How To Live Through A Bad Day

Word Count: 1166

Estimated Reading Time: 5.8 minutes

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” – Proverbs 24:10

Yards After Contact (Y.A.C.)

In American Football, one of the most underappreciated but exciting statistics is Yards After Contact (Y.A.C.). This is described as the number of yards a running back tacks on, not after receiving the ball from the quarterback, but after getting hit by the opponent’s defensive line. It’s why we watched with excitement as R.B’s like Marshall Lynch, Jamal Lewis, and Adrian Peterson broke through tackles and ate up chunks of yards. And opposition, not just opportunities are a certainty in life.

Uncertainties, challenges, setbacks, losses, and pressures are not options we get to choose in life. We might not know when, but they will happen. This is the capricious nature of life. It is more advantageous to live in the knowledge of this reality rather than its ignorance. Denial only renders us stagnant.

How we respond to setbacks determine how far we go in life. The further back an archer pulls the string on his bow, the greater distance the arrow can go. It’s the Y.A.C. that demonstrates your mental strength. That you can take a licking and keep on ticking.

In today’s post, I provide 4 vantage points to view life from on a bad day. If a bad day is inevitable, I believe it’s better to be prepared. For preparation is the path to progress in the face of problems.

1. Localize it, don’t generalize it.
When a fire occurs on a ship there are two main priorities; containing the fire and putting it out. Sometimes in life, we cannot put out a fire, but we can contain it in three ways:
a. Gratitude. What are you grateful for in this moment? This gives you a vantage point to view life and appreciate the fact that things could be worse than they are. An attitude of gratitude will keep ennui at bay.
b. Admit fault if you have contributed to the bad day. Acceptance on your part is key to coming out a better person.
c. Focus on what you can control. Don’t tie yourself in knots over what you cannot. You will wear yourself out unnecessarily. Pride is tempered when you know that you cannot control everything.

It’s tempting to define life, based on a temporary occurrence. On bad days I remind myself that tough days or seasons don’t last but tough people do.

2. Become a conduit of good to others
Never is a “me first” mentality more prevalent as when we are having a bad day. Self-preservation and survival become our modus operandi. But there is a better way.

Admiral James (Jim) Stockdale was a prisoner of war for seven and a half years. Instead of just trying to survive his captivity, he thrived by raising the morale of the other prisoners of war. By building and encouraging others even when we are having a bad day or a tough season of life, we end up being lifted as well. Instead of looking down, look around and become a channel of good to the lives of others.

Everyone needs encouragement. John Maxwell calls it “oxygen for the soul.” Next time you experience a bad day, reach out and encourage someone around you. And with technology, there are plenty of ways to do it. You will infuse your soul with strength in return.

Recently, I began writing and sending letters of encouragement to my friends. During this time, I experienced some bad days, but each time I penned a letter, I discovered a river of encouragement flowing back my way. I was giving what I needed, and it came back. Believe me, it works and the Return on Encouragement (R.O.E.) is huge!

3. Learn and Grow
Resilience, just like a muscle, is developed through resistance. Reluctance is futile and only wastes what could be useful for growth. Anger, worry, and bitterness are normal responses to a bad day, but they accomplish nothing but wasted energy.

Don’t let a bad day paralyze you. Avoid the Ostrich Approach at all costs. When an ostrich sees an enemy, it will bury its head in the sand. This mirrors a person who numbs themselves to the truth or reality by hiding in the sand of excuses and blaming others. They check out of life mentally and emotionally, hoping things will magically work themselves out.

Life rarely leaves us unscathed. Bad days are inevitable. It is in our best interests to pull our heads out of the sand and use the bad days to develop a thick skin while maintaining a soft heart. Viewed correctly, bad days can be life’s tuition cost for a better future. Also, they can be the fertilizer we need to grow in character. As a person of faith, this is confirmed by the Scripture, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So, don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.” In short, bad days can be a portal to a better quality of life if you choose to learn and grow.

4. There is an expiration date
As I said earlier, trouble doesn’t last. But don’t set the release date. Going back to the story of Stockdale, Jim Collins once interviewed him and asked, “Who never made it out (of captivity)?” Without hesitation, Stockdale responded, “…the optimists.” Stockdale proceeded to say that the optimists were those who set dates like Christmas or Easter. Those dates came and went. Stockdale concluded, “These men died of a broken heart.”

The Stockdale Paradox was born:
“You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” – Admiral James Stockdale

This ambidextrous outlook keeps us even-keeled on bad days. We don’t lose heart but remain effusive about life no matter how negative or uncertain the season we face is.

Final thought: Just like a running back has to balance the reality of being hit, with the optimism that he can break the tackles and make it to the end zone, so must we balance the reality of the opposition, while still holding optimism that we can overcome and become better people. It’s this Stockdale Paradox of faith and reality that will help us endure in difficult times.

Keep on Keeping on!

Navigating Life Blog Series Summary
1. Living without a purpose is like a ship without its rudder.
2. Adjust your sails to the winds of life and use it to catapult you forward.
3. The greater portion of handling pressure has to do with regulating the temperature of our inner world.
4. Understanding the paradox of faith and reality will help us endure difficult times.

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