Overcoming difficulties

The first week of Navy boot camp in 1968 was rough. We were assigned to another recruit on temporary assigned duty (TAD) whose job was to get us through processing. It was also his job to make that first week as rough as possible. I can safely say that every one of us hated him before the week was out. That was…until the last night we had him.

He called us to the center of our temporary barracks and told us the next morning we would be going across the highway to our assigned companies to begin our training. We would meet our company commander at that time, and he would return to his own company to complete his basic training. He explained it would be challenging, and there would be times we might not think we could do what we were being asked to do. He told us to remember one thing: Tens of thousands of recruits had done what we would be asked to do, and we could do it as well. Furthermore, he said that the Navy would never ask us to do anything that was not possible to do.

I thought of his words often during boot camp, because there were times I was sure we were being asked to do the impossible. Until I found out it was possible. Throughout my four years in the Navy I remembered his words again when my ship was deployed for long stretches of time, and I was away from my wife and daughter. His words have also been helpful when I’ve gone through difficult times throughout my life.

There have been times when I didn’t think I would get through some situation in my life, and then I would remind myself that millions of other people have gone through the same thing and came out on top. If they could, so can I.

The same is true of each of us. I’ve written a lot about choices the past few weeks, and this is another choice we each have to make at times. We don’t get to choose everything that comes into our lives, but we always get to choose how we will respond to them. And, as I keep reminding my readers, choices have consequences. Some choose to give up in the face of obstacles. Others choose to find ways to overcome those obstacles. Guess which one comes out ahead in the end.

Life will test each one of us. No matter our place in life, our economic or social status, our religious beliefs or lack of them, our race or nationality, we will be tested. Bad things do happen to good people. It rains on the just and the unjust the same. In my seven decades I have found that every test has a purpose and a way to overcome it.

Knowing this and responding appropriately are two different things. Like anyone else, there are times I can be in despair over some challenge and see no way through, but if we don’t give up, there is always a way through. There is always a way to overcome the difficulties that come our way.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, one of the things that is often helpful is to remember how we came through previous challenges. Just being reminded that we’ve overcome past difficulties often gives us the ability to overcome our current ones. If you’re struggling right now with something in your life, spend 20 minutes thinking back to past times when you struggled and wasn’t sure you would make it. Obviously, you did. What helped you then that you can apply now to today’s situation?

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