Personal and professional progress is not linear.

Learning how to deal with the highs and lows, the stresses of daily living, the obstacles we come across and how to be a fully functional human being changes everything.

None of these skills is ever taught in school, but we are expected to deal with whatever is thrown at us in life. We all go through setbacks but it’s how we respond to those challenges that determine if we are going to spiral downwards, stagnate or grow and develop into the best versions of ourselves.

Whatever your goals are in life and career, you absolutely must learn how to manage your personal psychology — emotions, dealing with failure, stress, anxiety, worries, challenges, rebound from tough times, etc. When you do this, your response to everything life throws at you is better.

Managing yourself starts with self-acceptance

We must stop hiding behind masks to please the world. If you accept yourself and do what brings out the best in you, your focus changes from trying to be a better person for someone to leading life on your own terms.

It’s a better approach to a fulfilling and meaningful life. People with positive and healthy self-esteem handle setbacks differently. They know themselves enough to handle the challenges life throws at them.

Mark Twain was right when he said,“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” When accept yourself, you tend to attract people who approve of you.

InDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené Brown argues, “..true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Who are you? Does the world know the real you?

Your perception of yourself determines your personal experiences

Once you have a true sense of who you are and what you are capable of, build a better relationship with yourself. This will improve how you relate with your loved ones, colleagues and even strangers.

“It is important to have good self-esteem and self-worth because how you treat yourself translates into the quality of your life and relationships,” argues clinical psychologist Dr Helen Odessky.

Developing a strong, healthy relationship with yourself might take time, but habits like journaling to explore your thoughts, pushing boundaries or challenging yourself, and giving yourself permission to fail and bounce back can make a big difference in your self-worth.

“Once you get to a place where you feel comfortable, confident, and loving towards yourself, all those other relationships you want to cultivate will also benefit from your newfound self-appreciation,” says Carina Wolff.

Build self-care habits

Your relationship with yourself is arguably the most important relationship in life. It’s the foundation of everything else. Start prioritising basic self-care — sleep, exercise, nutrition, rest, creativity, and mental habits. These are the basic behavioural building blocks of a healthy relationship with yourself.

On the road to a better future, there will be unfortunate events, regrets, and instabilities. It pays to have a crisis plan. How will you manage unforeseen bad news? You will be vulnerable when you are at your worst — you can easily falling back on old habits and justifying self-abuse.

The simplest plan is to expect the worst and be prepared to confront how you are feeling and deal with any setback without losing control. In any situation, if you are mindful of everything going on, you can focus on long-term intentions and solutions while dealing with the immediate issue.

Life doesn’t get easier but you can be more resilient

“The things which hurt,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “instruct.”

Building resilience is one of the best ways to live fully and die empty. You won’t win all the time in life — Sometimes you will feel broken, depressed, forgotten, but persist anyway.

We all need something to struggle against and to struggle for. There could be a breakup, you can get fired, you may lose someone you love or face a financial crisis. But learn to live in the face of chaos.

Resilience — the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress make all the difference.

In Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life, Eric Greitens, Navy SEAL says, “The first step to building resilience is to take responsibility for who you are and for your life. If you’re not willing to do that, stop wasting your time reading this letter. The essence of responsibility is the acceptance of the consequences — good and bad — of your actions.”

Your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties has a lot to do with your long-term success. Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change.

In his book, Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too, Al Siebert writes, “The best survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about things going badly…. For this reason, they don’t usually take themselves too seriously and are therefore hard to threaten.”

Every experience instructs

Life is not a straight path upwards. The aim in life is not to avoid struggles, but to overcome them; not to avoid worry, but to care about the right things; not to live without fear, but to confront worthy fears with force and passion.

It’s common for people to make progress, experience an obstacle, learn from it, recover, and then make progress again. It’s the only way forward.

Joyce Marter, LCPC explains, “Through nearly 20 years of counselling clients through their darkest hours to their greatest bliss, I have come to recognize that challenges are opportunities for growth, healing and development. Hardships promote insight, awareness, compassion, strength, resilience, and wisdom.”

Learn to manage your psychology and stay in control of your mental well-being. In the process, you will know more about yourself than ever before — realising what you can and cannot manage, and still move on and make the most of your precious time on earth.

If you are experiencing a setback, regression or feeling stuck, remember, you are not back to ground zero. You are setting yourself up for a better come back. Whatever you are going through is a temporary phase that will pass, contributing to the evolution of yourself. The many experiences of life (both positive and negative) are helping you become a better functioning human.

This article was originally published on Medium.

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