us are inclined to pull back and isolate ourselves, which usually only serves to keep us swirling in the darkness. The people who care about you care. It’s an honor to support someone who’s going through a tough time. But in order to be supported, we have to be willing to share what’s going on, ask ourselves what kind of support we need (therapy? crying it out with a friend?), ask for support, and receive that support through both our listening and actions.
If you’re in a time in your life where everything feels hard, know this…
You are not alone in your pain.
You are strong enough to get through this.
Eventually, this too shall pass.
—-> In the comments below, please share about a time when everything felt hard, and how you pulled through. If that time is now, share what you’re committed to, and the empowering thing you’re choosing to believe about your situation.