I remember many years ago attending a World AIDS Day film screening in Pittsburgh that was organized by a friend of mine. The documentary told the story of a young girl in Africa whose mother was dying from AIDS. The young girl gave up attending school in her village to take care of her mother along with her younger siblings. She worked tirelessly from sunrise to sunset ensuring that her family’s basic needs were being met, from having enough food on their table to keeping the roof over their head to feeding their souls with unconditional love. Her compassion oozed from her like the sweat that beaded on her forehead during the long trips to obtain clean drinking water. At one point in the documentary, the producer asked the young girl how she stays so strong and she replied, “Come what may.”
This young girl’s message and example from half way around the world has been a source of inspiration for me for years and taught me a critical life lesson that I continually aim to embrace. Despite the hardship and suffering that her family was facing, she welcomed each new day as an opportunity to selflessly give more than she took. This young girl possessed an unwavering faith in her ability to handle whatever was placed before her and had learned to manage her internal voice so that she was not distracted by doubt but rather fueled by the conviction to persevere. Her internal compass was guiding her through each task and was a source of strength.
Her response, “Come what may,” is a reminder to us all that what happens to us is less important than how we choose to respond. When we face hardships, it certainly can be easy to toss our hands up, complain about how unfair life is, and blame others. I bet you will find people that fuel this notion of the world being against us. As the old adage goes, “misery loves company.” And while you may find comfort in the moment, the spiraling effect of this negativity and self-pity will result in a lens through which you start to view everything around you, from your job to your relationships to your community. Suddenly you will find yourself lost and paralyzed, struggling to find happiness.
Now imagine an alternative mindset and action plan that you commit to embracing that propels you forward and positions you as an example for others to follow.
1) Clarify your vision. Get clear on what you want to accomplish. Visualize yourself accomplishing it and hone in on what it feels and looks like. Describe that moment when you reach the finish line and your vision transforms into a reality.
2) Focus on what you control. Acknowledge what you do not control, shift your focus to what you do control, and take action accordingly. This refocus makes it clear what your priorities are and therefore helps you to determine where you spend your time, how you exert your talents and with whom. Your purpose becomes clear and the stepping stones surface to guide you forward from one milestone to the next.
3) Build your tribe. Surround yourself with people that have your best interests in mind, stand by you in the good times and bad, and compassionately call you out when you start to stray. There is an English proverb that states, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” If you surround yourself with solution-oriented people that inspire and challenge you, you will model their energy in your attitude and actions, thus reciprocating what they are offering you.
4) Celebrate progress. Our most rewarding journeys are often not fast tracks to success. To stay motivated for the long haul, you must celebrate the progress you are making along the way.
5) Continually learn. Every person and experience that you encounter along your journey is a piece of your life’s master jigsaw puzzle. Embrace each piece as if it were the last piece you needed, and honor the unique lessons that it has to teach you.
Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Come what may because your light is ready to shine!