Success – When the Tough Get Going
“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King
We have all heard the saying ” When the going gets tough, the tough get going” It sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds like something we would like to have as a screen saver or on our wall at work. It is a saying we can definitely get behind. Success really is all about getting tough – getting tough with ourselves. And when I talk about success, I am really referring to anything in our life that we would like to be successful at. It could be a success in our family life, success in our studies or success in overcoming a difficulty that has us feeling discouraged.
When we read about success, a lot of the time it is referring to career or business success. There is a lot of hype about “getting to the top” in one’s field. But I would like to explore the “getting tough” part of overcoming obstacles, rising to challenges to be successful in whatever you are trying to accomplish. I would like to encourage the single mom who is struggling to raise a family and educate her children. I would like to encourage the teenager who feels behind everyone in his school and who doesn’t feel he is smart enough to continue. I would like to encourage those who struggle with relational difficulties and who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In short, this article is about pulling up our shirt sleeves, meeting adversity head-on and rising to the challenges ahead with our head held high. When the going gets tough, the tough really do get going. I want to encourage you to face the Goliaths in your life with courage and strength. We will all face adversity to varying degrees and at first, we may fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are 5 ways I would like to suggest to help us toughen up:
Let’s Toughen Up!
Know that Adversity is Really a Battle of the Mind
We are one hundred percent in control of what we choose to think and how we choose to process information. No one can tell us or force us to think anything other than what we choose to think. Whatever adversity we are going through, how we perceive it is really a matter of how we want to perceive it. Negative or discouraging thoughts are like weeds; they will grow and grow, bigger and bigger unless we do something about them. It is better to nip them in the bud before they turn into massive oak trees.
No matter what our challenges are, we can waste a lot of precious energy and time focusing on how hard or overwhelming they may be. There is a saying that says ” where focus goes, energy grows”. So, if this is true, maybe we should focus our energy on looking at our challenges from a positive perspective. There is no such thing as a bad day if we believe that every day has potential. Certainly, this change of attitude requires work. It is far easier to talk about all the negative going on around us. We prefer to talk about the problems people are having or what is going badly in the world.
But remember, it is a battle, not a picnic. A battle requires sustained focus and desire to win. If we have accumulated a bad habit of seeing the negative and of responding to challenges out of a sense of powerlessness, these are habits or attitudes that we need to break. If we have a tendency to be whiny, cynical, discouraged, sarcastic or critical, maybe it is time to reexamine the way we think and learn to reframe our thinking.
Physical Pain Is Not an Excuse
Now before I continue, please let me say, that I understand there are people who are enduring serious and excruciating pain and illness. When I talk about pain. I am certainly not diminishing any serious health issues that some may be dealing with.
What I am referring to are the general aches and pains of everyday life. We all get back problems, knee problems, colds, etc. Some of us have mobility limitations, some of us may be temporarily injured. There are lots of physical issues that could be going on. The key here is to not use our physical limitations and aches and pains as an excuse not to rise to the challenges of life. There really is no excuse. Helen Keller was blind and learned to overcome this. Some people are born without any limbs at all and carry on. It really is all in how we see our situation. Are our physical limitations an asset or a problem?
Conflict Must Be Addressed
Let,s face it. We live in a world full of prickly porcupines where we all are trying not to be pricked by others. Sometimes we would just like to crawl into our porcupine cave and avoid all the other porcupines. We are going to run into people who disagree with us, who seem to be putting obstacles in our path and may just generally be put there to make us miserable (we think). Some people seem to have a knack of “getting under our skin.” As the saying goes “The more animals in the barn, the more “doodoo” there is to deal with”.
Most of the time conflict happens because we fail to properly communicate. We assume or presume that people understand us and what we are feeling and experiencing. And, quite frankly many of us simply do not know how to communicate well with others in prickly situations. Most of us do not take the time required to communicate effectively. And furthermore, because we have trouble in this area, we prefer not to address problems and hope that they will somehow disappear on their own. The problem is that, like a small fire started in the frying pan, if we don’t do anything about conflict, it will quickly grow and get much worse with more damage.
Author and leadership expert, Steven Covey gives 5 steps to addressing conflict;
- Affirm the relationship
- Seek first to understand the other person
- Seek to be understood
- Own responsibility by apologizing and forgiving
- Seek agreement
Learn to Deal with Failure
We tend to see failure as somehow being a reflection of our own inabilities to do a thing. Often we overdramatize failure and come to the conclusion that we are are not good enough, smart enough or capable enough, when, in reality, failure is not only not an indication of personal inabilities, but is a crucial step towards success in anything.
Yes, failure can be frustrating and discouraging. Repeated failure over and over can leave us feeling like giving up or just not trying anymore. But failure is a teacher and mentor if we will only listen and learn from the lessons. If we have been failing over and over, it simply means that the lesson has not been learned yet. History, both recent and not-so-recent, is chock full of examples of people failing over and over, often for many, many years before finally succeeding or accomplishing what they were trying to accomplish.
If we look at failure as an indication of what we can or can not do and then allow the experience to define who we are, we are allowing our selves to buckle under defeat. Instead, failure should cause us to fire ourselves up, get angry (in a good way), pull up our bootstraps and persevere. The only real failure is giving up. That is when we can confidently say we failed because we stopped trying.
Harness Murphy’s Law
“If something can go wrong, it will.” (and usually at the worst time).
No one really knows who Murphy was, but his insight is quite good and on point most of the time. So what does it mean to harness Murphy’s law? Simply this, we can use this law to our advantage to help us be proactive rather than reactive to life’s “calamities”.
The nature of life is that most of what happens to us and around us is unexpected. There simply is no way to plan out how everything will go no matter how melancholic and methodical we may be. So, if we start with an attitude of expecting obstacles, we can be less frustrated when they come along. As the saying goes: “put the plan in the sand and the goals in stone”. Have a clear idea of your vision or ultimate goal and be flexible on the details, making room for detours and roadblocks.
Another important tool in the toolbelt of harnessing Murphy’s law is to adopt a course correction philosophy. Become a problem solver rather than a victim of problems. Usually, the more problems people get good at solving, the bigger the responsibilities they are given and, with bigger problems and more responsibility, comes higher pay in the case of careers. This principle also works in other spheres as well in terms of appreciation and recognition people get for being the one to solve big problems. The one who becomes good at being the best fire-putter-outer (who resolves the problems) can expect positive returns.
Getting Rid of Our Excusitis
In his book, The Magic of Thinking Big. author David J. Schwartz has a chapter called Cure Yourself of Excusitis, the Failure Disease. In this chapter, he goes over what he calls the four most common excuses: The health excuse, the intelligence excuse, the age excuse, and the luck excuse.
The Health Excuse
“Bad” health, in a thousand different forms, is used as an excuse for failing to do what a person wants to do, failing to accept greater responsibilities. failing to make more money, failing to achieve success” – David Schwartz (p. 27)
The author suggests four vaccines against “health excusitis”
- Stop talking about your health issues altogether. You don’t want to fertilize the weeds and nobody really wants to listen to someone talk about their health problems all the time.
- Don’t worry about it. Worrying about health wastes time, energy and even money sometimes. Besides, worrying never does solve any problems.
- Have a thankful attitude. Seriously, no matter how bad you have it, it could be worse so be thankful for the health you do have.
- “It’s better to wear out than rust out”. What a great saying! Just choose to live life no matter what.
The Intelligence Excuse
David Schwartz says that we make two main errors in this category: we either underestimate our own brainpower or overestimate the brainpower of others.
- Don’t underestimate your own intelligence or overestimate the smartness of others. Don’t sell yourself short.
- Remember and tell yourself frequently that what is more important than intelligence is our attitude.
- The ability to think and create is of far more value than the ability to store knowledge and facts.
The Age Excuse
This excuse reflects our tendency to think that we are never the right age to do something. It seems that we are always too early or too late. The “being too old” excuse is the more common of the two and, unfortunately, the media around us tend to propagate a youth culture and convince others who are older, that they are somehow too old to be useful. We have the idea that learning and productivity are only for the younger generations.
- Look at your present age in a positive light. Don’t worry about stereotypes. Stereotypes are overrated anyway.
- Be realistic about productivity; it is far longer than what you may have believed.
- Do what you want to do and don”t worry about the naysayers.
The Luck Excuse
There really is no such thing as luck, good or bad. What we call “luck” is really just the result of certain factors coming together. For example, a traffic accident is really a combination of human error and mechanical failure. Winning the lottery is simply a matter of probabilities and nothing more. We don’t attract good or bad luck and nor do black cats or ladders.
- Realize that everything has a cause and an effect.
- Nothing comes from simply wishing it to happen. Promotions, victories or anything else that we may hope for, do not come from luck.
Anything worthwhile doing is worth the effort and the time it takes to accomplish it. It is not about what everyone else thinks, but about who we are inside and what we know we can do. We are all tough and we can all make it. It just takes the courage to deal with whatever comes our way head-on and not listen to our own excuses nor those of others. When we realize the potential we have inside of us then we can be those of whom people say “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
Have a great day!
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca