I fell off my bike. Totally not graceful, hit a curb and tipped right over.  I knew it would happen sometime.  The moment you buy clipless pedals and shoes they warn you that you will fall down at some point.  I avoided it.  I feared it and practiced clipping in and out over and over again so that it would never happen to me.  It still did.  And you know what?  I’m fine.  I got right back up.  My seat was twisted and I could not straighten it back up.  I, seriously, considered calling my husband to come pick me up or turn around right then.  But, I didn’t. I had not yet reached my goal.  I wanted to ride over the bridge that morning, look out over the water, watch the sun rising, and breathe in the fresh morning air.  So I did.  Despite the bruises, scraped up knee, and twisted seat, I kept riding up that hill. After that, making it back home didn’t quite seem as hard either.

As I rode up the bridge that morning I realized that we all fall down.  It may not be right away or it might even happen quite a bit, but falling down in life happens to the best of us.  The question is, how do you handle it when an obstacle gets in your way?  Do you pick yourself back up and keep going or do you turn around and give up?

My son fell off his own new bike recently, just a few minutes into riding it. (I suppose you can say we’re a clumsy bunch). The chain fell off his bike, but really just scared him more than anything. He came stomping back towards the house leaving the bike in the street. If the kid knew any expletives, I think he would have used them.

Falling down is a lot like all the rotten things that can happen in our life.  Now, clearly, falling off our bikes is a trivial event compared to many of the things you may be going through.  Falling down wasn’t a big deal, but it does represent an attitude towards how we can approach the negative events in our life.  A lot of people do give up.  I want to see you get up, brush yourself off, and keep going.  It’s the only way you are truly going to get to those big goals you have set for yourself.

We all face obstacles that get in the way of our goals. Some are bigger hurdles than others. So what do you do? How do you get back up again? Following are 5 steps to help you maintain your drive when life gets in the way.

1. Plan Ahead

It can help to have a road map written down with the steps needed to achieve your end goal. An effective way of doing this is to reverse engineer your plan. Start with your end goal and work backwards. Write down all the steps needed to reach your end goal. When life gets busy and your head is cloudy with stress, looking at your list to see what’s next may be beneficial to help you get through.

2. Maintain Focus- Prioritize

When life gets really busy and hard, you may need to prioritize what is important right at this very moment. A few years ago, my daughter spent 5 weeks in the hospital. She was in and out of ICU and had numerous surgeries. During this time in our lives, my husband and I were really just in survival mode. Day by day, moment by moment, I had to think about what was the most important task that needed to be done. My priorities during this time were 1- being there for my daughter 2- spending what quality time I could with my then 3 year old son, and 3- doing what I could to keep up with my job as a school psychologist (e.g. writing reports in the hospital while my daughter was sleeping).

For the day to day craziness of our lives, a vision board can help you to maintain focus. You don’t have to make this complicated or waste more of your precious time on something elaborate. When I was trying to move our family to Florida and change careers I simply wrote “Florida” on an index card on my desk. I did draw a little sun and a few one word reasons around the card, but looking at that simple card helped me muster through some late nights looking for jobs to make our dream a reality.

3. Build, and use, your support network

I am blessed with very supportive parents. There is no way I could ever repay them for everything they have done and continue to do for me. When we first moved to Florida we had left them in Ohio. They have since joined us, thankfully. My sister lives in the town where we moved, but she, also, has her own family. This meant seeking out and finding others to be able to assist us when needed (i.e. trusted individuals for childcare).

Ways to build your support network include neighbors, hired help, family, friends, church, joining a group of others with similar interests, etc. Most importantly, make sure you actually use your support network. I know I can be guilty of trying to do things solo. I try to make a conscious effort to delegate tasks when and where I can, hire help when it’s reasonable to do so, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when I need it.

4. Maintain a Positive Attitude

Sometimes the best way to get through something is to smile and hope for the best. Grin and bear it. The glass is half full. You have heard all the cliches. If you don’t naturally have a positive attitude, you can work to develop one. One method to try is to keep a gratitude journal. This will help you to take a positive look at your life and the world around you. You can keep a diary or journal of your day to day events, but be sure to write down the positive things and events that you are thankful for. When you do start having a negative spiral of thoughts, which you will (it’s OK, we all do it on occasion), acknowledge the feelings. Then, you may want to think about how you would handle or conquer that worst case scenario. Chances are that it won’t happen, but you know what to do if it does. Anything else won’t nearly be so bad. If you are dealing with something beyond your control, then do not give any more energy to the issue than you must. You may not be able to control the situation, but you have complete control over your thoughts and feelings.

Exercise can, also, help you to burn off some steam and even improve your mood.  During one of the darkest periods of my own life it was exercise that truly helped me more than anything. I had lost a baby at 15 weeks gestation and I could, absolutely, see how easy it would be to spiral down into a depression. Training for triathlons and starting to race is really what kept me going. I am not telling you that you have to run a marathon, but there is a growing body of research that supports the positive effects of exercising improving your mood. Exercise naturally stimulates and increases the chemicals in your body that improve mood. Not to mention, the added benefit of improving your overall health. That’s something to certainly help you be positive!

5. If all else fails, keep moving forward

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Just keep moving forward towards that goal. Even putting in 5-10 minutes is better than nothing and gets you that much closer. Fit time to work on your goal where you can. I actually find that I can get a lot of work done on car trips (with my awesome husband doing the driving, of course). Particularly when you have little people in your life or a full time day job, sometimes, you just have to work when and where you can!

Most importantly, don’t give up. No goal worth achieving is easily attained. You’re going to face obstacles and life ‘gunk’ is going to get in your way. But, when you fall down, you need to decide if you are the type of person that stomps your feet and gives up? Or are you the type that stands up, dusts yourself off, and keeps on going?

My son couldn’t get back up immediately on that bike. We had to fix that chain first, of course. But, I’m proud to say that he did get back on, figured out how to work those hand brakes, and rode the bike trail like a champ.

How do you overcome a life obstacle?

When you do have a mishap in your life, what can you do to keep going?  How do you get up and move forward?  First of all, believe in yourself.  It doesn’t matter how bad it looks today, you can and will get through this ‘gunk’. What will you do when you fall down?

I would love to hear from you. Share below your thoughts or a time you have overcome adversity to reach a goal.

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