Living To Thrive: How To Be Spiritual Even When Times Are Tough!

It’s easy to be spiritual when things are going your way.” –Byron Katie

katePerhaps you…blog about how life/spirit/The Uni-verse wants you to thrive. You tell friends this when they’re down. You read books that affirm that this is true. Perhaps you’re even a coach or yoga teacher who tells others to remember this when they’re having a tough time.

So I ask this question–gently, yet honestly–If you are willing to trust that life wants you to thrive, are you yourself choosing to live as though that’s true?

When I’m reading Eckhart Tolle, or a coaching client is seeing the truth in the illusion, or something I’ve worked hard for is coming to fruition, then it’s abundantly clear that life–or The Uni-verse, God, Spirit, what have you–wants us to thrive.

But what do we do during the tough times? How do we backtrack on the very belief systems we claim to live by, when things are confusing, challenging or just outright sucking us dry?

It’s when we most need to “live as if” that we often decide that it’s time to backtrack on an idea, give up, or that whatever steps forward we’ve managed weren’t “enough” or weren’t “really working.”

I’m asking you to reconsider that.

The Big Picture

First things first–there’s the big picture to consider. Here’s a story:

Many years ago, I was dating the most charming man. He was a good person, funny and smart–and we had a lot of laughs together.

There was just one, tiny-big issue: Every few weeks or days, usually right around the time when things between us were going particularly well, he’d suddenly need… “space.”

I’d try to work with what he needed, confused because he always seemed to distance himself right after he got vulnerable and we were closer, but–well, okay. You work with what you’ve got.

Fast-track to the end: the relationship did not last. I was pretty devastated by this, at the time.

But years later, I met a different man, who would later become my husband.

The man who would later become my Mr. Husband, it would turn out, would not suddenly need “space” like this other guy did.

Yes, Mr. Husband would have his own particular peccadilloes, just as I would have my ways of triggering him, but the difference here was that we were both on the same page when it came to how we would work through them.

All those times that I questioned whether or not life was going the way it was “supposed to” in my post-breakup grief with that other guy made a lot more sense.

I needed to get away from that guy…so that I could end up with Mr. Husband.

So let’s consider the big picture:

— the devastating breakup.

— the lost job.

— the illness.

— yes, even death.

When the going gets tough, we really have to remember that we don’t know where the going is…going.

I don’t say this lightly, nor do I say it from the perspective of someone who has never suffered loss (believe me, this breakup example is a drop in the hat).

I say it as someone who sees the truth: that we suffer more when we turn away from believing that life fundamentally wants us to thrive.

The Big Sign

So how do you keep in mind this idea–that life fundamentally wants you to thrive–when you’re truly in the thick of it? When you don’t know where to start?

Honestly, I think it starts with a sign.

We’re talking–signs of the paper variety, with black magic marker.

When you’re really down and out, and it’s too easy to get lost in the wash of hard emotions to keep any real perspective, any simple piece of paper will do:

“Life wants me to thrive. Am I choosing to live as if I believe that this is true?”

Now–this piece of paper idea isn’t as sexy or seductive as someone’s new 1-2-3 step plan, or hiring an expensive guru, or many of the other available options, but it’s astonishingly effective, and I’m more interested in “effective” than I am in “looks cool.”

Make the sign, place it somewhere visible, and then the next time the grief or the anger comes up, you go sit in front of the sign and cry it out right there. Feel all the feelings, because there’s nothing wrong with them, but at the same time–sit right next to that sign that’s your little 8.5 x 11” life raft on a day when you’re really down and out.

If life wants you to thrive, and you’re choosing to live as though that’s true, then surely it wants you to thrive at feeling and processing the very real emotions of your experience, while also providing a first, simple step towards the perspective that time and healing will bring.

Get Some Groupies

Life doesn’t want you, alone, to thrive–life wants all of us to thrive.

Remember that guy I dated? Who knows–it’s entirely possible that he now tells the story of that crazy “clingy” chick he needed to get some “space” from. Moving away from me was his form of thriving, what was best for him.

So start doing two things:

One: Start seeing that what’s happening might be for the greater collective good (it’s not all about us, after all!)


Two: Start assembling some groupies.

Find, or arrange to spend more time with, “your people,” the people who “get” what you’re going through and who are committed to changing it.

I’ve noticed that it’s a particularly pernicious habit among women to use difficult situations as a form of bonding, through incessant analysis and dissection of a problem–and this does meet needs on some level. After all, it feels good to use that biological/socially conditioned tendency towards nurturing and being nurtured.

Just tread with caution, because you might wake up like I did one day, and realize that the primary way you connect with people is over…drama. Problems. Complaining.

In essence? If you’ve just been laid off, hang out with the other people who have been laid off who are really doing their best to see opportunities at the same time as they’re honest on the days when they’re really angry that they were laid off.

Then start converting the rest of them.

Yes–that’s right–don’t ditch the people who aren’t choosing to live the way you are. Just start converting by example.

When they start complaining, acknowledge them–and counter with a positive example. (People who complain are in pain, after all. They want to be heard).

When people start getting angry and self-righteous, and you feel that seductive pull to join them in condemning something–which would not be practicing the belief that life wants you to thrive–you don’t need all the answers. You just need this one astonishing question: “I wonder what a good solution would be?” (People who are self-righteous and angry are in pain, after all. They feel powerless around a perceived injustice.)

See how this goes? You proactively choose to hang with the peeps who are already where you’re hoping to be, thriving. Then you courageously practice this thriving business when you’re in the company of others who aren’t (yet) there.

Complex Matrix

I couldn’t possible tell anyone reading this how their story would play out. I wouldn’t condescend to pat anyone on the head at the end of this piece and say, “Don’t worry, it will all be okay.”

You, and your one precious life, are a really beautiful, complex matrix. Starting with a simple tool to use when you’re really in the thick of it, and then creating a support system around you, are just two steps in a positive direction.

If you’re choosing to live from the belief that life wants you to thrive, would it be worth it to you to start there?

I don’t know what “okay” looks like for every person, but I do know that when we choose to live from a place of believing that our life’s experiences are preparing us and others to thrive, we get to “okay” a lot faster.

Thank you for choosing to thrive.




Kate Swoboda, a.k.a. Kate Courageous, is a life coach, writer and speaker who teaches people how to practice courage in their lives and livelihood. Learn more about her and how you can practice courage in your own life and business on her website , or follow Kate on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Kate,
    I love this!  I definitely agree that EVERYTHING happens for a reason and the Universe IS aspiring for OUR greater good AT ALL TIMES.  Even the rough, sucky times.  It’s FOR us, somehow, someway. 

    I’ve had similar break-ups (who hasn’t) where I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t get what I was doing “wrong” and wanted him to be “the one.”  But he wasn’t.  In that area, I still haven’t found “the one” as in another person, but I believe that I am “the one.”  We all our our own “the one.”  If we find someone else we want to share life with, then great.  But if not, we can be great on our own. 

    “Life wants me to thrive. Am I choosing to live as if I believe that this is true?”

    I love that.  I feel that I am *mostly* choosing to live as if I believe Life wants me to thrive.  But I need to focus on that and remember that even more in those times when I doubt. 



    •  Really awesome, Sarah! I tend to find in my own life that wherever there are those little corners where I’m not yet “living from a place of believing in thriving”, those are the places that–if I put some attention on them–reap some amazing rewards.

  • Mouth1951

    I have been trying to do this do what you say.
    But for thirteen years now, things keep getting worse.
    I am so tried of trying ,thinking things will be good ahead, its to hard everyday , thinking good will come, getting myself up and going, thinking it will happen
    I am to the point there is no end , at the hardest time of all these years.

    •  Who can you reach out to, locally and in your area, for face to face support? Sometimes this means friends, sometimes this means a counselor who can prioritize helping you. This is what we need when things get to being this challenging. Doing even that will be a really positive step in the right direction. Will you let us know?

  • kbubbles11

    I absolutely love this article!  Thank you!!! 

  • Tiffany Bowen

    This article came at the right time for me. I think it may have been my sign! Thank you!

  • Marissa Oliver

    I absolutely love your work-I feel like I copy most of it word for word into my journal.  This rings so true for me, and one  of the hardest things to put into practice-but doing so has served me well. 

  • guest

    powerful.  thank you.  it’s just what I needed to read…

  • Cmggriffin

    Thank you. I needed these words today….

  • Tal

    Thank you for this post! The piece of paper to serve as a reminder is perfect. Just reading that message on this site immediately made me feel relaxed.

  • Li5a

    I really needed to read this today.  Thank you so much!

  • DeShawn

    I realized the only way to lessen suffering is to accept this truth and give up control.  It’s the only thing that makes sense!  Great article.

    • sevillas

      You’re so right, DeShawn!

      My Lenten gesture has been to try to give up my desire to control my life and to let God take the wheel. I want to be the passenger on this ride, time for me to enjoy the scenery for awhile! 🙂

  • Annalutz35

    Thanks for posting this today. It definitely came at the right time for me as I just went through a similar breakup. .. only he called me 2 days ago for a hook-up (which I declined) only to find out today he became engaged yesterday to the woman he cheated with (his space). Looking forward to my Mr. Future

    •  Here’s to Mr. Future! It’s really powerful that you were committed enough to what you desire in a relationship that you didn’t take his “bait.”

  • T38

    Perfect timing!   New fan!

  • THis is beyond awesome. I had a situation happen earlier this month that negatively affected my income and I felt that fear kick in along with worry. After a while I said, wait, I have been brought this far and I know I deserve the opportunity to thrive and that life is not out to screw me. The situation isn’t resolved but I approach the day as if the resolution that’s best for me is on the way. It’s a challenge but I am working it every day! Awesome post, Kate Courageous!

    • Sounds like you’re choosing to approach the situation really, really powerfully! Thank you for commenting.

  • Greencc31

    You cut to the deep feelings in my soul. Thanks for recognizing the journey with words and tips to raft through it. I too have been hurt by a x- husband now who went out the door when I was in grief over creating our family. The word thrive is to choose to live or let this circumstance rob me of my future.  I am able to turn around see where I have been on this road, shake my head…and move forward due to the support system I have pulled even closer.  Thanks again for your look inside that helped me look inside.

    •  Beautiful–you have no idea what lovely road might be right ahead of you, now. I love how you notice that “choice” is a huge part of this!

  • Renpic

    This was awesome, Kate.  I can so relate, right down to the ‘space’ guy and the bonding with other women over drama.  Definitely have found some ‘groupies’ who I’ve been forming close relationships with since the breakup created more space.  They really get me and support me.  

    I still struggle with consistently believing that life wants us to thrive…but I’m getting there.   Thank you for the excellent reminder and advice! 

    •  🙂 I imagine we’ve all run into the “space” relationship. Thank you for sharing!

  • zanabites

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Of all the things I’ve heard, this one piece inspires from the depths of the lowdown and dirty. Shining a light of hope that will follow one to the deepest depths as a lifeline. Thank you so much for this 🙂

  • Dichristopherson

    i feel your words are speaking just for me..thank u..presently experiencing that wonderful man i discovered and started a great relationship with drop me for the ex girlfriend who came back to him..have questioned myself why i haven’t felt so thankful and you’ve wakened me..trying but still have faultered ..sure he is feeling my clinging behavior as well…i can see the ok..thanks for the quote i have written down and  hung for me to see..di