Martha Mason wrote her memoir, Breath, while on her back encased in an 800-pound iron lung in which she spent 61 years until she died in 2009 at age 71. The first 10 years of her life were full of typical childhood fun. She was energetic and smart, living a carefree, rural life during the 1940s. Then, in September 1948, three days after her brother died of it, Mason contracted polio. It took away her ability to breathe on her own.
After a year’s recovery, her doctor told her, “You’re basically an excellent mind and an exuberant spirit locked inside an inert body, a prison. Can you live with that?” She was 12 years old. She answered: “No, but I can live above it.” Her memoir describes how she kept that audacious promise, including graduating at the top of her Wake Forest class. Here are 10 ways to live above your life circumstances.
1. Be clear about what defines you.
Make sure you know who you are. Understand that you were created with a purpose, and be crystal clear about what makes you tick.
2. Live according to values that stand independent of circumstance.
Stand on solid ground. Own the fact that you are a part of something greater. Build a life around values such as service and love and compassion. Remember to teach your kids this too!
3. Practice living above life circumstances before things get difficult.
The time to learn how to rise above your life circumstances is when things are still going well. Make sure you’re not being sucked into reliance on the wrong values. Don’t put your eggs in the wrong baskets. Learn the difference between values that last and things that will ultimately let you down.
4. Understand that relationships count.
Make the choices that value relationships ahead of the bottom line. Spend time with your children. If you are married, engage in your marriage as a priority, not an afterthought. Honor your parents and friends. Remember: At the end, it’s relationships that matter most.Remember: At the end, it’s relationships that matter most.
5. Invest in things that are timeless.
In your monthly budget, how important is charitable giving? Do you give your leftovers or is self-sacrifice involved? Be generous with what you have and you won’t miss it so much when it’s gone.
Learn to rely on what you know is wise rather than the opinions of those around you. If you need to purchase trendy items, or drive the right car, or wear the correct clothes in order to feel validated, then your sense of self-worth is going to depend on things that could (and will) easily disappear overnight.
Understand your purpose in life, and develop clear goals that come directly from your heart. Your vision is more enduring than the temporary ups and downs of circumstance.
8. Learn to distinguish between the temporary and the eternal.
When we understand what parts of our lives line up under “temporary” and what parts can be listed as “eternal,” then it’s not so hard to maintain perspective when the temporary stuff threatens to overwhelm us.
9. Be reasonable.
Keep a sense of balance. Ask for help from those around you, especially when your life circumstances are difficult. Don’t think you have to be the strong and silent one. Remember to live in community. Let yourself be loved and cared for.
10. If you are married, be the best husband.
It’s a lot easier to deal with a lost job, or a financial challenge, or a difficult child when you are confident in your relationship with your wife.
Sound off: What’s the hardest thing about overcoming a challenging time for you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the hardest thing about overcoming a challenging time?”