The Two Most Powerful Ways to Turn Hardship Into Happiness

(Photo: Pexels)

(Photo: Pexels)

Yesterday was one of the worst (and best) days I’ve had in some time. Nothing went according to plan—and it was one of those days that’s been planned and prepared to such a degree that when nothing happens as you outlined it, the hit to the ego is tough to absorb.

It was a product launch. I’d been prepping to launch an online course for the past two months about how to create a successful online business. Building the course itself was the least time intensive part of the process. Learning the marketing software, building the email funnels, and building a decent sized subscriber list were among the more grueling challenges involved.

But the biggest pieces were in place.

The email containing the purchase link went out at 8:00 a.m. on September 14. Crickets. Nobody bought the course. A few hours went by and I did everything I could to ignore my email inbox.

By mid afternoon, I read the following email from one of my subscribers:

“No offense, Mr. Hardy, but I am unsubscribing, because this email sounds exactly as marketing-ish as all the other emails from all the other people in the pro coaching marketing clique. Maybe you have something original to offer, but this verbiage does not give me that impression. You sound like a salesman. You can do better!”

After responding and thanking him for the genuine and authentic feedback, I sat and pondered. It was hard not to get depressed. but I tried to stay motivated in the face of it.

The only response that resonated with me was to give the course away for free to all of my subscribers who opted-in to even learn about it. Although that was not my plan for launch-day, I felt better after trying to make things right with my subscribers.

Not long after, I got a text from my wife that read:

“I had to throw the boy’s saw away and put the girl to bed early.” (Note: I can’t legally include our foster children’s names—so this has been slightly edited)

Apparently, our 6 year old girl took the handsaw to the back porch today. That wouldn’t be so crazy, but I just lectured the kids this morning after finding a huge hole in our driveway. They had taken the hammer to it yesterday, for reasons passing understanding. Oh yeah, and yesterday they also decided the roof of my car (now dented-in) was a reasonable substitute for the trampoline in the backyard.

Those Moments When The Only Thing You Can Do Is Be Happy

How the hell do I respond to a day like this? I wracked my brain for answers, and could find only one: gratitude.

That might seem counterintuitive but hear me out. Nobody died. Nothing that bad really happened.

Even the worst of days in my world are a blessing. Who am I to complain?

I have a loving wife, a nice home, some great kids, and I’m doing my best to provide for them. I’m living my version of the American dream. It’s not sexy. It’s not easy. It’s often mundane and even absurd. Like last Saturday when I found myself watching my kids roller skate under lights reflecting off a disco ball to the beat of trendy pop music. “What the hell am I doing in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina, with these kids I don’t really know at a skating rink? How did this become my life?” I asked myself.

I’m still asking, but I’m not complaining. I’m grateful.

Eating Ice Cream

So I drove home after a more-than-usually depressing day feeling pretty good. When I walked in the door I went straight to the freezer and grabbed the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. I ate half the carton and felt even better.

Tomorrow is another day.

But I’m not going to quickly forget about this one. And that’s one of the primary purposes of life: live moments worth remembering.

Why was I so lucky to learn such instructive lessons today? I failed horribly in my online business and learned tons as a consequence. Then I got to spend the night eating ice cream and watching Netflix with my wife.

The Scientific Basis For Gratitude

Psychological research has found time and again that gratitude can help you during challenging and difficult times. In fact, Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading authorities on gratitude, argues that gratitude is not only helpful in getting through difficult times—it is essential.

It’s important to realize that you can be grateful without actually feeling grateful. Sometimes life just sucks. And it doesn’t feel good. But you can still focus on the good and eventually your feelings will follow. What you focus on expands.

Also, the goal of gratitude is not to ignore or deny the pain or difficulty you are experiencing. Rather, the goal is to acknowledge it and reframe your story about your pain and difficulty. As my wife always says, “Crisis + times = humor…and the sooner you can laugh the less serious the crisis.” It can take a few days to reframe our story or experience. The sooner the better.

Focusing On Others Rather Than Yourself

When times are tough, the easiest thing to do is withdraw from those we love and focus only on ourselves. However, the more conscious we become, the more we can notice other people’s struggles even when we’re struggling; we can notice other people’s hunger, even when we’re hungry. Although it’s natural to focus inward when things get tough, a more refined and conscious approach is looking outward.

Research done at Yale University has found that people have a built-in and intuitive instinct to cooperate and consider other people’s needs. However, if, rather than acting intuitively, people analyze the situation, they are less likely to cooperate and more likely to fend only for themselves.

Malcolm Gladwell explains in his New York Times bestselling book “Blink,” that snap decisions are often more accurate than well-thought-out ones. Innately, we know how we should act in most situations. The problem is, we talk ourselves out of our natural response and convince ourselves to do something else.

But this rarely creates the desired results and more often creates internal conflict. As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Lean Into Gratitude

The people in our lives deserve our love. When we are grateful, and focus on other people’s needs in addition to our own, depression dissipates. The problems we’re dealing with are put into proper perspective and we quickly realize our problems are not as complex or even as significant as we often imagine.

Enjoy the hard moments. Embrace them. This is what living life is all about. These moments are the ones that truly define and transform you. And, it is in these moments that you realize just how blessed you really are.

Benjamin Hardy is the foster parent of three children and the author of Slipstream Time Hacking. He’s pursuing his Ph.D. in organizational psychology. To learn more about Mr. Hardy, visit www.benjaminhardy.com or connect with him on Twitter.

The Two Most Powerful Ways to Turn Hardship Into Happiness