Live Your Best by Adapting to Difficult Situations

03/10/2015 11:40 am ET | Updated May 10, 2015

The secret to success is:
Evolving with challenges to get the most out of life

So you show up to work one day to find that you've been fired or laid off. You hate the job, and yet still feel guilty somehow.

Or you show up on Saturday night empty handed, dressed for a casual house party, only to find it's an exclusive invite dinner party. You're under-dressed and overly embarrassed.

What can we do when life hands us a new challenge (as it always does), just a the moment we find ourselves at our most vulnerable, our must under-prepared? Subscribing to the truth that we all agree, life's challenges will inevitably find us. But it is those among us who use these keys to unlock new, unexpected successes in areas of new, unexpected challenges.

It is said that a powerful man knows how to build an empire with the same stones thrown at us. This is much the same, but instead of an empire, we're building a simple (tres chic marble) zen temple inside.

Step 1: Expect the worst... and the best

Any of my fellow cancer fighters will know this lesson hard and fast and true down to their cell-stricken bones:

When a doctor tells you that you have cancer, you must immediately prepare for the worst while knowing that this may be your only opportunity to also experience the best. That means prepare to hear (more) words you fear the most, while remaining present and peaceful enough hear the words you need and enjoy the most. That means embracing bad news and good news. That means expecting the battle to be awful, yet beautiful and full of light. That means hearing "you have cancer" while also hearing "I love you," "I'm grateful for you."

They say it is always darkest before the dawn. In these terrible challenges when we can see no light and no hope, it is up to us to manifest our own. It is up to us to see, create, and hope for the possibility of beauty in the dark. The faith in us must come out in full force. Because just like the hero that must defeat the dragon, sizing up the opponent doesn't make it any easier. You just have to grab your sword, and hope that the view is spectacular once he's not looming over it. You'll get hurt, but also expect to feel accomplishment and pride like you've never known.

Step 2: Express Confidence

One slip up, one bad outfit, or one misspoken statement isn't enough to kill your entire credibility and sense of integrity. Undoubtedly it feels like the end of the world when it happened, but that's simply not the case.

Raise up the other elements of your personality that you are proud of, that you have developed and cultivated, such as your ability to heal, to show compassion, to forgive (even yourself in this moment), and to drop that which no longer serves you. This dropping act should include your self consciousness.

Keep your head up high. This is an opportunity to show the fullness of your character, and that it needs not simple devices that other individuals might need in order to feel comfortable, in control, powerful, and impactful. Furthermore, it's your chance to increase the vibrancy of your confidence. If you can harness it and outwardly express it in moments like these, you will only build it's muscles stronger. So what if everyone is looking at you funny! Everyone doesn't know you... yet.

Step 3: Remain Open and Joyful

Life is challenging, life is hard. Life is full of obstacles. Life is life. But none of these clichés about the nature or functioning of the universe negates our ability to be open, joyful, and full of gratitude. In fact, in the face of challenge is actually our greatest opportunity to reach enlightenment. But every time we diminish our chance to rise to the occasion, to evolve into a higher being, to learn a profound lesson through profound turmoil, we in turn diminish ourselves and everyone around us.

photo by Mark Vitazko (modified) source | license

We can lyrically gather together all these qualities: openness, joyfulness, gratitude, under one umbrella action: embracing what is happening. Embracing the challenge without victimizing ourselves (the: "it's not fairs" and "it's not rights" ) without viewing life as the villain, we open up new possibilities. We meet the most compassionate person in the room, the one who was the first to talk to us in our under-dressed state. We see the dissatisfaction we were hiding deep down inside, we return to our individual selves when we allow a former lover to leave and the heartbreak to take place, ultimately healing. We see the guilt and worry we were carrying around unnecessarily when life hands us a challenge that is actually an unshackling from our own mental chains.

Life is never spiteful, it is never cruel. It is only bluntly honest with it's teaching methods.

In this Pinterest-esque era of media make-believe, when we're all pretending to have beautiful, happy lives online, it is becoming increasingly harder to be honest about and to face struggle. But great happiness and success requires great risk, and every time we put ourselves out there -- professionally, socially, romantically, artistically -- we must remember that all the great minds throughout time faced the same equation: allow difficulty to be a liberation or a cage.

Rachael Yahne (@RachaelYahne) is a writer, blogger, and 10 year cancer survivor. You can read more of her articles about healing from life's big struggles, plus more on beauty, well-being, and living with passion on her website,