Life never fully goes as planned. In fact, nobody escapes unscathed as the old saying goes.
But sometimes, the trials and pains of life throw us so far from the life we dreamt for ourselves, it is difficult to find our bearings.
For any number of reasons, within or outside our control, life unfolded in ways we never anticipated and we find ourselves navigating through a reality we never desired‚ or in some cases, we’d never even wish upon our worst enemy.
We were unexpectedly given a painful health diagnosis, experienced the loss of a child, lost a marriage we fought hard to save, felt the brunt of an economic downturn, or suffered firsthand the devastation from a natural disaster.
For whatever reason, the life we live today feels far from the life we imagined for ourselves. Maybe, living isn’t even the word we’d use to describe our circumstances—surviving might be the best we can muster.
Sometimes the present trials and circumstances are a result of our actions—but not always. Sometimes our circumstances are no fault of our own. And sometimes they occurred quickly, while other times they slowly built over time.
Regardless, they have become the life we are presently living.
If that is you today, living a life far from what you imagined, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not the only one suffering. You are not forgotten. I see you and feel for you and love you. And if that is all you need to hear today, then I hope it encourages you.
But I also want you to know that while life might not look like what you imagined, it still holds potential for growth, impact, fulfillment, and meaning.
If you are breathing today, life still holds opportunity. And you need to believe that. Because you’ll never take steps toward joy until you believe they are possible.
No matter your age, your health, your surroundings, or your circumstances, the rest of your life can be lived intentionally for your good and the good of those around you.
I’m not here to tell you the road will be easy. If it was, you would have already found it. But it does exist. So hold your head up high.
If your life feels far from what you imagined, here are some truths and practices to help you reignite hope:
Recognize and Embrace the Now
This present moment, no matter how imperfect, is your life and it is where your life is happening. There’s no joy to be found in thinking it is different than it is. So, embrace it as true. But remember, embracing the now doesn’t mean giving up on the future; it only means recognizing the value of today.
Understand the Power of Choice
While we cannot control everything that happens to us, we always have a choice in how we respond. This involves discerning between what is within our power to change and what we must learn to accept. But there are always factors we can control, our attitude for example. And that should never be overlooked.
Seek Joy in Simplicity
In difficult circumstances, the need to find joy in simple, everyday moments is even more important and can be incredibly grounding. Whether it’s the warmth of the sun, a conversation with a friend, a pain-free afternoon, the laughter of a child, or a good book, these simple joys remind us of hope and joy.
Cultivate Gratitude and Positivity
There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. Even when life is far from what we envisioned, there are aspects of it for which we can be grateful. Basing our expressions of gratitude on changed circumstances will never bring them about. We must look, purposefully and intently every day, for reasons to be grateful.
Work Harder at Connections
Human relationships are a great resource in times of hardship. Reaching out for support and offering it in return creates a network of empathy and understanding, reminding us that we are not journeying alone. But this is harder for us to do when we feel our life has become something we wish it wasn’t. Humility and love can bring you back. So make that phone call today.
Dissolve Envy with Encouragement
It can be hard to celebrate the successes of others when we feel life has treated us unfairly. Work hard to not allow jealousy or envy to take root in your heart or relationships. Work to dissolve it by cheering and encouraging others instead.
Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that feeling overwhelmed or disheartened is a natural response to life’s trials. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a dear friend.
Try Something New
If the old foundations on which you built your life have fallen away, look for a new foundation. Turn to faith or lean into the support of a close-knit community group, neighborhood, or club.
Pursue Personal Growth
Every remaining day is an opportunity for growth. And while your life may never become what you imagined it to be, engaging in activities that promote self-discovery and personal development will help you begin to re-imagine what the rest of your life can still become.
The world can be cruel. And life will always be unpredictable and complex. Your present journey may not be the one you wanted, but it is yours. And you are still important.