Almost always, when we reach the other side of a difficult time, there’s a place we rest and say, “Whew, glad that’s over.” It might be a divorce, a battle with the IRS, a year of financial torture or intense grief.

We get to the other side and realize we fell off the cliff – or out of the nest or into the fire – and we survived.

Those Days

In my darkest moments, I understood how someone could check out, close the bank accounts and book a red eye to South America. I wondered if I could ever feel calm, organized, and happy again.

I wasn’t depressed, though friends and family worried about me. It was a feeling of near defeat, like I had not one more drop of energy to pay a bill or run a sudsy sink or sit in a meeting.

I didn’t know what I cared about anymore when I stumbled on a list Dr. Phil says are the seven most challenging days of our lives:

  • the day your heart is shattered
  • the day you realize you have lived your life as a sellout
  • the day you realize you are in way over your head
  • the day the body breaks down
  • the day the mind breaks down
  • the day addiction takes over
  • the day you have lost your purpose and have no answer to the question “why?”

Check. Check. Check. I was there. I survived. I did not go splat.

There is no one among us who does not have one or more of these days coming up, especially if we want long lives. What can we do to prepare for challenges? Why do some people get out of the ditch quicker? Are there things we can do today to make our life better in 10 or 20 years?

Plan B Is Real Life

One thing that pulled me out of the ditch is joining a terrific little company in a career I’ve put on the back-burner since my late 40s. I’m starting from scratch with co-workers decades younger than me. They’ve embraced me like a sister, and I hope they feel how much I needed that.

People say to me, “Wow, it’s lucky you’re a realtor so you can jump right in.” I remind myself, it’s not luck at all.

I planned carefully for a backup career, just in case something happened to my husband or our small business. Good thing I did! Something happened alright, but it wasn’t death or disability. It was divorce.

It’s true that life is what happens after Plan B. What’s your backup plan in the event of a major life explosion? Do you have the skills that could take you to the next step?

Is there something you could learn today that will make your life better 20 years from now? Believe me, the people who did not embrace technology are suffering.

With a Little Bit of Luck

Most of us believe in luck – good or bad. But while many think that luck influences their lives, only a small number of people would say that they could not change their luck. Some people think luck is about choice or fate, but there’s some prep work involved too.

“Making a lucky life means appreciating where you are now – but still looking ahead for new opportunities. As life changes, you need the courage to look for new challenges and find luck in new places,” says Janice Kaplan in her book How Luck Happens.

Guess what she says is the key ingredient? A lucky attitude!

You’ve got to believe you can make luck and that you deserve to be lucky. Then watch out. If you believe and if you do a few simple little things, luck can change your life.

Start looking for lucky things. Did the light turn green just as you arrived? Lucky you! I found a $50 in the warm coat I haven’t worn since last winter. Lucky me!

Some of Kaplan’s advice is so obvious, but she reminds us in cute phrases like “skate to where the puck is” and “zig when others zag.” Passion and persistence play in, of course, as do our connections with people.

Cultivate Your Garden

A backup plan and good attitude are basic to good outcomes. Life throws curve balls. Are we ready? What if Mom gets sick? What if your house catches fire? What if Aunt Sally becomes so sad she can’t turn the knob and walk out of the front door?

Maintaining a solid base of friends is the magic part of your plan. A church sermon I’ll never forget talked about “cultivating our garden” of friends.

When I was struggling, I was never alone. If I was crying in the dark, it was my own fault. My fear was that I’d be a pest. Then a friend texted me: “Ur a pest like a ladybug. I luv u.” I cried harder, but I was smiling.

Here’s a good list for being a good friend:

  • Be real.
  • Be honest.
  • Take an interest in the details of your friend’s life by being a good listener.
  • Make time for your friend.
  • Keep their secrets.
  • Encourage your friend.
  • Be loyal to your friend.
  • Be willing to work through conflict.

Make a Plan

Let’s never stop planning, not at any age. A friend went to a 100-year-old’s birthday last week and she shared the woman’s longevity secrets:

  • good whiskey
  • something to look forward to everyday, and
  • uninhibited sex.

We will concentrate on #2.

In my new real estate training, I’ve discovered a 10-Day Plan is better for me than a To-Do List because it’s about results and not action steps.

In my first 10 days, I finished unpacking myself into a new home. In my second 10 days, I balanced all my financial accounts and knew exactly where I stood on credit. My next 10 days will include wrapping up the holiday and seeing about a new garage door.

Skeptical at first, I was surprised how well a 10-Day Plan works for me. I confess I scribble all over my sheets which list just five big items.

I’ve learned to crunch these items into “boulders” or things that take chunks of time. I schedule boulders first thing in the mornings or afternoons. The pebbles of everyday life – the errands and exercise and retail therapy – fall between. It works!

I keep these sheets stacked on top of each other. I get why now. I see how much I’m getting done toward my bigger life goals. I can look back when I’m discouraged or scared or overwhelmed. I can give myself a little pat on the back because, not only have I not gone splat, I have succeeded.

I’m at that place where I can finally say, “Whew, glad that’s over.” I remind myself I always land on my feet like my cat Missy. Besides that, we have a well-cultivated garden.

What’s the last cliff you jumped off of? How did you land? What helped you get on your feet? Do you look for luck in your life? How do you cultivate your garden of friends? Please share in the comments below!

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