A Simple 2-Step Method To Be Happy In The Face of Difficulties

Haris Mohammad


Photo — Roman Samborskyi on Shutterstock

Problems, setbacks, and failures — they have one thing in common. They are all master-manipulators. Every time you encounter one, it will trick you into believing it is one of the worst (if not the worst) things to have happened to you. Ever.

And they are able to induce such panic and despair because they hijack all your attention. You become so obsessed with them that you struggle to put things in perspective and look at the larger picture. Or to see how trivial the problems actually are.

But that also means by taking control of your narrative, you can often snap out of their spell and feel better almost instantly. Here’s the 2-step method I use to do just that.

A counter-plan

When a problem is fresh and recent, it’s difficult not to think about it. Not surprising at all. You may not have even had the time to let it all sink in. Or to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. Who knows, maybe the problem requires immediate attention.

Look, our brains are wired to protect us and help us navigate through the complexity of life. If it allowed us to ignore problems just like that, the human race might not have gotten so far.

So it’s only natural that you feel an obsessive need to stick with the problem until you can make peace with it — even if that means giving up and leaving it to God (or whatever your philosophy is).

So don’t even waste your energy trying not to think about it (unless you have achieved some exceptional control over your mind). Instead, you can choose to look at it in a constructive way.

When I come across a difficult situation, I try to develop a plan to overcome the problem or get past the failure. This reorients the whole thought process around the issue.

By focusing on the possible solutions, you feel a sense of control, and gradually, you can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It allows you some peace of mind.

Also, once you find even a hint of a solution, it can be enough to make you feel positive, hopeful, and confident.

And this goes beyond overcoming worries or anxiety. When you train yourself to look for solutions, you acquire a powerful mindset. One that gives you strength and hope. One that encourages you to be resourceful. 

That’s the kind of mindset you want to have.

A couple of simple reminders

You must have read the phrase on side mirrors that says — “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

When I encounter a problem, there’s a similar phrase I like to remind myself of.

Life’s troubles are often smaller than they appear.

Again, it goes back to the point I made earlier. Your mind amplifies the problem, perhaps so that you take it seriously instead of ignoring it. The problem is, very often, it’s a false alarm causing you unnecessary anguish.

So how do you get past this trick your brain plays on you?

One great hack is to ask yourself if the problem is significant enough to matter a few years in the future. Or you can look back into your past. How many of the problems that seemed life-altering then remain relevant today?

I know people (I am sure you do too) who let one argument ruin their day or days. They are seldom calm or happy because there’s always something to keep them anxious or irritated. But ask yourself, is it worth it? 

Would you even remember those little things a few years down the line? Let’s consider an example.

People fall in love and start to believe they just can’t live without the other person. And then comes the breakup. There is immense pain. They feel they can’t breathe. And often, a few months later, they are with someone else they can’t imagine a life without. If only they knew it at the time of the breakup.

Anyway, I am not saying there is no space for grief or any such emotion. My point is if you can see things in the context of longer time-frames, they would have less power over you. Very few events in life are worth the pain. The sooner you realize it, the better.

It’s also worth reminding yourself that one night of decent sleep tends to make things seem much better. A few hours of sleep is what your mind needs to sort things out and put things in perspective. 

Just knowing that you will feel much better the next morning helps ease much of the discomfort.

In a nutshell

Life will have its share of challenges, but it doesn’t have to affect your ability to move forward with peace and happiness. So instead of allowing despair or anxiety to overwhelm you — 

  1. Look for ways to improve your situation.
  2. Remember, problems will most likely appear trivial over time.

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Coach, Engineer, Writer.

Seattle, WA

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