Throughout the course of my life, I can recall many rock bottom scenarios. My first break up. Years of a domestic violence situation from extended family. A brief marital separation. The deaths of loved ones. Extreme financial hardship, including repossession of our family home and at one point living off less than $9 a day.
But throughout it all, I have learned incredible life lessons that I would never take back.
Here are my top 10 life lessons hitting rock bottom has taught me:
1. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.
That book you always wanted to write. That business you always wanted to start up. That solo trip around the world you always wanted to take. Sometimes it takes being out of our comfort, our safety nets to do the things in life that we have always made excuses for or been afraid of. When you have nothing you are more inclined to take a bigger risk on getting the things you want the most. Take action each day towards that.
2. You gain experience and wisdom that no other way would have taught you.
Sometimes the hardest lessons in life mean you won't make the same mistakes again. Or that you'd change your life to live one that is more in line with what you really want. This kind of life experience gives you valuable wisdom and makes you smarter. You don't want to be any other way.
3. You realize you have a choice. Always.
You always have a choice in how you choose to respond to a rock bottom scenario. You can choose to focus on what you can change. Or what you can't. What you are grateful for and what you can work towards. Or what you won't. Be realistic about your situation but choose the brighter side -- it makes it much more manageable than staying stuck in the self-perpetuating cycle of negativity.
4. You are forced to confront everything leading up to that point in your life.
When we are at rock bottom we are forced to look at ourselves with an uncomfortable, magnified scrutiny. Poor money management can eventually lead to financial difficulties. Putting up with unhealthy patterns in your relationship can leave you hurt and emotionally damaged when it reaches a dramatic conclusion. Losing someone to death can make you realize how short life is and how it's not worth having petty grievances or not making the effort to see friends and family when we have the opportunity to. Take note of behaviors that aren't beneficial to you. And change them.
5. You learn things about yourself you never knew existed.
When we were living on less than $9 a day, I had no idea that it was even possible. In this consumer-driven, materialistic, over-indulged Western world, I could make meals stretch out for days. I could catch bait fish (to go fishing) armed with nothing more than an old laundry basket and subsequently catch us dinner.
With each hardship I've learned that I am a survivalist. I am resourceful. I am an alchemist of my surroundings. And I'm resilient beyond (even my own at times) belief.
6. You appreciate the good that you have in your life.
Whether it's fresh air to breathe. A roof over your head. Supportive family and friends. An education. Savings. A loving partner or children. Your sense of humor. There is always something to be grateful for, remember what you do have.
7. The best things in life are free.
Laughter. Ocean swims. Hangouts with mother nature. Appreciating beauty. Your time and energy (although some people value this differently). Giving and receiving advice. A good conversation with a friend. Movement. Your thoughts. Writing. Reading. Hugs. Kisses. Making love. Saying I love you to the people who matter the most. Enjoy them fully.
8. Reconnection and a renewed faith in fellow human beings.
I can draw on many times friends, family or complete strangers have touched my heart in such a profound way. When we were broken down on the side of the road for hours and a family pulled over to help us until 1 a.m. (even taking us back to their family home to feed us dinner, tea and biscuits). The stranger at the supermarket who paid for my shopping when my card declined. The stranger at the airport who paid for a night in a hotel when we were faced with sleeping on an airport lounge with a baby in tow. The Salvation Army for giving us a food box to see through the week without money to buy food. The friend's shoulders I've cried on when going through a hard time. The safe comfort of my mum and dad.
I would never take back the opportunities hard times have presented in allowing me to reconnect with loved ones or to have my faith renewed in the kindness of strangers. An inherent good lies in most people, even if it just takes one person to show us that. Be open to receiving it.
9. Uncomfortable is okay.
We grow the most when we are faced with change. And the one constant in life is change. Anthony Robbins is a fan of saying "get disturbed" to make the changes in life that are for your benefit. Be uncomfortable. Be confronted. Be disturbed. And use it to make changes for the right reasons.
10. When you are at the bottom, the only way is up.
That's it, you're there. You are at the lowest of the low, you can't get any further. Rock bottom is as far as it gets which means the only way is up. Those are pretty damn good odds in your favor.
J.K Rowling once famously said that "rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." I couldn't agree with this more. There is great value in having time on that concrete pad and you can rise and build an amazing life from that -- if you so choose.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.