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“I’ve ruined my life…now what?” – 12 pieces of advice if this is you

So there’s been a major setback.

It can be personally tragic, there’s no doubt about that; it doesn’t mean that it’s a permanent position, however.

This is a chapter among the hundreds in the long book of your life.

Although it might not feel like it, there are still more pages to go; the end hasn’t been reached yet.

Not even close.

There are still things that can be done to get through this chapter — you are the author of your story after all.

Continue writing and create a fulfilling redemption arc with these 12 pieces of advice.

1. Appreciate What You Have

One of the best and easiest ways to feel better is by looking around at the things that you do have and appreciating them.

Feeling grateful for what you already have shifted your perspective and helps become more positive about life.

It could be anything: warm socks, a tasty burger, stable internet connection to binge-watch a favorite series — these are little things that we tend to take for granted while we’re just trying to make it to the end of the workweek.

Keeping these in mind helps return us to the real world. It stops the downward spiral of thoughts and puts our feet back on the ground.

2. Accept The Past

The sting of a painful memory could feel as fresh as experiencing that moment for the first time.

Our minds wander to the past like mosquitoes attracted to those neon insect killers — get too close to it and *zap* the pain.

Moving on from the past is never easy — but it’s necessary.

The fact of the matter is that it can’t be changed. The past is written in ink.

No amount of mental energy could be spent to change the course of history; it can only change what that moment meant.

Mistakes could be seen as catastrophic failures or painful lessons that will never be forgotten; it’s all a matter of perspective and acceptance.

3. Take A Moment To Zoom Out

There are things in life that we get so wrapped up in that we lose ourselves in them.

We attribute our self-worth to our job title, the numbers on our bank accounts, the clothes we wear, and the house we live in.

Then, when something wrong inevitably happens to these material things, we find ourselves lost.

In those moments, we need to zoom out and look around. We are still here, alive and breathing. Self-worth is found inside of us, not in material objects.

4. Remember To Breathe

Remembering to breathe is one of the simplest and most accessible remedies for a swirling mind.

As the lungs inflate and deflate with fresh air, the mind clears and the heart relaxes.

Indeed, a study has found that breathing slowly increases the comfort level and relaxation while reducing the feeling of anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.

Breathing exercises are usually associated with the practice of meditation.

A study has confirmed that there are a number of health benefits that can be experienced with the practice of meditation, such as reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and even physical and psychological pain.

The human body has spent millions of years evolving past some of the worst natural calamities — surely, you can handle this phase of your life.

5. Return To The Present

The past and the present are attractive forces.

They can pull you in to trigger feelings of regret and shame to anxiety and fear.

While we mentally time travel between the two, the present remains untouched by any negative emotions.

Being mindful, or being aware of the present moment, has been found to have positive effects on a person’s overall being.

The present moment is like the eye of a storm: tranquil and clear.

Navigating through life in the eye of the storm gives you back control, rather than being thrown around by the whirlwinds of the past and the future.

6. Focus On What Can Be Done

The “circle of influence” is what Steven Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the things that are within our control.

These include what we choose to focus on, the amount of effort that we put into our work, and what we intend to do to express our emotions.

Spending precious mental energy on the things outside our circle of influences will only lead to further disappointment and frustration.

Returning to the present moment takes back control of the wheel.

You don’t have to let the events of life drive you around to places where you don’t feel comfortable being in.

When you focus only on what can be done right now, the ability to respond in any way returns.

You can decide to overcome struggles and become a better person. The choice is up to you.

7. Embrace The Clean Slate

At 30-years-old, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was fired from the company that he co-founded.

For anyone, that would’ve been an emotional blow; to have the company you’ve worked so hard on turn its back on you.

Instead of seeing it as devastating, Jobs saw it as liberating in a way.

In a speech, he would say, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again: less sure about everything.”

When we get a setback, it can feel like we’re returning to a blank slate. It can feel intimidating — but not it doesn’t have to be.

It’s possible that you can now recreate yourself; rebuild yourself in the image of the person that you’ve always wanted to be.

Pursue the passions that resided in the path that wasn’t taken before.

You don’t have to deny that what happened was awful, but that doesn’t have to hold you back from starting again.

And starting again is always an option; it’s never too late.

8. Process Your Emotions

Productivity guru David Allen has said that, “What you avoid doing is probably the most important thing you need to do”.

Confronting regret, shame, sadness, and shame is difficult for anyone.

It could take months to fully address and get over such heavy emotions; what’s important is taking the first step to do so.

It can feel like an explorer hacking away at the leaves and vines in the jungle; it’s tiring and uncomfortable, but it’ll clear up the path.

Writing down your feelings and thoughts in a journal has been found to help the effects of depression among diagnosed patients.

Another way that you might be able to process emotions could be by talking to a close friend about it.

9. Forgive Yourself

Holding on to a past mistake can be heavy baggage.

Punishing oneself for acting wrongly isn’t the same as learning the lesson.

To grow and move forward, one must be willing to accept the past and forgive one’s previous self.

Once the compassion that one still deserves is shown, that’s when true growth as a person can take place.

10. Do Things That Bring Simple Joys

We get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to take care of ourselves.

Happiness and joy don’t always have to have a hefty price tag attached — it can be as simple as taking a walk or returning to childhood hobbies.

Experiencing simple joys can bring us back to what makes life worth living again. The best thing about simple joys is that they’re never out of reach.

11. Help Others

If it’s difficult to pull yourself up to do such things, another activity that can be done is doing volunteer work in your community, whether it’s helping clear up the trash or aiding the elderly.

Kindness isn’t a feeling — it’s an act.

Sometimes, the best way to solve your own problems is to help others solve theirs.

12. Take It A Day At A Time

The open secret to feeling better after seemingly ruining your life is to take it a day at a time.

Much like how communities recover from surviving devastating hurricanes and typhoons, it’s going to take a while.

There’s no need to rush it either.

There are no Olympic gold medals to be awarded to the fastest recoverer, so you can move at your own pace.

Progress back to recovery and taking control of your life isn’t necessarily a linear path either.

There are inevitably going to be some days where you might return to thinking old thoughts and feeling like recovery isn’t possible. It happens.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try again the next day, or the day after that.

A ruined life is only such if it’s perceived to be. It’s certainly easier said than done to view it otherwise, but it isn’t such an impossible feat.

Time and again, people have shown that they are made of sterner stuff than they think.

Like every hero in a good story, they are bound to get knocked down at some point. It’s that very same challenge that enables them to come back stronger than before.

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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