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Your Strength Is Just Hiding Under A Pile of "Stuff"

It's wonderful to watch people go from strength to strength, taking the difficulties and wounds from their lives and chipping away at the healing and growth that come with time, practice and patience. We're really pretty amazing beings.

We can "take a licking and keep on ticking", as the advert for Timex watches used to say a million years ago.

People don't always react in the same ways to particular stressors. Some people seem to sail through extreme difficulties, whilst others crumble with fairly minor setbacks. What is it that makes the difference?

Well, there's no simple answer to that. Personality plays a part in it. Some people are just generally more easygoing than others, right from childhood. There are those little kids who never seem to get wound up, and others who come unglued over the littlest things.

So we've got a predisposition to cope well - or not - right from when we come out of the chute, so to speak.

Then you throw in learning and experience. Are you someone who has been through a long list of challenging events? Has the universe been hurling things at you over and over again? Have you been finding ways to cope with them through counselling, or support from groups or friends?

Or have you just slammed the door on all of that, and muddled through somehow, despite feeling completely overwhelmed?

People who have seen a lot of adversity may have developed some coping skills that those with less difficult lives haven't needed to use. It's the kind of practice no one wants, but whether we like it or not, some of us get anyway.

Whether your problems are enormous by someone else's standards or not is irrelevant. If they feel like they are to you, then they are. No one else has to live in your shoes or deal with your experience, just you.

So what do you do when you're overwhelmed by troubles? When you feel like you've had one boulder too many piled on top of you?

I've lived there far too often in my life, so I know what that's like. Sometimes I've bounced back quickly, other times not so fast.

It's always hardest when the only light you see at the end of the tunnel is the train coming at you.

There have been times when my usual tricks haven't worked. When it got really bad, I mean really, really bad, I couldn't find even a glimmer of hope, and that's a terrible place to be. I'd look down the road ahead and couldn't see anything positive.

All I could think was that there was no point being here any more, because it was just too much of a struggle with no end in sight.

It's not often that I've been in that place - thank heaven. But at least I've found something that helps me to get out of it.

When looking ahead doesn't do it for me, and in fact just makes it feel worse, I look behind me. I look at some of what I've been through in the past. I look at the traumatic and terrifying times, or the extreme financial struggle, or the life-threatening health issues.

I can look back through my entire life and see decades of difficulties lying there behind me, events I thought I'd never survive, struggles I thought would never end.

But here I am. I did survive, and those troubles did end. So when things get really awful now, I remind myself of that. I look behind me and see what I've overcome. I remember that I didn't think I could have done this or that - but then I did. It's like losing your car keys or that all-important pile of documents you need first thing in the morning. You know they're here somewhere, buried under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to dig around a bit to find them.

When you're feeling like you can't go on, or you don't know how you're going to cope with the mountain of stress or problems you're encountering, you can reconnect with your strength by remembering that you've had it in the past.

You've come a long way, dealt with so much, and quite possibly with a whole lot worse than what you're going through right now. But you got through all of those hard times. And you found more of your strength with each problem you overcame.

Your strength doesn't leave you; it's always there, hiding under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to remember it.

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"Hard" Does Not Mean "Impossible"

So you're facing something that's going to be hard to do. That's no reason not to do it.

"Hard" does not mean "impossible". No doubt you've faced loads of other things in your life that you thought would be really difficult, even when you were a little kid. And somehow, you did them anyway. You look back on those "little kid difficulties" and of course they're easy peasy now, right?

And perhaps you wish life could be easier - at least sometimes. But there's a reason why it isn't.

Each of us is here for a reason. We've all got a purpose and it's your job to figure out what yours is. Would you really expect that to be easy? Chances are you won't know what your purpose is unless and until you've been knocked around a bit and learned a whole lot about yourself. That's the only way to discover who you really are, and what's important to you, and how you can make a difference in the world.

In order to prepare for that, there will be a lot of learning to do. When you first start running, or going to the gym or taking yoga, you're stiff. You can't run very long, lift too much, or stretch too far. And it hurts like hell the next day.

But you keep at it, doing it again, and repeating the exercises, at the end of a week you can run a little easier, and stretch a little further. With continued practice, you improve, running, lifting, or stretching more all the time.

If you never encountered any obstacles or hardship, you would never have a reason to discover your ability to deal with problems. You would never learn how to cope with stress. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you would remain as a young child, never progressing because there would be no reason to do so.

We are here to learn. The only way we can make it easier is to pay attention to the lessons, to do our homework. Otherwise, we will keep getting the same lessons, usually in bigger and nastier ways, until finally we've cracked them.

If you want to keep slamming your head into a brick wall just to check if it really does hurt like last time, then go ahead and keep doing it. You're only causing yourself more pain and delaying your ability to progress beyond that point. The quicker you accept that your head + a brick wall = pain, the better off you'll be.

It is said that we are never given more than we can handle. From a wealth of personal experience, I'm very well aware that sometimes, that seems like a huge load of rubbish.

But you know what? I've also discovered that it's the truth. The only sticky bit is that we have to choose to handle it. We take a deep breath, and try a little harder. This is how we discover what we're really able to do and find out just how much inner strength we really do have.

Yup, life is hard. But it's also loaded with rewards, many of which come from a sense of accomplishment when we've overcome obstacles. We find our feet and learn what we can do, which gives us confidence and building blocks for the next set of challenges.

You've done lots of difficult things in your life and they've made you the wonderful, unique, and very special person that you are today. And if you're not feeling so wonderful, unique or special, think about what you've overcome, what you've achieved, and how many difficulties you crushed like bugs.  Remind yourself that you're still standing! You did it! And you're a better, stronger person for it!

See? "Hard" isn't such a big deal after all.

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How to Climb The Mountain That's Staring You in the Face

Have you been to hell and back a million times in your life? Have you felt like you were standing at the base of a mountain, your destination the other side of it, but not seen one bit of figurative climbing gear to be seen? - not one harness, not one descender, nope, not even one little crampon?

I know what it's like to look up at the top of that mountain. You feel like you'll never get there - but you know you have to do it; there's no turning back. So now what?

If it's too much to look up, turn your attention to the base of the mountain. You'll feel a little less pressured if you just focus on what you can achieve right now in this moment, and leave the rest to unfold as it will.

I know that sometimes when I've glanced up at that mountain top, I've felt immobilized. I've wanted to give up before I started. So I just grabbed onto the first bit of rock I could reach, picked up a foot and found a little step up. As long as I continued to do that, I made progress. Looking up was not an option. I could afford to look only at what was directly in front of me.

Whatever it is that you're facing, find the first rock that you can handle and take that small step. Leave the biggest, scariest rocks if you can, and get some of the smaller ones out of the way first.

Soon you will feel a bit of relief. Your anxiety will diminish; you will feel stronger. It will reinforce your belief that you must not, under any circumstances, look up, not just yet. To do so might be paralyzing. Forward movement and momentum are paramount. So just keeping grabbing for one small rock at a time, and don't look up.

Before long, you will feel ready to tackle the most challenging rocks. They might not put you at the top of the mountain right away, but you'll be well on your way to reaching it. You might even be able to look up after that. Because the beauty of it is, you'll also be able to look down and see how far you've come.

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How to Grow Your Very Own Big Problems. Or Not.

Once upon a time, there was a little problem. Like all the other little problems, this one hoped that someday, he would grow up to become a big problem. And if he could be a really lucky little problem, he would get to join the military and might even become a Major Disaster.

He had an enormous fear of failure so he paid close attention in class, keeping his vision for the future uppermost in his mind. The first thing he learned was that his mortal enemy was the light. He would be most vulnerable in plain sight, out in the open. He must do his best to remain hidden, where he would feed on the darkness and with any luck, someday he could achieve his ultimate military goal.

His teacher said that his best chance of survival depended upon finding quiet People who had lots of carpets, under which they would stash any problems they could find. With plenty of darkness under carpets, there was always a feast fit for a king and any little problem lucky enough to live in such a place would grow very quickly in size and strength.

One day, the little problem found that he was on the sweeping end of a broom and whoosh! - there he went, tumbling and rolling well under a beautiful Persian rug. How exciting! Finally, he would have a chance to become a big problem!

He was thrilled to meet all the other little problems that were hiding under that carpet and being quite the extrovert, he planted himself right smack in the middle of all of them. With plenty of darkness to keep him well fed, he grew rapidly and it wasn't long before he felt his first thump in the head when one of the People tripped on him.

"Oh, goodie!" he exclaimed. "I'm growing up! This is progress!" And he and all the other growing little problems laughed and giggled amongst themselves.

After a time, there wasn't much room under the carpet any more. The problems had melted into one another, just like cinnamon buns that had been too close together on a pan and had risen and blended, one into the next. They had grown so large that the People had to use ladders to climb over the big lumps in the carpet.

One day, while everyone was having an afternoon nap, the growing little problem was awakened by People voices. They used words like depression, worry and fear.

"Oh, no!" he thought. "We were so close to becoming Major Disasters, and now we're doomed!"

Alarmed, he woke the others as quickly as possible. The frightened problems lay quietly while they heard words like "financial troubles" and "no work". They heard about illness and too much stress.

The more words they heard, the more the carpet was pulled back from the edges of their hiding place, gradually exposing them to the light. The unfortunate ones on the perimeter went first, shrivelling and shrinking the very moment they were out in the open.

Horrified, the not-so-little problem watched as one by one, his friends died and then vanished right before his eyes as the carpet was lifted closer and closer to where he lay in the middle. And there was nothing he could do but lie there and wait his turn.

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