Once upon a time, a young man and woman met, gazed into each other’s eyes, kissed, and knew for certain that they were supposed to be together forever. In the subsequent days, weeks and months everything fell into place just as they had anticipated. He was perfect in her eyes, and she was perfect in his.
Oh, it’s the majestic harmony of young love! When two souls who barely know each other believe they know everything that they must know to live happily ever after in their own blissful bubble. They think this way because it’s what their emotional hearts and minds tell them is true at the moment.
But you know what happens next. It’s what always happens next in contrived fairy tales like this. For one reason or another, logic trumps emotion, their bubble bursts, and the two lovers tumble back down to Earth, bruising themselves along the way and realizing that their perfect, easygoing partner isn’t so perfect or easygoing after all.
Maybe he learns that she doesn’t like to dance, and dancing is extremely important to him. Maybe she learns that he never makes the bed, and making the bed is extremely important to her. Regardless of the specifics, our lovers are finally beginning to see each other for who they really are—imperfect human beings. This is the turning point at which “falling in love” ends and the real work and test of true love begins.
Either their mindset adjusts and they accept reality—that true love isn’t so much about ease and perfection as it is about growth and patience—or they give up and move on to the next short-term fairy tale romance in hopes of finding that one easygoing, perfect soul mate who does everything just right.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because the fluctuating feelings that steer our romantic relationships are quite similar to those that steer our motivation to make a meaningful impact in our lives, and thus a meaningful impact in the world. A little passion is all that’s required to start, but only sustained perseverance makes it worthwhile.
Sure, short powerful bursts of effort and seemingly giant leaps in a single bound appear to be remarkable. But they fade as fast as they arrive, and all we’re left with in the end is an unfulfilled void, an empty promise.
An enduring dedication—fulfilling promises by marching forward with one foot in front of the other, even when the going gets tough, and even when it would be much easier to give up—is what true love is all about. And it’s this kind of love, and only this kind of love, that can make the world a better place, and us stronger, healthier, and happier human beings in the long run.
A real-life, heart-wrenching example…
“I’m dying of Leukemia at age 23. I was sent home from the hospital for my final few weeks 156 days ago. But now I’m back at the hospital being treated again. My doctors now believe there is hope. And I just want to thank you and Angel, because your Getting Back to Happy course has been my single source of guidance and inspiration on the absolute hardest, loneliest nights.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an email Angel and I received recently from a course student named Susan (I’m sharing this with permission). Susan’s words continue to remind me that harsh circumstances will occasionally break us down to the lowest of lows. But if we keep our minds focused on the positive, our hearts open to love, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, we can recover the pieces, rebuild, and fight back with more strength and determination than we ever imagined possible.
Susan has literally been fighting against all odds, and gradually overcoming them! It has been incredible to witness her progress firsthand through our phone and email communication. Day by day, she has emotionally freed herself from some of the ideals that once meant a lot to her—like not being ill—so she can move beyond them and the pain they bring. This has ultimately contributed to the progress she’s made and the renewed hope her doctors now have.
Think about how this relates to the “enduring dedication” I mentioned in the first story above.
And, think about how it relates to YOUR life…
Your response is always more powerful than your circumstance. A tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by your responses.
The goal isn’t to get rid of all your painful thoughts, feelings, and life circumstances. That’s impossible. The goal is to follow in Susan’s footsteps, and change your response to them today!
It’s never too late. Just decide to make the best of it. No excuses. No resistance. No giving up. No regrets.
And when the going gets really tough…
In the space between “I’ll try again” and “I give up” there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you are capable of being and who you have become; it’s the legroom for the fairy tales you’ll tell yourself in the future about what could have been.
There is no success without unrelenting love. Love is the foundation of human progress. Don’t give up on it. Instead, love what you do, until you can do what you love. Love where you are, until you can be where you love. Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most.
Putting in extra love and effort—doing the hard things—is always worth it. Because those are the things that ultimately define you. Those are the things that make the difference between existing and living—between knowing the path and walking the path—between a life of mediocrity and a life filled with progress and fulfillment.
The most powerful weapon against immediate stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the silver linings. Positivity is a choice. The happiness and effectiveness of your life in the long run depends on the quality of your thoughts today.
Being positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negative; it means overcoming the negative. There’s a big difference between the two, and it all starts with your thinking.
Life will take things from you, and give things to you, gradually and continuously. It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Do your best to embrace life’s uncertainties as they arise. Some of the best chapters in your life won’t have a title you feel fully comfortable with until later. Don’t give up too soon.
The petty drama of an average day doesn’t need to get the best of you. Be selective in your battles. You can’t control how other people receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of whatever they are going through at the moment, which has nothing to do with you. Just keep doing your thing with as much love and integrity as possible.
When your marriage, parenting, faith, etc. gets tough, it’s not an immediate sign that you’re doing it wrong. These intimate, intricate aspects of life are toughest when you’re doing them right—when you’re dedicating time, having the tough conversations, and making daily sacrifices.
Hard situations build strong people. You may have seen better days, but you have also seen worse. You might not have all your wants, but you do have what you need right now. You woke up with a few aches and pains, but you woke up. Your life may not be perfect, but it is good. And more good things are coming down the road as long as you keep moving forward.
Inner strength, courage and love don’t always sing out loud. Sometimes these qualities are merely embodied by a deep breath and a soft whisper at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try my best again tomorrow.”
Now, it’s your turn…
Angel and I have spent the past decade working with hundreds of coaching clients, course students, and live event attendees who struggle with everything we’ve just examined together in this article. And we struggle sometimes too. So, if you’re struggling in any way right now, please know that you are not alone. Just keep doing your best to love every step openly and continuously—to do the hard things you need to do—so you can step forward again with grace. Watch this short video clip we created for you:
And if you’re up to it, we’d love to know:
Which part of this article (or video) resonates the most with you right now, and why?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.