How to get through tough times? Concentration on the positives
Life presents various challenges which you can't avoid but you to go through them. The pandemic has brought the world to a standstill with many horrible cases of depression, mental illness, anxiety, grieving and job losses.
I have always been amazed to observe how the average woman or man like myself deals with challenging situations. We will all have our fair share of challenging times; the question is how we deal with them.
What was my most challenging time
I was six years old, and my mum had left me in Nigeria with my Grandmother. I cried so much thinking about my mum as she was my world. For a six-year-old boy, this was a crisis, and I had to come up with creative ways to come up with the pain. I resorted to closing my eyes and covering my eyes to try and create a white noise type of effect. This was me trying to re-enact what you hear when you are on a plane. In my child-like mentality, I thought if I did this, I would magically be able to fly my way back to my mum's arms. I learned from this that even as a child, you could find ways to be positive; in this case, imagining being with my mum was my positive.
Between the ages of 20-30, my biggest challenge was getting into property development. This was by far one of my most formidable challenges as I did not benefit from many contacts, of influential family members in the field. I felt alone at times as there were people around me working in property, but nobody working in property development. During my real estate development masters, someone said to me that my chances of getting a job in property development were slim. I mentally rebutted the person comments immediately. During my six-year journey into finally getting into property development, I read countless books, used LinkedIn to see how people progressed in their career (Wayfinding) and even undertook an unpaid internship for two years. All of this informed my self-belief that I would one day be in property development. I focused on the goal and did not allow my environmental factors to sway my focus.
More recently, the hardest thing I had to handle was getting out of debt due to home improvements. That experience left me in such a dark place that I couldn't see the light even if you shined a torch at me. I was stressed, pressured and angry at my predicament. I decided, to get an empty excel sheet and track every penny and came up with a plan to pay it off. What started as 47k worth of debt now became smaller in my mind as I started working things out. At that point, the darkness started to escape, and the light started to prevail. I was able to affirm to myself that the pit of debt that I am in temporary and that I will one day be debt-free. As the months went on, it didn't feel any better, but then I start to repeat to myself that I will be debt-free. The concentration of being debt-free gave me so much peace. That's why the concentration of the positives is critical, especially when you are in a challenging situation. After 2 years months of stoic determination, surviving on little thrills except for being a family man, I am proud to say that I almost at the end of this perceived nightmare.
Why is it essential to concentrate on the positives
Not concentrating on the positives will likely make whatever you are doing more challenging and more painful. Carrying a bucket for one mile means different things to two different people. One person will think this is absolute torture, whereas the other would think yes, another opportunity to do some cardio—perspective in the only difference between the two types of people. My treacherous journey in property development was made bearable by my positive perspective.
Our mind is where the heavy lifting happens, not our body. Positivity, in its purest form, makes the heaviest of burdens light, whereas negative thinking or just going through things is more than likely to keep you down. I am not saying tough times won't come, but I am saying that it is within your control to shift your mind towards concentrating on the positives. I liken positive thinking during extremely challenging times to following a guiding light.
Property development is a sector rife with disputes, objections and breakdown in relationships. The process of securing planning permission always presents a conflict between what you want as a developer, planning policy, physical site constraints, finances and the valued interpretation of your proposals by the planning department. If you are unable to focus on the positives, which is to create a fantastic place whilst making money in the process, the planning process would be an outright painful process to go through. But with the right mindset, all challenges become opportunities for you to rise and make yourself a better version of you. Who knows, a change in mindset may smoothen the relationship with the key stakeholders in a development project, therefore making things easier.
My old director at Countryside used to do 20k runs a few times a week, and I thought he
was mad. He put his body under so much pain and pressure. I then thought there has to be a relationship between long-distance runners and their ability to be high flyers in their respective careers. I found that his ability to stick to a single course of action in a working sense was something I had never seen done so well in a person. Running involves going forward, irrespective of how you feel; this in itself embodies what going through a tough time could be like and how positive thinking can change your perspective in running through the pain. These types of people go through pain, but they concentrate on the positives that are, running is a form of therapy, they will stay in shape and continuously beat their personal bests. My longest distance run was 8k, and I must say everything in my life was productive during that period. This example is there to show that your concentration on the positives, whether it for you to look better for the summer, can allow you to push your body to the limit—mind over matter.
In the darkness of debt, without me concentrating on the positives, the two years past would have been a mental disaster. So concentration on the positives gave me an additive to keep going but doing so positively.
My faith has been a major factor in my ability to see the positives.
Firstly, when faced with tough times, get a piece of paper and write down what the positives are in that situation. Stick it to a wall and repeat it yourself every day. With time, the positive outcomes will become an expectation which will hopefully get you through the most challenging times.
Secondly, similar to me putting my had over my ears to imagine flying back to London to hold my mum, be creative in the way you can create a positive thought which will make your pain bearable.
Finally, remember, tough times will likely always be around, but we always have to remember that it is our outlook that needs to change. A better outlook makes everything easier. Keep in mind that positive thinking costs you nothing.