In reviewing the past year with others I noticed a theme among many of my friends. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”* all in the same year. One of my friends told me, “I had the worst year of my life personally, but the best year of my life in my business. It’s so strange!”
The darkness is important.
The darkness has a place in our lives. Even the most happy, successful people have dark periods in their lives or dark days. Out of the darkness can come growth, focus, determination and even hope. Without the darkness, we wouldn’t know the light.
I get it. It totally sucks to be in the darkness. It’s hard to have faith that it won’t be forever.
It can feel permanent and hopeless, like that pain will go on forever. When that happens for me, it’s important for me to reach out for help. Someone who can see what you cannot can be a huge advantage.
For me, I like to reach out to a professional like a therapist or a coach. That way I can start the journey out of the darkness and have a tour guide along the way. It’s easier to come out the other side. It’s easier to see or create a meaningful reason for that period in my life. It’s easier to learn and grow from my hardship with that outside eye and hand.
Need to learn how to create a positive meaning from a challenging period in your life?
Read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. This brilliant man turned being in a Jewish Concentration camp in World War II into a life’s purpose of teaching people about meaning.
He found that the people in the camp who couldn’t find positive meaning in their life during that darkest period had died in their eyes and soul before they died in their physical body. And those who created a meaningful purpose while they were in the camp, were better able to sustain the torture and find ways to stay alive in their soul as well as in their physical bodies.
We make up the reasons why things happen all the time. Next time you make up a reason for something you're not happy with, ask yourself these things:
"Is this helpful to me?"
"Is this 100% true? Can I know for sure?"
If not, change it!
For example, you didn't book a job. You can make up the meaning that the producers hate you and you're a horrible actor. Is that helpful? No. Is it true? You can't know for certain.
Try changing it to something like, "It's someone else's turn to book that job."
It’s important to remember during your dark periods, that it’s not "all or nothing". It’s not completely pervasive.
Maybe you are having the worst year of your life financially, but your friendships are deep and meaningful. Maybe you’re having a dry spell in your career, but your physical health is better than ever. Look for ways and areas to find gratitude and let that carry you through even the darkest times.
Think of the ways you are abundant. You can still celebrate what’s going well in your life through hard times.
And finally, it’s important to not make it a personal attack on yourself. Of course, it’s important to take responsibility for what happens in our life when appropriate, but making it about who you are as a person is detrimental.
If this dark period was a result of something for which you are responsible, you can choose to see it as a result of the actions you took in life instead of who you are. If it’s about who you are, you cannot change that. If it’s a choice you made, you can change that next time.
Courtney Rioux, The Whole Artist coaches actors and other creative talent who feel stuck in their career and want more out of life. She's here to help you shift your mindset from stuck and unhappy to empowered and joyful — all while making it feel fun and easy. It’s like therapy without the therapy.