3 Timeless Strategies for Finding Inner Strength (When You Need it Most)


Marc Chernoff

I’ve been volunteering as a counselor for underprivileged kids for the better part of my adulthood. One of the very first kids I worked with, nearly 17 years ago, was a boy who came to see me on an afternoon when he was extremely upset. After sitting with him and listening to his story, I drew him a sketch of a superhero on the front of an index card and wrote a note beside the sketch about how he is a superhero and that superheroes always rise up and win in the end. Then on the back of the index card, in the simplest words I could think of, I listed several timeless strategies that would help him regroup and activate his super powers when he needed them most.

I randomly ran into this same boy again this morning as I walked past the local fire station. He’s now a 28-year-old fire fighter. He recognized me and ran up to me to say hello. We chatted for a half hour about everything under the sun, and then before we parted ways he took his wallet out of his pocket and pulled out the superhero index card I made for him when he was a kid. He held it up so I could see it, smiled from ear to ear and said, “Thank you.”

Today, in slightly more mature words, I want to revisit the first three strategies I wrote down on the back of that index card. Because these are healthy reminders, for all of us:

1. Decide to be OK with NOT being OK all the time.

Even though it’s true that life’s challenges make us stronger, and that it will be OK eventually… it’s not always OK right now, and sometimes that’s all we can feel when we’re in the midst of terribly tough times. Sometimes NOT being OK is all we can register inside our tired brains and aching hearts. This feeling is normal. This emotion is human. And accepting this can feel like a small weight lifted.

The truth is, it’s not OK when someone you care about is no longer living and breathing and giving their amazing gifts to the world. It’s not OK when everything falls apart and you’re buried deep in the wreckage of a life you had planned for. It’s not OK when the bank account is nearly at zero, with no clear sign of a promising income opportunity. It’s not OK when someone you trusted betrays you and breaks your heart. It’s not OK when you’re emotionally drained to the point you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning. It’s not OK when you’re engulfed in failure or shame or a grief like you’ve never known before.

Whatever your tough times consist of, sometimes it’s just NOT OK right now. And that, again, is more than OK.

Yes, I’m suggesting to try your hardest to be perfectly OK with not being perfectly OK all the time. Because those with the strength to succeed in the long run are the ones who lay a firm foundation of growth with the bricks life has thrown at them. Don’t be afraid to fall apart for a little while, because when it happens, the situation will open an opportunity for you to grow and rebuild yourself into the brilliant human being you are capable of being, one brick at a time.

2. Focus only on today.

No matter what’s happening, you can resourcefully fight the battles of just one day. It’s only when you add the battles of those two mind-bending eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly intense and complicated.

Accept that it’s not the experience of today that holds you back and drives you mad, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring, but probably won’t. It’s necessary, then, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now.

And this same strategy applies to your goals too – they don’t need to be so darn grandiose and convoluted that they frighten you. If your goals excite you, and are broken down into manageable chunks, you’ll be compelled to move forward with them. If they are based on what brings meaning into your life, not just what you think you “should” do, working on them will flow easier into each new day.

3. Realize that one tiny step is all you ever need to take.

It really only takes a small shift everyday that over time amounts to enormous change.

People don’t suddenly heal and start living their ideal life overnight – their daily rituals (tiny steps) play a massive role in making it possible for them to create the life they sincerely want to live.

You can choose to develop daily rituals that point you in the direction of creating your ideal life – or rituals that keep you firmly anchored to your present situation. Make the decision. Make the commitment. Then take the next tiniest step forward in the direction you choose to go.

Honestly, that’s all life is – tiny, positive steps that you take moment by moment, and then one day when you look back it all adds up to something worthwhile – something that’s often far better, and different, than what you had imagined when you began your journey.

The Next Step…

Remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life.  At the end of it, let there be no excuses, no explanations, and no regrets.  You can make adjustments, starting NOW, that will help you feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of needless headaches and heartache.


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