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3 Lessons I Learned From Overcoming The Hardest Days of My Life

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

At age 4, my father was murdered by his mafia associates. My mother and I desperately fled for our lives from the terror and a serious threat to our lives. At five years old I found myself homeless for 10 days in a park in Las Vegas. See my blog A New Day. A New Hope. I’ll Make It.

Why do we get stuck in life? More importantly how do we get unstuck? Often times, we just sit and wait and hope for change. Unfortunately, that’s not the way to get unstuck. We need to stop procrastinating and we need to take baby steps day in and day out to move away from what is keeping us stuck and then we will see change.

Three years ago, my mother passed away. My heart was so broken. This was the mother who desperately and courageously tried to protect me when my father was murdered by his mafia associates. Fourteen months after my mother passed my dear stepdad passed. You see, one year after my father was murdered, my stepdad came into my life. He brought hope and stability into our home-life which sat so precariously on the edge of disaster. Most people do not know but for 10 days of my life at age 5, I was homeless. It was my stepdad who ended what could have been a very desperate childhood. Now, both my mother and father were gone. I found myself stuck. My emotions ruled me. This was the beginning of the hardest days of my life.

Life does not go as planned, and this kind of ticks me off. I bet it ticks you off too. So, what do we do when life does not go as planned, which by the way is quite often and we find ourselves stuck? At times, after both my parents were gone, I felt stuck but worse, I felt I was sinking in quicksand. I had deep thoughts asking myself, “Will I pull out of this?” “This” being the entrance to the dark forest of depression. After the murder of my father, my mother became an alcoholic and a substance abuser. Now that I was struggling over the loss of both of my parents, I asked myself, “Self, will I venture into this precarious path my mother chose?” I was so determined to not let it happen. No way. I’ve got to fight, and I’ve got to win.

Here are 3 lessons I learned from overcoming the hardest days of my life:

1. There is always something to be grateful for

My stepdad passed on a Sunday. My wife said, “Sweetie, take the week off from work to heal.” This was a great idea but watch what happened. I chose to go to work Monday morning. Why? I was so grateful for my students and the joy they bring me, that this was actually the gateway to my healing process for my loss.

When you feel stuck. Stop, go for a walk. I did. In fact, when my stepdad passed, I took a lot of walks alone and I would whisper to myself the things I was so grateful for. Guess what? I was not in quicksand anymore! Oh yes, I was still in a battle, but it was not a desperate battle anymore. Gratitude is kind of like a superpower! BOOM!

Now trust me, being grateful is not a one time fix-all kind of thing. I have turned gratefulness into a habit. We have two kinds of habits. We have good habits and bad habits. After loosing both of my parents, I chose to get up 2 hours before leaving for work to be very contemplative in the area of gratitude. As a result, gratitude became a very positive habit.

2. Positive acceptance is the first step forward

I so deeply respect Marc Chernoff’s insights, “There are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you. When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.”

Just sayin’ but Chernoff’s insight simply kicks butt! Life is so up and down. Up and down is the norm to life. However, an attitude of positive acceptance truly is the first step to moving forward. My wife has taught me that where there is no crisis, there is no change.

Accepting being stuck and why you are stuck is a first step to the movement to getting headed in the right direction.

3. Time for some action

Gratitude is a superpower! Positive acceptance is the first step forward but then we must “do”. What do I mean by do? We must do actions to head in the right direction.

Often times I hear people say they want to get healthier. I’m thinking to myself, “Ok, let’s see you ‘do’? What will you choose to do to get healthier? Will you choose to eat better foods? Will you choose to exercise?” We can say a lot of things. Have hopes and wishes, but it’s not until we put action to those wishes that we will see some forward movement.

If we want to see change in our lives, we must take intentional action. Trust me when I say intentionality will win the day. We must be intentional and do the right things. When we choose to do the right things, often times we will see the right results!

Lastly, no matter what you’re going through today, that’s all it is—an experience. I know it can be frustrating and hurt. However, it’s something you’re going through right now, and it’s not infinitely bad or good. It’s just a fleeting experience. It might not feel too good, but that’s very normal. Not all experiences feel good. And no feelings last forever.

Chernoff says, “Sometimes we just have to experience the reality of bitter cold, scorching heat, turbulent storms, and pain. These things are part of life, and we can’t possibly shut them all out. So just do your best to feel your present challenges fully, with as open a heart as you can muster. Find peace with whatever that experience brings.”

Your turn...

Talk to me. Let me know your thoughts as we all move forward in this journey we call life. Hit me up with your comments.

Remember, GRIT don’t quit!

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