What do you do when you find yourself over your depth in tough times? When something is going completely wrong, and you simply can’t see an end to it? How do you survive the tough times?
My simplest answer for how to survive those tough times is to remember the saying “This Too Shall Pass!”. It is a simple, yet very powerful proverb that has a number of meanings wrapped up 4 short words.
In simple terms, when things are at their darkest, when I am troubled by something or feeling down and depressed the saying reminds me that it will not last forever. It takes me back to a time when I’ve had similar feelings and I understand that whatever was troubling me at that time did indeed pass.
Even more importantly, looking back at those tough times, they don’t feel so bad. The passing of time, gaining experience, and hopefully a little more wisdom, has put them into perspective.
It’s like what Jim Rohn often said, life is like the seasons. We will experience both the Summer and the Winter, and we should live life knowing that both will come to pass. So when it’s winter, remain strong knowing that it will not last forever, but when the summer comes don’t be idle and lazy. Work hard putting yourself in the best position for the tough times ahead.
This Too Shall Pass – Where did it come from?
The saying is very old, and has a number of references through-out history. However, the story I like the most is the one about a Persian king who challenged his court to find something on this earth that could make a man happy when he was sad, and vice versa. A wiseman accepted the challenge and had a ring made for the king, with the inscription “This Too Shall Pass”.
The saying was also used in 1852, in the retelling of the fable, entitled “Solomon’s Seal”, by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald. In it, a sultan requests of King Solomon a sentence that would always be true in good times or bad; Solomon responds, “This too will pass away”.
On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln told a similar story:
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”Abraham Lincoln
In the end the proverb simply means that all material conditions, whether good or bad, are transient. It is meant to give us the realisation that both the ‘best and worst of times’ will soon pass. It challenges us to accept that ultimately change is the one constant in the universe and as Rudyard Kipling said in his poem “If”;
“If you can meet with triumph and disasterRudyard Kipling
And treat those two imposters just the same”
So there is an incredibly important flip-side to this saying – “This Too Shall Pass”, whatever is going right will not last forever. This is the funny thing about human nature – it doesn’t seam to matter whether we are in good times or bad, we become extremely short sighted. We may feel the bad times will never end, but then when the good times roll around (and they will) we act like they too will never end.
One of the best examples I know are weddings! If you ask a married couple about their wedding day the answers I’m sure will surprise you. They will mostly range from “wow, I can’t really remember, it went by like a blur”, to remembering Aunt Sally’s bad behaviour! How can this be? One of the most important days of our adult lives and we don’t remember that moment of saying to our loved one, I want to be with you forever? We have simply not understood – this too shall pass.
A mentor of mine once said, “you must always celebrate the successes, no matter how small“. And yet do you know how hard that is to implement?
I see this in business all the time. We set our wonderful Vision and Mission statements and from them some amazing goals to strive for. We rally the troops and do whatever it takes to make certain we achieve our goals and live our Vision. But then we simply move from task to task, and goal to goal, and never stop to acknowledge what has actually been achieved.
Just imagine how many times you have achieved a goal or a big win, only to move straight onto the next thing. You allowed whatever negative element catching your attention to overshadow the hard work and achievement.
This Too Shall Pass – Making it work for you
So how do you make ‘This Too Shall Pass’ work for you? Here are some simple steps.
Break The Cycle
Use the saying as a circuit breaker – this too shall pass. When we are caught in a situation and finding things tough going, this saying should be used to snap us out of it. When things are tough, and you are right in the middle of it, it always feels like it will never end. So by remembering the saying you break the cycle – yes this situation, these feelings will end.
Just the very the fact that you ‘wake up’ to this, you will begin to feel better and realise the end has already started.
Focus On The Good – Knowing The End Is In Sight
“I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too.Dr Suess
Games you can’t win, ‘cause you’ll play against you.”
Understand that these bad thoughts are yours, and yours alone to conquer. But working through these tough times give you longer legs for bigger strides. When it does end, the strength and knowledge you will have gained will be amazing.
How Do You Want Things To Be?
When it does end, how do you want things to be? How are you going to use this new knowledge? Focusing on how you want things to be, and not how you feel they are now, is one of the quickest ways to move forward. Recognise that working through this tough period will give you amazing experience, and will help you in the future.
These are the things you need to think about now. Not when times are good, but when you working your way out of the bad.
Celebrate The Wins
What do we do with our children when they achieve something? We shower them with praise, partly because we are so happy for them, but also because we want to reinforce the good. When they take their first steps, or manage to land a spoon full of food in their month (rather than their ear!). We usually go over-the-top with our positive reaction, again to reinforce the situation.
However, when it comes to us ‘big-kids’, we allow our accomplishments to pass without any acknowledgement. You must take the time to celebrate your wins – it has as much impact on building positive momentum, as taking your first steps!
Don’t get Carried Away With the Good Times
Unfortunately it is in human nature to get carried away in the good times. I live in Perth, Western Australia, where our economy is largely built on mining. If you ever follow the markets you will find that resources are incredibly cyclical, and hence Perth has been through a number of boom and bust cycles. And yet in the middle of every boom people act like it will last forever. They over commit by purchasing big houses and ’toys’ on hire-purchase, only to really struggle when the economy busts.
Instead, they should have recognised that this amazing boom period will not last – this too shall pass, and should save away some of the wealth for when the tough times (the winter) returns.
Live in the Moment
If this moment will come to pass, what are you going to do to either learn from it, or cherish it? Stop and recognise the amazing and wonderful things that are surrounding you right now – because “this too shall pass”.
It might be having your children close by – something as simple as your daughter giving you a hug. To live every moment knowing that it will not last. To recognise that and simply stop what we are doing and soak it in. These are the moments that we draw strength from when things aren’t going so well!
Keep A Journal
The best way to capture every moment is to keep a journal. Check here for my reason why this is such a good practise.
Keeping a journal allows you to capture your feelings, and remember how you really felt in those cherished moments. It also helps put the tough times in perspective and allows you to capture how you felt and how you worked through it, giving you the strength to tackle you next winter.
I don’t know of another proverb or saying, that is so simple, yet has so much depth and meaning. It’s like a life lesson wrapped in four simple words.
So let me leave you with this;
This Too Shall Pass
When things are bad, remember:
It won’t always be this way.
Take one day at a time.
When things are good, remember:
It won’t always be this way.
Enjoy every moment,
no matter how small.
This too shall pass, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!
Hi, I'm Steve Floyd....creator of my own ideal lifestyle and family guy.
I started Project Lifestyle 101 to share the things I have learnt (and continue to learn), building my own ideal lifestyle. After a successful career in IT, Sales & Marketing, and self-taught investing and money management, I managed to retire at the ripe young age of 50.
Now I enjoy helping others break free from the typical 9 to 5 grind, and find their own ideal Lifestyle! And when I'm not blogging (or with the family), I'm at the gym, watching Aussie rules footy or on the Playstation!
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