“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” Dante Alighiere, Inferno
All of us will eventually go through rough times in our lives. It isn’t the strife that defines us; it is our response to our travails that demonstrates the depth of our character. We must strive to live up to our own principles of behavior, even, perhaps especially, during trying times. We can choose to believe in our ability to overcome obstacles and prevail. We can choose to live a life we’re proud of despite challenges we face.
Within the military it is a truism that a soldier’s character isn’t really known until they make the choice to put their own life at risk for the good of their brothers in arms. This is the ultimate test of character. Most people never serve in the military, but the example may help us to put our own life stressors into perspective. Most stressful events don’t involve potential serious bodily harm or death, but even during the roughest of times we must strive to live up to our own standards of behavior.
If we catastrophize every inconvenience, we render ourselves less capable of dealing with truly important stressors. If you are feeling overwhelmed, just ask yourself: “How much will this matter to me in a year?” This question helps us to realign our priorities so they more closely match our values. Truly important things will be important today, tomorrow, next week and next year. Things that are unimportant next year are probably not important enough to lose sleep over tonight.
Courage isn’t being fearless; it’s doing what must be done in spite of our fear. With the right attitude, you can overcome adversity in your life. When your priorities are aligned with your values, you can separate important from unimportant tasks. Choose to be strong, prioritize what must be done, and work toward accomplishing things that are truly important. Keep your head up and your feet moving. You are tougher than you think.