Do you ever feel like life just isn’t going the way you planned it? Perhaps you find yourself on the verge of giving up on a dream. Your job search seems fruitless. A relationship keeps hitting a brick wall. You get a little extra money, and then an unexpected expense saps the money as quickly as you got it. Sometimes life is about plowing ahead when the road gets long and hard. When you feel exhausted and weary, that’s when it is essential that you take charge before you burn out or give up.

Like you, I’ve been there. One of the best skills you can gain in life is the ability to navigate the unexpected turns and setbacks life throws your way. Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it. In fact, it rarely does. Let your challenges build the kind of character and perseverance that will empower you to stay the course and win the race that’s been set out for you. Here’s how:

1. Stop expecting things to be easy.

One of the quickest ways to become discouraged is to expect life to unfold just the way you planned it, with few or no obstacles or opposition. When you expect challenges, you’re not surprised when they appear. Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling sorry for yourself when hard times come. Instead, use it as an opportunity to tap into your strengths, character, and faith to courageously face whatever life throws your way.

2. Get some fresh air.

When your thoughts begin a downward spiral, it often means you need a break. Have you been ruminating about your problems, rehashing them over and over in your mind? Take a walk. Do something different. Get out of your normal environment. It can energize you and redirect your thoughts.

3. Get some perspective.

While fresh air will give you perspective, so will someone else’s life. When you start focusing too much on what’s wrong in your life, force yourself to notice what’s right. Right now, stop and acknowledge three things you are grateful for. You probably can’t stop at three! Then open your eyes to others’ stories of resilience. You are not the first person to face your challenges. Who else has gone through them with strength and grace? Realizing you are not alone is powerful. In the process, you may also discover someone who has triumphed through far more difficult challenges and can serve as a source of inspiration.

4. Commit to running your race to the best of your ability.

Who knows why you are going through what you are going through? It may not even be worth the energy of attempting to figure it out. What is worth your energy is expanding your character and capacity in the process. In what ways will you become a better person by persevering through this? What growth do you intend to glean through it all?

5. Be an inspiration.

For my book, Where Will You Go From Here?, I interviewed people who had navigated major life crises—from job loss to divorce to cancer to the loss of a child. My intention was to provide inspiration and examples for my readers as I dutifully set out to conduct interviews with each person. But I found the interviews were as much for me as for the reader. Each person inspired me profoundly through their attitude, determination, and faith. Tackle your challenges in such a way that your children, friends, family, and coworkers will be inspired by your example. You can give others hope by simply acting with the courage to live and love fully in the face of fear and disappointment.

My Challenge To You:

Make a decision to allow your setbacks to build character and perseverance. You can recover from your setback a better person.

Power Question:

What do you need to accept? In what ways is it time to stop feeling sorry for yourself? Where can you find some perspective that will inspire and empower you to persevere despite your setback? When you get discouraged, what thought will lift you up?

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