Find Fortitude

How do you find the inner fortitude to get up one more day and try again, even when the world kicks you in the shin with a golf shoe?

I’m sick and tired of people saying, “This, too, shall pass.”

Worst. Consolation. Ever.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice cliché and everything.

But it doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of people right now, life sucks. And the last thing they need is another marginally helpful, fluffy aphorism that sounds like the title of a heartwarming miniseries on Lifetime Television.

People might know that this, too, shall pass; but what they need is a game plan for how to successfully navigate life as it’s passing. Where do you find the fortitude to do that… every day, even when the world kicks you in the shin with a golf shoe?

The following are the some of the tips that have helped me find the fortitude to keep going during trying times:

  1. Employ the diversity of the human spirit. I volunteer at an organization, the Go Network, which provides job search resources and education to displaced workforce professionals. The cool part is, unlike other organizations that support unemployed workers, this group’s spirit is exceptional. Every time I host a workshop for them, I’m overwhelmed by their massive optimism, bottomless faith and respectful camaraderie — not just in themselves, but in each other. It’s not a misery-loves-company pity party. It’s a weekly pep rally. It’s a West Texas high school football game. And the collective and diverse human spirit of the group is the very oxygen that fuels each member’s inner fortitude to get up one more day and try again. My question is, what kind of company do you keep: people who drag you into the pit or people who drive you into the stratosphere?
  2. Compare yourself to the best in yourself. Although many of our readers are unemployed, I’m constantly amazed at their ability to endure harrowing times. It’s inspiring, really. Instead of being excessively preoccupied with how devastating the economy is, these guys invite a constant stream of excitement. They dig more into their hearts and, as one woman wrote me, “Think back to their finest hours.” Killer suggestion. What better way to find the inner fortitude to get up one more day than to think back to the last time getting up one more day wasn’t a struggle? By regularly replaying mental reruns, you bolster your self-confidence and stimulate your self-belief. Do you remember what you were like as the best, highest version of yourself?
  3. Attribute important meaning to your pain. First, by changing your relationship with your pain from confrontation to infatuation. That’s right: I’m telling you to fall in love with your pain. It’s amazing how little power something has over you when you love it. Second, by recognizing that whatever pain you’re enduring is a regular part of the life experience. And undergoing such feelings is what makes you feel human, what makes you feel alive. Finally, by thanking your pain for showing up to teach you something. After all, we rarely discover things when we’re comfortable. You might as well set up the learning moment, right? Ultimately, inner fortitude is a function of befriending your discomfort and cooperating with things that are bigger than you. Are you brave enough to welcome the sting?
  4. Force an opening and enter into the spiral of acceleration. In “The Ninety Percent Solution,” author David Rogers writes, “Lasting change rarely occurs when we ease our way into the future – it comes when we leap.” Lesson learned: Hop down off your horse and pursue the beast on foot. That’s what movie heroes do. They enter into the territory their noble steeds won’t even look at. “I will die before my conviction does,” they think. And they act as proactively as humanly possible. For example, anytime I give a presentation to people who are looking for work, I remind them: “Until you find a job, looking for a job is your job.” That’s the winning mind-set. That’s what gets you hired. Remember: Never underestimate the importance of sustained movement. How will you outweigh the drag?
  5. Relax into the reality of your life. Denial is a drug more addictive than crack and crystal meth put together. I know this because I used to be a heavy user. For me, pretending that something wasn’t really a problem was ten times easier than confronting the result of my own immature decisions. Too bad the aftermath of such denial was taking its toll on my body, my attitude and my relationships. If only I’d been smart enough to relax into my realities and face them head-on. Fortunately, making that mistake over and over taught me to continually ask the question: What am I pretending not to know? This courageous inquiry makes denial melt under the stare of self-awareness. And that’s where inner fortitude grows: from your willingness to stand up to yourself. Don’t avert your eyes. Confront your truth. Ease your way into it. And remember that all trouble carries with it the capacity to be conquered. What are you pretending not to know?
  6. Lay some pavement. Hypothetically, let’s say your life sucks. Understood. Instead of trying to camouflage your agony, try sending your breath to where it hurts. That’s what my yoga instructor, Natalie, would tell you: Thread your breath through every action. The cool part is: You don’t have to sit in a smelly, sweaty room for two hours with a bunch of half-naked strangers to make this practice work. You just need to find something to pave yourself with. Prayer. Affirmation. Meditation. Whatever helps maintain a sense of inner control in the midst of outer chaos. Whatever cultivates a state of mind that entails equanimity and forbearance. Personally, I use all three simultaneously. My daily practice combines meditation, affirmation and breathing, and it’s helped me find the inner fortitude to navigate even the most devastating storms. What paves you?

Whether or not this, too, shall pass is irrelevant.

What matters is how you navigate life until this passes.

Remember that, and you’ll find the inner fortitude to get up one more day and try again, even when the world kicks you in the shin with a golf shoe.


Where does your fortitude come from?