You Can Do Hard Things

Oh my, my how beautiful,
Oh, my irrefutable father,
He told me:
“Son, sometimes it may seem dark
But the absence of the light is a necessary part.
Just know that you’re never alone
You can always come back home”
from “93 Million Miles” by Jason Mraz

When my oldest son was perhaps only four years old, he’d sometimes complain about how I’d asked him to do something “too hard.” To his four-year-old sensibilities, my request for him to put his toys away or to please put his pants on before going out in public must have seemed excessive. In my better moments of parenting, I’d simply encourage him by gently and confidently saying, “You can do hard things.”

One evening around that same time, my son wanted me to read five or six books to him before bedtime. “But daddy is really tired tonight,” I complained. “Can’t we just read two books tonight?”

His response came quickly: “Dad, you can do hard things.”

Gotcha. I read five books that night. :)

Developing Resilience

You face hard things in your life too—perhaps even harder (gasp!) than wearing pants in public or reading a handful of books to your child before bedtime. How can you nurture a greater sense of resilience so you can face  your challenges with hope and tenacity? Learn how below!

Create Safe Havens

Of the many factors that promote resilience, loving, secure relationships provide the very best foundation for personal strength and recovery from life’s inevitable crises. We now have decades of research that confirms what early attachment theorist John Bowlby proposed: our attachment figures provide a “safe haven” where we can go for reassurance and strength when we face threats and fears. Studies on adult love relationships also confirm what the wise among us have always known—that the benefits of having a safe haven extend to adults as well as to children.

Your Refuge from the Storm

To whom do you turn in your times of stress or struggle? If you have a spouse, a parent, or a friend whom you can count on, cherish that relationship. Don’t take it for granted. Express your gratitude, and be a true friend in return.

Even if you don’t have someone near, you could still benefit from remembering someone who was there for you, be it a grandparent or an old friend.

A single young adult client in my therapy practice once related that he had to go into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Terrified, and with no family or friends near (he was newly arrived in a city far from home), he recounted how he was able to still his fears before the surgery by picturing the face of his father, and by imagining his father holding his hand and speaking to him in a loving tone.

Victor Frankl experienced this in the even more brutal circumstances of a Nazi concentration camp during World War II:

“My mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise…. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”  — Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. During a time of strain or crisis, maybe your mind and heart have turned you toward a loved one who provided you with a safe haven, a refuge of the storm.

A Stronger You, Today

Do you need a deeper reservoir of resilience today? Turning to love is the answer.

To become more resilient, more courageous, and more peaceful today, take these simple steps to embrace the love that is already available to you:

  • Turn to a person or picture in your mind the face of one (or the One) who loves you most.
  • Ask for the reassurance you need. 
  • Take into your heart the courage that springs from having this loving, confident gaze rest upon you.

Know that you’re not alone. Immersed in the power of remembrance, go forward with renewed courage to face your challenges.

When have you found strength by turning to a safe haven? I’d love to hear your comments below!

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2 thoughts on “You Can Do Hard Things

  1. Really spot on Paul!
    So much of our lives can be sucked away by negative thoughts or debilitating negative self image. Feeding the truth to our head and heart through your resiliency exercise is the way to crush that dark wolf that comes nipping at our achilles!

    Thank you,


    1. Yes, Patrick! As you say, feed our heads and hearts with truth can really increase our strength and resilience. And it is only through the eyes of love that we can see the truth clearly. Thanks!

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