When You’re Going Through Difficulties, Remember These 5 Things

A number of times in my recent past, I have felt the weight of significant challenges. Most of them could be considered self-inflicted.

As I began sticking my neck out financially to investment in real estate, I purchased two properties in close succession. It required all of our available cash and a good chunk of our available credit to make those happen. My strategy for both properties was to lease them with an option to purchase to the right person or family.

Good lease-option tenants are much less common than a normal renter. As such, we went for more than two months making payments on the house, after we had rehabbed the property at significant cost, and we still didn’t have a good tenant buyer. As I watched our money going out, with no money coming in, it was scary for me. I was well outside of my comfort zone and questioning the wisdom of what I had done numerous times. I remember quietly suggesting to my wife, without trying to raise her fears, that it would be a good time not to spend any money, if we didn’t have to. I was deeply worried.

A week ago, I ran in a 5K race. As I got passed by another runner I noticed the saying on the back of her shirt. “It’s supposed to be hard. Hard is what makes it worth it.”

My experience has been, and continues to be that hard is where growth happens. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier when you’re going through a difficult situation, but realize that true growth happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone.

Steven R. Covey, in his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells the story of working out in the gym with someone that had asked him to spot as they lifted weights. With each successive repetition, it obviously become harder for the person he was spotting, but the person never wanted him to help. Steven anticipated providing assistance, but despite the difficulty the man was having he indicated that he didn’t want him to help. Once he was done he explained to Dr. Covey that all of the benefit comes in the final few repetitions.

If you are going through difficulties, be they financial, physical, emotional or otherwise, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Hard times are opportunities to grow.
  2. Facing your difficulties with your best efforts, despite the fears and the pain, is the best way to get through them successfully.
  3. Where possible during, and in between life’s challenges, you need time to recover.
  4. Objectively examine the opportunity for hidden lessons about yourself and your situation.
  5. If you’re not regularly faced with challenges, you’re probably not becoming all you have the potential to be.

Hard times are opportunities to grow

Trees that grow in drier climates have been shown to have deeper roots. These roots provide stability and life to the trees in what would be considered more difficult circumstances, and deeper than the same species of tree in a less arid climate. Just as trees, we humans are forced to dig deeper into our abilities or to create new abilities, when our circumstances require. Remember that when you’re going through difficult times, you are growing more than you would be otherwise.

Face Your difficulties with your best efforts

While it is natural to want to find a way out of our problems, usually the fastest and best way to address them is going through them, particularly if we know they’re not going away, or we’ll always regret it, if we try to run away from it. This doesn’t mean you have to go through challenges alone, but drawing on whatever resources are available, from the moral support of loved ones, to the guidance and help of a mentor, going forward will has the best chance for a positive outcome in the shortest period of time.

You need time to recover

When we exercise our muscles, we are actually breaking them down. The growth and improvement comes when they “heal” stronger than they were before we exercised. This is only facilitated by resting between exercise. This concept applies to the difficulties we are going through as well. You need time to rest emotionally and physically when you’re going through difficulties. Make sure you take time to recover during and in between the challenges your facing.

Examine the opportunity for hidden lessons

Perhaps during, and certainly after a difficult experience, take time to step outside yourself, imagining that you are an external observer, and look for the lessons that will help turn your difficulties into opportunities. What did you learn about yourself? What would you do differently if you were faced with the same challenge in the future? How would someone you admire have handled a similar situation in their life? Challenges are tremendous opportunities for growth and development, particularly if we take the time to reflect during and after we are going through them.

If you’re not regularly faced with challenges, you’re probably not reaching your full potential

There is a false notion that a life of ease is the ideal state. Many people go through life doing their best to avoid difficulties. Remember that if you are not regularly facing things that you feel are challenging you, then you aren’t growing as strong as you could otherwise be. I’m not suggesting that you go out of your way to make your own life difficult. If you were to look back on the last three months, the last year or the last three years, how many different times would you identify significant challenges that you faced? If you’re not seeing many, then you may be at risk of being one of those trying to avoid difficulties.

While we’re still going through challenges of our own, the real estate experience mentioned above had a happy ending. We did find someone after about three months, who has been an excellent tenant buyer. Through another investor, I also learned that a certain bank would do cash-out refinancing after just six months. Because we had repaired the house and survived ownership for the six month period, I was able to get our investment money back out at the sixth month mark, giving us financial breathing room again. What a tremendous relief it was.

You may not see how you’ll get through whatever challenge you’re currently facing, but keep in mind the five suggestions above to help you navigate your situation and you will come out better as a result.

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