Sometimes the Best We Can Do Is Just Hang In There

The tide always comes back –these were the words my first proper girlfriend said as part of her ‘you’re fired’ speech. I didn’t get much comfort from this nugget of wisdom at age sixteen, but this truth has become like a rock I cling onto when times are hard. The tide always does come back and sometimes the best we can do is just hang in there until it does.

Cliff Hanger

Bad Days Happen

I’ve had a rough few weeks due to problems with my freelance writing business. A client offered me a ton of work – a project he promised would last for months – but then cancelled his order. I’d cleared my schedule and turned down other work offers, so it came as a bit of a blow. I tried to use my groveling skills to win back some of the projects I’d turned down, but those ships had already sailed. In one day I went from having too much work to hardly any work – instead of being able to save a nice sum of money at the end of the month, I’ve been struggling to stay afloat.

The exact same thing happened to me last year. It’s always a risk to rely too much on one client, but I can’t see any way around it. I just can’t afford to turn down offers of high-paying or long-lasting gigs. I’m probably going to end up in the same position many times in the future. When it happened last year, I fell into a deep depression – this time I’ve dabbled with feelings of hopelessness and despair, but I’ve mostly just kept pushing forward as best I can while I wait for the tide to return.

My motivation and energy levels were in the stratosphere up until this happened, so it feels like I’ve really hit the earth with a bang. I’d created a nice daily routine to increase my productivity, but I haven’t been sticking to it the last couple of weeks. I’m not going to beat myself up over my lack of discipline because at the moment my priority is getting back on track.

Things are starting to pick up for me again – I can feel the tide returning. I feel relieved to have weathered another storm in my life, but it’s a humbling experience. It is a shock to realize how easy it can be for my life to start to fall apart – something that is easy to ignore when things are going well.

Do the Bad Days Have Meaning?

I don’t subscribe to the ‘shit just happens’ philosophy of life. I’m not claiming bad things happen just to teach me life lessons, but I’ve no doubt these rough patches produce positive change in my life. It’s not so much that the difficult periods teach me anything, it’s more like they force me to abandon beliefs and ideas that have been holding me back.

I like to think of these rock-bottom days as being like entering a cocoon – it can be a terribly dark and lonely place but it is worth it for the transformation that occurs afterwards.

How to Just Hang in There

• Try to remain as productive as you can until the tide returns
• Don’t beat yourself up if your motivation and energy levels have plummeted – the guilt will just make the problem worse
• Remember how you have survived the bad times before
• Keep your eye for signs that things might be improving
• Take action even if it feels like you are grasping at straws – this is the best anecdote for worry
• Read inspiration material by people who have made it through incredibly tough challenges
• Remember that things are never going to be as bad as the story provided by your imagination
• When you are faced with uncertainty remember that a negative outcome is the least likely – the odds are it is going to be a neutral or positive outcome.