Have you ever really gone through something tough?

I have.

I’m guessing you have.

I don’t know anyone who says, “oh, I’ve had a really easy life.”

Everyone has gone through something.

And I know it sucks.

In this episode, you’ll learn exactly what to do when something sucks, including the 7 step process to get through it, and specific words to use to move you through whatever you’re going through.

Here are more personal development resources that will help you when something sucks:

Full Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life podcast where it’s all about designing your life on your terms and now your host, Natalie Bacon.

Hey, I am so glad to be with you today. This episode is going to be a strategy for you to use to apply when something really sucks in your life. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but the feeling will be the same. It could be that you made a mistake. It could be that you’re laid off or fired. It could be that you have a medical diagnosis or someone you love is sick. You could be rejected by someone you want to go out with or your spouse is cheating on you and you just found out your child has something happened to him or her. You’re not accepted into a program that you applied to any of these things. It can be something that like happened externally or that you did like a mistake that you made because you’ll feel the same negative emotion and I want you to know that there’s a strategy that you can use to kind of work through it.

I have bad things that happen in my life where I decide I want to feel terrible all the time and I just want you to know that because sometimes it might not seem that way, right? You only get to see all the good stuff from people online, but I’m telling you it’s real.

A few examples of things that happen in my life that were really sucky, that were disappointments were a lot of tests that I’ve taken. So I scored super, super low on the ACT exam. I scored really low on the L SAT, which is the test to get into law school. I ended up only getting into one law school and I ended up transferring out of that law school after I was in the top of my class. But the test to get in was really low. I had a ton of student loan debt, $206,000 when I graduated law school.

I remember distinctly wanting a particular job after my first law job and I really wanted this job and I didn’t get it and I was devastated. I failed the CFP exam the first time I took it, the certified financial planner exam, I had to take it twice. That was so disappointing. I went through a horrible breakup about a year and a half ago that was very unexpected and that was devastating.

And these are just a few of the things that I would say really shaped my twenties and they have had a big impact on my life. But when these bigger things kind of suck and it’s that disappointment or that feeling of fear or shame, I want you to follow these seven steps that I am to lay out for you.

So the first step is to just acknowledge what happened. So state the facts out. I think it’s really helpful to write out what happened because I will have so much chatter and it will be all of my thoughts. It won’t be the facts. So I like to write out exactly what happened, right? Someone cheated on you or you didn’t get accepted into the program. Whatever it is, just write out the facts.

And then step two is to state how you feel about the facts. And I want you to name the feeling in a one word feeling. A lot of times if you ask someone how they feel, they will give you a thought. So if you say, how do you feel about that? They’ll say, Oh, I feel like so-and-so shouldn’t have done that or something. But the feeling is going to just be one word. It’s going to be like shame or guilt or powerless or angry or fear, whatever that feeling is. I want you to start to get into the habit of naming your feelings so you’re able to identify the emotions that you’re experiencing.

Most likely you’re going to want to be able to undo this feeling and you can’t, right? So there’s that resistance there, but just name the feeling. Be very clear about how you’re feeling before you go on to step three.

Step three is to ask yourself if you want to feel how you’re feeling. Now, before I did all of this coaching and learned that my thoughts create my feelings. I had no idea that my feelings were optional, and this is just really good to know. So when something really sucks, you want to be really self aware of what’s happening. So you have this thing that happened, whether it happened externally, like a diagnosis or you got fired or something, or like you made a mistake, like you did something, maybe you cheated. Whatever the case is, what you’re making it mean is causing you to feel a certain way.

And I want you to ask yourself if how you’re feeling is how you want to be feeling. So this is a step to make sure that you’re feeling as proportionate to whatever it is that happened. So of course you’re going to actually want to feel bad as a human when something happens that you didn’t want to happen. I always say like, okay, I went through a horrible breakup. It’s like I want to be the person who feels heartbreak when I go through a horrible breakup, right? Because I’m a human. And that’s just kind of comforting in and of itself, right? You don’t get the job or you get laid off. Of course, I’m sad. I want to feel really sad about this because I’m human and it’s disappointing. And I didn’t want to lose the job, but sometimes I’ve done this to myself and I’ve asked myself how I want to feel based on what happened.

And I noticed that the feeling is disproportionate to what happened. So this is just a good step to check yourself. Like is this thing that really sucks a really, really big thing that you want to feel, the feelings that you’re feeling? Or is it kind of a small thing? And do you need to change how you’re feeling, right? Because you cause your feelings, your thoughts cause your feelings. Whatever happened is not causing your feelings.

Something happened that’s neutral and then you’re making it mean something. It doesn’t mean that you should change it, but just know that it’s up to you. So be careful here. Also, if something really sucks, not to fall into shame if you don’t want to feel shame. So I see people do this unnecessarily. A lot. So shame is where you think something’s wrong with you. It’s like saying I am bad compared it to what often is kind of like something less severe in terms of feelings go and that’s guilt.

Guilt is I did something bad. So you just want to be careful that you know, if you’re feeling shame, you actually want to feel shame. And if you’re not, you can talk to yourself and say, okay, I am not bad but I just made a bad mistake or something like that. You want to make sure that you actually want to feel bad about whatever it is that happened and make sure your feelings are appropriate for what has happened. Okay.

Step number four is deliberately decide how you want to think, feel, and act while you’re going through this. So whatever sucky thing has happened, it’s likely permanent or at least seems to be the case right now. So from that place of knowing something is different now, like in a crappy way, I want you to decide how you want to think, feel, and act. Given the circumstances, you will be very tempted to victimize yourself now.

And I want you to not do that. So no one did this to you. Someone did something and now you get to decide how you want to think about it and you might want to think about it in a way that makes you feel anger. The point is that you acknowledge that you’re deciding to think about it in a way that makes you angry because it gives you your power instead of the guy or the whoever did this, and that’s just one example, right?

It’s like you got fired from your job and you’re deciding that you want to feel disappointed about that and the reason is because if you decide to think that you don’t want to get fired and getting fired is something that is disappointing to you as someone who values their job and being a good employee, the key there is that you’re noticing that your thoughts cause your feelings and not like your employer doing this to you.

It really, really is everything because it will give you your power back because you have the option to feel however you want to feel. We tend to beat ourselves up and be really, really traumatic and want to talk about the sucky thing incessantly. I do this a lot. I’m a big talker. And when something goes wrong, I just want to talk about it at length to everyone. So just be aware of this and be intentional about how much energy you’re giving it. So one thing I tried to do is notice that my words have energy. So if it’s a problem and I keep talking about it, I’m just giving that problem more energy.

Number five is to experience the feeling. So you decided what you want to feel in this situation in number four. And now I want you to actually experience the feeling. Most of us don’t experience feelings unless you’ve done this work before. Instead, most of us resist, react or avoid it. I like to think of the acronym rare. So you’re resisting, avoiding, reacting, or experiencing a feeling. And I’m using feeling and emotion interchangeably here.

When you experience a feeling, it’s just a vibration in your body. Okay? Which is just fascinating to know, right? So think of anger I love this example. If you’re reacting to it, you’re going to be like yelling or something like that. If you’re avoiding it, you’re going to just be totally ignoring it, right? If you’re resisting it, you kind of like feel that resistance and you’re on edge from it. But if you’re actually experiencing anger, it’s just a like a discomfort that’s like vibrating through your body, right? So next time you feel angry or any sort of negative emotion, I want you to separate yourself from the emotion, from the feeling and watch yourself and notice how interesting that is.

It’s really, really helpful and practice, not resisting, reacting or avoiding the emotion. Practice, just experiencing it. And this will be like a game changer and your life really if you just apply it to everything. But just notice that it’s just a feeling. The end of every experience that you ever have is just a feeling. So practice, being able to feel the feeling, feel the discomfort field and negative emotion without resisting, reacting or avoiding.

Step number six is to reframe your thinking by asking really useful questions. So I’ve talked about this a little bit before. One of my favorite tools is to ask questions. So this is one of the best ways that you can change any situation in your life or get a new result. Your brain is like a computer. It will always go to work to find whatever you ask it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a negative question or a positive question.

Your brain is going to find evidence for whatever you ask it. So if you’re going through something that’s really tough for you right now, I really want to encourage you to not only you know, decide how you want to think and feel in the situation and experience negative emotions, but to kind of get yourself a little bit moving forward and out of it.

Ask yourself questions that support to the that you want. So do not ask yourself, why is this happening to me? Right? Because your brain will give you answers to that. And that’s not what you want. What you want to ask yourself is what does this make possible? So this is the question that I use with my student loan debt. I had $206,000 of student loan debt after law school. And because of my student loan debt, I started learning about money.

I decided to read personal finance books, listen to podcasts about money. I started a blog. I started thefinancegirl.com I knew nothing about blogging. I knew nothing about money and I am all self taught in that area just because of this sucky situation and I really asked myself, what does this make possible?

And that little blog, it turned out to be the best thing that I ever did. Right? It turned into me switching careers from law to financial planning and becoming a certified financial planner. I was featured in tons of different news publications as a financial expert and then ultimately that blog turned into my business, which is now my full time thing and I am forever grateful for it. This is literally how I make money. It’s how I contribute to the world and it’s going to be something that scales up from six to seven figures and without my debt, like my business doesn’t exist.

So really be careful. It’s easy to look back on something and say like, Oh, that’s so great. You know, because you like the result that you got, even though at the time you thought it was sucky, but the goal is to try to do that while the sucky thing is happening, right?

So it would be like if someone broke up with you or broke off an engagement and at the time you thought it was horrible, but then a few years later you met someone else and got married and have kids. Now it’s easy once you’re married with kids to look back and say, that was the best thing that ever happened. But what’s harder is when you’re actually going through that tough time, that breakup or whatever it is, to see that that is going to be a blessing or you know that it’s going to be a new and different and better future and better because you’re going to make it better.

And I love the question, what does this make possible? But you can use any question that works for you. Another one would be, how can this make me stronger? Or how can this make me smarter? Or what can I learn from this? I mean, it depends on the situation, but just think of a question that supports the answer that you want because that will kind of move you out of the wallowing or the self pity or the negative emotion. It moves you forward in a positive way. Another question would be, who do you want to show up as in this experience? That’s a good one depending on the situation as well. I really like to use.

The last step in this process is for you to be solution focused instead of problem focused. So your primitive brain, the fight or flight part of your brain loves to spin out in problems and obsess over them. It’s like constantly being in the problem, talking about the problem, like thought looping is what I call it in the problem and just know that that’s okay, but that you can move yourself out of it.

I want you to remember that bad things happen all the time and they always have and they always will and that nothing has gone wrong, right? That’s just the way that the world was created. This doesn’t mean that things have meaning. This doesn’t mean that things are happening because of a reason. It just means that the way that the world was created was with contrast, with good and with bad, with ups and downs. Right? And how do we know? Because that’s how it’s been since the beginning of time.

It helps me to remember this because then I don’t feel so much resistance. I’m not fighting reality. Now, you can disagree with this, but if you do, when something happens that’s kind of sucky, you are going to have the added layer of this shouldn’t have happened that something has gone terribly wrong.

So you’re kind of adding that pain and that suffering on top of the original pain. I love the quote. I think it’s true that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. So there’s the pain, the emotional pain. Uh, the thing that happened that you’re choosing to think is a negative event in your life. So you want to feel the negative emotion, but then it’s like if you wallow in it and you stay in it and you add onto it that this shouldn’t have happened and you perpetuate that forward, you’re like suffering unnecessarily.

So these steps are meant for you to use when you’re going through the sucky things in life and they do work, I use them on myself. I want to also give you a few words that may help you. So here are six kind of sentences. If they work for you, use them. Do not use them if they don’t work. I am not a proponent of affirmations in the traditional sense because I think if you repeat things over and over that you don’t believe, you can actually have the opposite effect on your brain because your brain is super smart. So if you keep repeating something that you don’t believe is true, it’s not gonna work. But if you like any of these sentences and they work for you and you believe them, then take them and use them.

Number one is nothing has gone wrong. I love this one. I cannot even tell you how much I use it. Anytime I have a disappointment, even if it’s small, like a small or as big as they come, I’m, I always remind myself nothing has gone wrong. This is part of the human experience and that’s number two actually is part of life means feeling negative emotion. And that’s okay. I love that. So helpful for me.

Number three is I made a mistake. I’m not a mistake and you can kind of adjust this to whatever the situation is. But the thing here is distinguishing between shame versus like guilt. Okay. You know, you might want to feel guilty for making mistake. You wouldn’t do that again. You feel bad about it, but that’s very different than I am a mistake. I actually see this so much with a lot of women who I’ve coached about student loans. Like they feel like so much shame about it. So unnecessarily like you don’t need to feel like you’re a mistake at all. Maybe you made a mistake, but like let’s ask, what does this make possible?

Number four is this too shall pass. I love that. Cause you can remember like the contrast, there’s always positive and there’s always negative and it’s gonna keep going. Ups and downs, right? It’s the idea I’ve talked about in other episodes where your problems are forever and that’s actually good news because there’s no place where you arrive, where you’re problem free and that’s just life. So this too shall pass.

Number five is don’t wish it were easier, wish you were stronger. So I love reminding myself, I don’t wish this was easier, I wish I were stronger. Depends on the situation for that one. I don’t use it for everything, but the ones I do use it for it really, really helps. And you’ll know that if this is something that you want to use because of how it makes you feel. If the thought, if these sentences are comforting, then use them. If they’re not, it feels worse to say nothing has gone wrong. Like my brother once told me he really didn’t like that. Well don’t use that. That just works for me. I really, really like that. Okay.

The last one is this sucks and that’s okay. Pretty much. You can just add and that’s okay on to everything and it softens it. So you know I’m feeling shame and that’s okay. I’m really angry and that’s okay. You know I didn’t get the job and that’s okay. He left and that’s okay. You know my child is acting up and that’s okay. You know, anything that you kind of can add and that’s okay too. It kind of gives you permission and it softens the suckiness of it.

I want to remind you that when something sucks, even though it sucks during that time, it is going through that experience that will develop your character. If you never go through anything challenging, you never have the opportunity to dig deep and become that best version of yourself. When you learn how to deal with hard things, and when you learn how to experience negative emotion, even when something sucks, you will be so much better. On the other side of it, this is what I’ve done my entire life.

This is why I have grit. It has made all the difference in my life, from success to relationships, to health, to everything. My grit, my mental toughness, my willingness to continue to move forward despite obstacles and setbacks and failures is everything, right? And it’s because I’ve been developing this since I was a kid. So the more that you can work through these problems and the sucky situations, the more you’ll develop your character and the stronger you’ll be. So then the next setback isn’t as tough for you. You know how to cope, you know how to keep moving forward and it really is the difference between success and failure in your life.

I want to kind of end with a word of caution here. When something sucks, you will likely want to take a step back. You are going to want to slow down or take a break or hide in some way, right? Take fewer risks. I want to encourage you not to do that. I want to encourage you to go all in even more than before.

I want you to not make those disappointments or failures or setbacks mean anything about you or about your future. It’s the consistent effort despite all those obstacles and failures that will lead you to success. If you can keep taking action forward even through those huge failures, that’s where you’re going to come out on top. I know it for myself, I’ve seen it for other people and I know it’s true for you, so whatever you’re going through, don’t take a break and slow down. Go all in. All right. Use this to help you get through that situation. I’m thinking of you. I love you. I will see you next time.

Thank you for listening to the Design Your Dream Life podcast. Subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episodes sent directly to you. To learn more about designing your dream life visit NatalieBacon.com.