graveThroughout my life I’ve had the chance to meet a wide variety of people. While the color of their skin, the language they speak or the entity they worship may differ, one thing is always the same — we all face challenges at different points in our lives. Of course, the way people handle those challenges varies but the good thing is that it’s something that we can control. And in many cases, it’s this way of handling challenges that dictates whether we stay in the game or go home in defeat.

There are so many things that can happen which can throw our lives into chaos. Here’s some of the common things (and this is far from being an exhaustive list):

  • Job loss — getting fired, downsized or being forced out.
  • Business failure.
  • Bankruptcy or financial problems.
  • A breakup — anything from a falling out with a friend to a divorce.
  • A sick family member or close friend.
  • The death of someone close to you.
  • Theft, loss or destruction of an important piece of personal property (such as your home or vehicle).

I think we can all agree that all of these can be very serious. I’ve experienced many of these (and people close to me have experienced the ones I haven’t) and it can throw you off. Unfortunately, I also have known of people who have decided that one or more of these things were too much for them and attempted to take their lives — sadly, some of them were successful.

Why do we let ourselves get to the point where we feel there’s no way out? How do we allow ourselves to close out the possibility of turning things around and getting back on our feet? Is it really the end of the world? Is the shame too much to bear?

It all boils down to the fact that our will to live gets destroyed along the way. Sometimes it’s one event, other times it’s the result of many smaller events. People who are repeatedly bullied throughout their lives are more likely to lose their will to live than those who haven’t. Having our egos and self-esteem constantly beat down over several decades takes its toll on our emotions and attitude.

Also, a feeling of overwhelm when a number of things are going wrong all at once can be another factor. When it seems like nothing is going right for us, it’s natural for us to feel down.

When you find yourself in these types of situations, you need help. Sometimes, just talking it out with a friend or family member that you trust (and is a good listener) can make you feel better. Getting something off your chest that’s been bubbling up inside you can often pull you out of that rut. These days it’s so easy to connect with supportive people on-line via social media that if you don’t have someone you can physically sit down with to open up, you can find someone to chat with online. Yes, you need to be wary of people out there with less than honorable intentions, but in general, those folks are in the minority. I’m fortunate to have connected with some great folks over social media that I’ve never met in person, yet they will check in with me periodically when they haven’t seen any postings from me for a while or sense I’m stressed.

A lot of us try to tackle our problems alone and while it is possible, it’s much more difficult. When I think back to when I played competitive sports, the biggest high you can get is when you have a crowd cheering you on — it gives you the strength to push yourself extra hard. This is why some folks are drawn to public speaking as a career — people cheering you on can pick you. As I’ve mentioned before, the encouragement I received from my former Toastmasters club has pulled me out of several ruts — including the two times I’ve been downsized.

If you feel you must deal with it alone, here are a few things you can try:

  • Focus on the positive: What can you take away from the situation? Is there a lesson learned? Is there a silver lining to the cloud?
  • Accept that you can’t control everything: If you’re giving your all, you need to accept that you’re doing what you can.
  • Find something that changes your mood: A song, video or even a photo can often change your mood instantly. Sometimes it reminds you of a person or people in your life that make you happy — and it might remind you that there are some good things in your life.
  • Stick with it: If you keep at it, you’ll find a solution.
  • Find a role model: Look for examples of a person (or people) who have dealt with similar situations. Join a support group if one exists.

Also keep in mind that things are often not as bad as they seem when they immediately happen (excluding life or death situations such as loss of a loved one). Time truly heals all wounds and sometimes a few hours or a few days are all it takes to get past it. More serious problems where someone is sick or passes away can take a considerable amount of time to get over (an you may never fully get over it) but again, the passage of time will chip away at the pain and help you move forward with your life.

I’ll leave you with two videos that help me deal with being stressed or overwhelmed. While you watch them, pay close attention to the words (you search for the lyrics using the search box up top if you have a hard time understanding them). Both songs have good messages and they remind us that if we tough it out and realize that challenges are a fact of life, we’ll get through the tough times.

Rodney Atkins “If You’re Going Through Hell”


Darryl Worley “ Sounds Like Life To Me”


Please note that sometimes Youtube prevents videos from being embedded so if you can’t watch either of these videos, please contact me so I can update the link and use the search box up top to search for the videos.

My Will to Live, R.I.P.
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One thought on “My Will to Live, R.I.P.

  • August 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Another great post James. It’s also perfect timing because I just replied to an email from one of our friends who mentioned that things in his life were all out of whack lately… I actually suggested that he take things “slow and steady”, keep at it and do things to take his mind of the stressful stuff. Believe it or not I even told him to give your blog a read and sent him this post. Thanks for the inspiration, and I hope all is well with you.

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