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How to Survive and Thrive in Life

Image of mountainside road leading to a tunnel.

So begins M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. The best-seller has become a landmark work on how to face life in difficult times. Its message is in line with the first of Buddhism's Four Nobel Truths – that 'Life is suffering”

The bottom line is this. We complicate our lives, prolong our suffering and increase difficulties because it is our natural instinct to avoid situations rather than face them head on and deal with them as they arise. It is not easy to accept the reality of the difficulties of life, but if we can do so, then there are ways we can make life easier for ourselves.

A Life-changing Diagnosis

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991. At the time, he was a significant presence in Hollywood, having already starred in the Back to the Future trilogy and half a dozen other films. At the age of 29, however, he was told he had about a decade before the condition impacted his work.

Instead of going into denial or giving up, he and his wife decided he would face his illness and all the hardship it would bring. He decided to live as fully as possible within the confines of what would come.

As a result, he has continued his career far beyond what was expected. 13 of his 18 Emmy nominations and five of his nine Golden Globe nominations came for work done after his diagnosis. He has written three books, gives back to the community

through The Fox Foundation and enjoys his life. He accomplishes all of this

because he has developed tools to help him deal with adversity.

Michael J. Fox’s 6 Rules for Surviving and Thriving With Adversity

1. Acceptance

Acceptance is not the same as resignation. Acceptance means seeing reality as it is and working to make the most of your situation. It is the key to being able to take the action necessary to live life to the fullest and find the help you need in order to fight the good fight. It helps you work toward a satisfying life regardless of your circumstances. Fox told Esquire magazine, “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”

2. Honesty

Many families teach that it is better to keep family business within the family. “Don’t talk, Don’t tell.” is the motto. Protection and safety is not found in hiding and silence. The world is full of resources and help. The way to find it is through community. Says Fox, “It was empowering to have people understand what I was going through. I immediately felt better.”

3. Exercising

We store feelings and stress in our body. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, relaxes the muscles, and relieves tension in the body. It strengthens your stability, balance and endurance. It lowers stress and rids the body of excess energy that will drain you. It provides a distraction to help you move out of negative thoughts. Your body, your mind, and your emotions are closely linked; as your body feels better so will your mind.

4. Pacing

We're not talking timing here, I mean the actual act of walking back and forth. Fox uses the movement in pacing to help him think, saying that for him “the physical motion creates intellectual motion.”

Studies show that adding a positive spin to realism or even pessimism is a good way to build resilience. Fox defines optimism as informed hope. It is not false

hope or denial because it includes reality.

6. Humor

Learning to see humor in your life and struggles makes a significant difference in your outlook.

I know a man whose motto is, “This will make a great story when its over.” He imagines telling a friend what is happening in way that makes them both laugh. This distracts him from the negative feelings and reactions he is having in the moment and reminds him that he has more in his life that an uncomfortable, painful moment.

These are not easy rules by which to live. There are many factors it takes to accomplish them. You need a community to help you maintain this kind of attitude toward life.

You also have to know yourself and your history. There are events from your past that will cause you to have opposite ways of looking at the world and what happens to you. At times it is necessary to seek help to heal from the experiences of your past. This is when psychotherapy can help you. If you need help sorting out your past in order to deal with your life call me at (919)881-2001.

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