How to Rise Up When You Want to Give Up: The 4-Step Process to Turn a Reaction into Positive Action
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” –Maya Angelou
I have zero intention of bringing anything political to Live Your Legend, but in light of all that is going on in the world right now because of the recent U.S. election results, I do think it is important to take a look at the topic from a wider lens.
Because part of what it means to “Live Your Legend” is to show up as the best version of yourself. And, while it may not appear outwardly obvious, I see what many people are feeling in the aftermath of the election results as similar to what I was feeling right after losing Scott.
A lot of people are experiencing their own sort of grief—because while grief is most often associated with death, when you distill it to its core concept, is it a natural human emotion we experience any time we believe we’ve suffered any kind of loss. One of the most basic definitions I’ve found is:
Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of, or change, in a familiar pattern of behavior. –The Grief Recovery Handbook
And change challenges us because it disrupts the expectations we have of the way we think the world should be. It forces us to get out of our comfort zone because we have to find a way to exist in a place when we are unsure of how to do that. It requires us to live in a place we didn’t necessarily plan for. And it makes us look at ourselves head on, question who we are, and the beliefs, patterns and habits that we currently live with.
Over the past year, my approach to grief has always been to zoom in and look at what’s going on at a much deeper level than what shows up on the surface. To look deep within myself to understand why I am doing what I am doing and feeling what I am feeling, but in a way that is somewhat detached from the actual situation at hand.
Yes, my feelings and reactions may have been triggered from an external event, but I want to understand those things at a much deeper level. I want to answer why I am doing what I am doing, not simply understand what I am doing.
And while all this is very much still happening within me, because life is ever-changing, I will speak in the past tense, because the initial “shock” and “disbelief” phase is what I think many around the world are feeling now.
So, yes, I was processing the loss of the person I was closest to in this world, but it was painful and hard for reasons much deeper than that. Losing Scott turned my world upside down because:
- It stripped me raw of many of the things I had used to identify myself.
- It challenged the beliefs I had about the way the world should be.
- It squashed hope I had for the future, putting me in a place where there was tremendous uncertainty and fear for what the future looked like.
- It made me feel like I didn’t belong in a place I previously felt like I belonged, and,
- It made me ask much bigger questions about how and why the world could possibly work in this way.
So today, I am not talking politics, because I couldn’t possibly begin to understand all the intricacies about what has and will happen as a result of last week… Instead I am talking about how to take something that feels chaotic, scary and foreign—and turn your reaction into a launch pad to create positive action.
Because I don’t know about you, but I think the world is in desperate need of that at the moment…
I am by no means an expert, but:
I do have experience with how to look deep within when the world feels like it doesn’t make sense.
I do have experience with being unbelievably afraid and learning how to turn that fear into fuel (for positive change, not anger or destruction—for self and others).
I do have experience taking a situation that left me feeling powerless and hopeless and leveraging that to find empowerment.
I do have experience finding light when the only thing I could actually see was dark.
And I do have experience understanding and breaking down my own limitations so that I could show up positively in the world, despite all that was going on around me…
So that was my short-winded (ha!) intro for discussing a 4-step process that (over and over again) helped me rise up when I wanted to give up in a world that felt like it made no sense.
4-Steps to Turn a Re-Action into Positive Action
Step 1: Fine Tune Your Focus
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” –Steve Maaboli
How far would you get if you were trying to drive a car only looking in the rearview mirror?
You would crash over and over and over again—and never ever actually get anywhere. And that frustration would cause you to want to give up because hey, you “tried” over and over and it didn’t work out, right?
But the problem is not that you tried and it didn’t work. The problem is that your focus is in the wrong damn direction! Putting effort into wishing things were different, or burying yourself in what “did” or “could” happen is energy wasted.
Is it unbelievably hard to accept things when they don’t turn out as you had hoped? Yes, it is! But the only way to move forward from the events that show up in our lives is to create a foundation from this place. What you do with what is, not what could have been, is the only thing you that will actually move you forward.
We all only have so much energy to put out, and I don’t know about you, but if I am going to get into this car called life, I’d prefer to put my energy into moving that car forward instead of causing it to keep crashing.
And as much as we want to believe otherwise, we have control over an incredibly small number of things. If I had to simplify it down to the core, all you really have control over is what you choose to do, today, this hour, this moment…
- You cannot control what happens in life (what already happened, what could happen), but you can choose how you respond to it.
- You cannot control how other people will respond, but you can control how you show up in the world.
- You cannot control how your actions will unfold, but you do have control of how and where you choose to spend your time and energy.
Yet many of us spend most of our lives living caught up in the things we cannot control. And if all your time is spent unconsciously reacting to the things you have absolutely zero control over, there is no space to put into the things you can actually do something about.
So it’s about shifting your focus away from the rearview mirror, and bringing your focus to the road right in front of you, to the here and now, because as harsh as it may sound, accepting that the new reality at hand is the truth (whether you like it or not), is the only possible place you can move forward from. And when you start to become aware of where you’re focusing, that awareness allows you to create acceptance of what is and then shift your focus to what you actually can do something about.
Positive Action Exercise:
- When you find yourself going to the place of what could have been (getting worried or caught up in what did happen), stop and remind yourself: “There is nothing I can do about what already happened. But I can do something about what I do right now.” I had to remind myself over and over again… “This is my new reality, I cannot do anything to change that, but I can choose to live this reality with a smile or a frown.”
- When you find yourself going to the place of what could be (getting worried or caught up in what could happen), stop and ask yourself: “Is this true right now? Not in the future, but right now.” We tend to paint very elaborate pictures of what could be, but more often than not, none of those pictures are actually true in this very moment.
Step 2: Understand Yourself (and Create Compassion for Others)
“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.” –Doe Zantamata
We are huge advocates of becoming a self-expert here at LYL, because the better we understand ourselves, the better we’ll understand each other.
Many of us blindly walk through life doing things because we are “supposed to” or were “told to” or “should” or because it is “normal” without ever taking a moment to think about why we are doing what we are doing. And how can we possibly understand why others do what they do if we don’t even understand why we do what we do?!
And while many feel anything but connected right now, there is simply no denying that we are all in this together. What any one person does has an impact on the people around them, and in some way, shape or form will continue to impact people for generations to come.
So, given this post is all about rising up when you want to give up, I believe that the path to progress lies in doing what you can do—but doing it for and because of those around you (which is why finding compassion and releasing judgment is so very important).
It’s not every man out for himself, it’s about focusing your efforts on the things you actually can do something about, and knowing that when we do that collectively, it will move the needle forward.
And a great place to start is to simply have a better understanding of why you do what you do. Because when you do that, it might help you understand why others do what they do, even if you may not agree with it.
And when you start to understand yourself better, you’ll:
- Begin to live a life that’s more intentional and less reactionary
- Make better decisions based on who you are, rather than who you are supposed to be
- Start spending your time doing what actually matters to you, which in turn positively impacts all those around you, and
- (Hopefully!!!) be able to release judgment and gain compassion for others and why they do what they do.
Positive Action Exercise:
Answer this series of questions to help you understand you—and because of what we are encountering right now, potentially have a better understanding of others.
- How do you describe yourself to others? What are the top 5 words you’d use to describe yourself?
- Throughout your day, what most often follows the statement “I am ___” or “I do___”?
- How would you like others to describe you if you had a choice? Another way to think about this: what would you want others to say about you at your funeral?
- What kind of person would this make you? Why is that a good thing?
- Are you living that image today? If not, what beliefs (aka what story do you tell yourself – too old, too young, etc.) do you have that are stopping you from being this kind of person?
- If you HAD to find something “wrong” with being this kind of person, what would that be?
- Have you ever had a belief that changed or something you once thought was not possible that then became possible? List the old belief and the new one. What experience caused that belief to change?
- Do you believe that your experiences brought you to believe the things you believe today?
- Would you today judge a person with that old belief? Why?
- Who are the people that bother/frustrate/annoy/anger you? What beliefs do they have that make you feel that way?
- What kind of person does this make them? And what is wrong with that kind of person?
- If you were this kind of person, what would that mean about you? What is wrong with that?
If you can come to believe that your beliefs are a result of the unique experiences that brought you to where you are today, and your beliefs are simply something that you tell yourself to be true (which is why they can change and why two people who are looking at the same thing can see it so differently), it helps to understand that other people’s experiences brought them to the beliefs they have today as well. We dive a lot deeper into this topic in our courses.
Step 3: See Things Better Than They Are, Not Worse
“Leaders… they see things as better than they are, not worse. And they take action to make things the way they see them.” –Inspired by Tony Robbins Leadership Academy
For things to be better, you need to make them better. If you wait around for things to just “get” better, you are 1. going to be waiting a really long time, or 2. going to end up disappointed when things don’t magically go your way. And in order to make them better, you have to be able to see them better.
I’ll be honest, right after losing Scott, the only thing I could envision was me being the crazy 50-year-old aunt that had 20 cats. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that life, but for me personally, it is not the prettiest picture of what I want from my life. However, in my mind it felt like it could be very real. And if it was where I let my mind stop, it likely could become my reality.
But to be the leader of your own life, you need to at the very least see things as they are, not worse (which is why focusing on what actually is, is so important). Ideally you envision them better than they actually are because if you cannot envision things better than they are, it is tough to ever make that happen.
That’s the main reason we share the transformation stories we do at LYL–so that you have proof of what is possible. Many people out there don’t believe it is possible to make a living from doing work you love. And if you don’t think something is possible, it’s highly unlikely to ever happen.
Positive Action Exercise:
- Let fear do its thing. Go ahead and list all the things that could go wrong about your current situation.
- Take each “wrong” scenario and come up with an opposite “right” scenario.
Step 4: Determine the Next Smallest Step
“The biggest risk isn’t that you’re going to try something and it’s not going to work out. The biggest risk is that you wake up a year from now, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and wish you would have done things different.” –Scott Dinsmore
I see it as our responsibility to ourselves, and to each other, to take life’s challenges and let them change us in a way that allow us to do more, be more, share more and give more.
Because, call me crazy, but I think that each of us has the opportunity to leave this world a little better than we found it. No matter what cards you are dealt…
Yet I understand that at times, it feels like there is no hope. That things are way too backwards to ever make progress. That you are only one small person.
But at Live Your Legend, we always talk about taking the smallest steps possible. The steps so small that you cannot fail. And, while I will never be able to fully comprehend the number of different fears many people are processing at the moment, I do know that every single one of us can start with what we can do as individuals.
And if you are only focusing on the things you can’t control or everything that could go wrong, there is no space to take action towards what we can make right. The more you can live with what you can do, instead of what you cannot, the more progress you (and therefore, we) will make.
- Giving up is easy. Rising above is hard.
- Seeing things worse than they are is easy. Seeing things better than they are is hard.
- Complaining is easy. Taking action is hard.
- Taking is easy. Giving, without expecting anything in return simply because you know it is the right thing to do, is hard.
- Resisting and fighting is easy. Accepting and embracing is hard.
- Falling into fear is easy. Having compassion, even when it doesn’t make sense, is hard.
- Releasing judgment for the people you understand is easy. Releasing judgment for the people you don’t understand is hard.
- Seeing this as YOUR world is easy. Seeing this as OUR world is hard.
And that starts with a commitment to take the high road, whether you are rewarded for it or not. It starts with being the change, instead of just talking about it.
Because if you do what you can do, which is start small, step up, show up, and shine the light that lives within all of us, the rest unfolds as it is meant to….
So, when you find that fear, anger, frustration, etc. begin to creep up, answer this one simple question: what small step can I do today, this hour, this minute?
Positive Action Exercise:
- What is the next smallest step can I do today, this hour, this minute to get me closer to one of those “right” scenarios listed in step 3?
It may be something unbelievably small, something so small that it is impossible to fail.
But that step leads to the next, which leads to the next, and the next.
And the only way to rise up is to let one step lead to another…
Note: Aspects of this post were inspired by the works of Tony Robbins and Byron Katie.