Bestselling author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis is out with a new book, "Didn't See That Coming: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart."
It's all about rebuilding your life when you're going through a "hard season" like the death of a loved one, a divorce or the loss of a job. We all have moments like this, and 2020 has tested everyone in different circumstances.
Hollis said she wrote this book because she "wanted to offer some hope to my readers who were navigating a hard year in 2020. It's truly for anyone who feels like they're going through a difficult season or are still grappling with pain from their past."
The mom of four writes openly in the book about her own divorce, which she announced in June.
So much of my work is about speaking authentically, about telling my truth, about telling my story, and to write a book trying to guide [people] through hard times and not be honest about the hard time I was in felt very inauthentic," she said Friday on "Good Morning America." "It was important to me to speak that truth, even if writing it was brutal."
Read on for Hollis's tips to reimagine your future when life is just, plain hard to help you emerge on the other side even stronger. Bookmark this page when you need a mental pep talk.
- 3August 1, 2019
Reimagine Your Future
Purpose is what so many people struggle with after their world has been flipped sideways. When it feels like everything in our lives has changed, the things that once mattered often don't seem important anymore.
It's this awful catch-22: you feel lost because you don't know where you're headed, but it seems impossible to decide on a destination when you're so lost. Whether your life changed in an instant or broke down over a long period of time—you've gone through something that put you in the place to learn how absolutely unclear your future is at any given moment. Since you can't possibly know what's coming next, and therefore feel out of control, there's an impulse to believe that nothing really matters anymore when your world falls apart. Like, Why should I even bother when I don't know what tomorrow holds? If I don't know what tomorrow holds, then how can I make plans or have goals? Why waste my time?
You are struggling with the uncertainty of your world because whatever crisis you've gone through has made you realize—some of you for the first time ever—that you are not in control of life. During the quarantine in the spring of 2020 our city of Austin, Texas, declared a mandatory stay-at-home order. Probably the same thing happened where you live. Because we were nonessential workers, we weren't allowed to leave our house except to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. When we did go out, we had to wear gloves and masks, and frankly, the anxiety of leaving the house and seeing our once bustling city look like a scene from a postapocalyptic young adult novel made Dave and me not want to leave at all. Before quarantine I got lulled into a false sense of control because I had freedom over my life and my daily routine. I could go to the grocery store or to my favorite coffee shop or on a dinner date with my friends whenever I wanted, and since I'm an adult and I'm privileged to live in a country that doesn't control my day-to-day life, nobody else had a say in what I did.
But the truth is, we were never really in control because we are never truly in control of life. If you've ever lost a loved one without warning, then you know that you are not in control. If you've ever experienced getting laid off or losing your business despite the fact that you put your heart and soul into the effort, then you know that you are not in control. If a partner has ever cheated on you, or you've made a personal mistake that tore your foundations away or created a loss of love, then you know that you are not in control of the actions of others either. If you or someone you love has gotten gravely ill, then you understand that you are not in control.
We don't ever truly know what life is going to look like from one day to the next. Even from one hour to the next. We've never been able to accurately predict the future. I want you to understand that you haven't lost control of life . . . because you never had control to begin with.
And here's another hard truth . . . at some point in time you will forget that awareness again and you will go back to believing you have authority over what does and doesn't happen to you. You will subconsciously make this decision to back into that false state of security because the reality of uncertainty came from pain, and who wants to be constantly reminded of pain? I know this happens because even though I have lived much of my life in situations that were harsh and unfair and entirely out of my control, when a new crisis occurs I am still jolted by the reminder that I have only ever been in control of myself and my actions. I was never in control of the state of the world, only my response to it. I was never in control of my husband's life or the success of my marriage, only the role I would play inside of both.
We are only ever in control of ourselves and our actions in the moment. That statement holds utter limitation or ultimate opportunity, and the only thing that will decide which way it lands in your life is how you choose to view those words.
Things That Helped Me
Make Peace with the Unknown: I need you to make peace with the fact that you do not know what the future is going to bring. This is not easy. The only way that you can make peace with an unknown future—which, P.S., is the only kind of future there has ever been—is to harness strength from your past and live wholly and fully in the present. I believe that the obstacles we've overcome in our past don't make us weaker, I believe those trials make us warriors. When I am able to harness that strength and fight to stay present in the present, I don't need to worry about the future. I can rest in the knowledge that today is enough.
Make a Conscious Decision to Rebuild: When we come through crisis, we are forced to build new foundations. Whether you are aware of doing so or not, you are laying the groundwork for the life you will have from here on out. You are creating—consciously or subconsciously—your new reality and if it must happen either way, then please, be conscious about what you are doing. The gift in this—yes, I said gift—is that you are able to rebuild and in doing so, you get to decide what is a must in your life and what you need to let go of. Don't just rush right back into life as it was, first ask yourself what isn't worth bringing forward with you.
Ask Yourself How You Can Rebuild Better Than Before: Dave and I bought our first house many years ago, a tiny little Spanish-style bungalow in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was our first big purchase, so we didn't have a lot of funds. However, we really wanted to refresh the kitchen that hadn't been touched since the 1950s—our biggest goal was to put in a dishwasher and change out some cabinets. Unfortunately, old houses hide a lot of problems and the simple act of trying to install a dishwasher revealed that the plumbing was corroded and needed to be replaced. Not just in the kitchen either, but all throughout the house. But since we had to rebuild the walls, I was able to rebuild the house in a way that was my ideal. I wouldn't have chosen the situation, but I found a way to make the best of it.
Write Down Your Vision of the New You: Hopefully those first few prompts have allowed you to begin to see a vision of the kind of future that feels like it's worth creating. Worth fighting for. If you need some help coming up with ideas then grab a notebook and try completing these prompts: The things I love most about my life today are . . . If I could change anything about my life it would be . . . In both instances I'm going to ask you to focus most on the present life you have and your future possibilities. If you write down what you wished would have happened or how you want things to be different, it won't serve you. Instead allow yourself to daydream about the possibility of what the new you can be. There's a good chance that one of the things that's causing you anxiety is that your mind keeps spinning around with thoughts of "What now?" or "Will I ever be happy again?" or "Will I ever get over this?" By creating a narrative for yourself that shows a beautiful vision of your future—even one that is different from what you were planning—you're answering those questions for yourself and quieting that noise in your mind.
Choose One Thing That You Will Stop Doing Immediately: It's not enough to just be conscious of it, or even to write it down. Challenge yourself to first create, then really examine a list of things you won't bring into your future with you and choose one thing to stop doing immediately. All of us have things that we desperately need to let go of; choose one today and instantly live in the power of that choice.
Choose One Achievable Goal That You Will Start Pursuing Immediately: Look, I get it, the very last thing most people want to think about in a difficult time is a goal that they can pursue. But, y'all, I swear there is a method to this madness. In full transparency, I love setting goals. People think that a goal must be for financial gain or weight loss or a bigger promotion or a nicer car since those are the categories in which the term is most often used. But the truth is, a goal can be about anything. It doesn't have to be associated with what you've lost, what has caused you hurt. You can create a goal to show up as a better mother or to grow in your faith. You can create a goal to learn sign language or to pay off your student loans or to repaint your local community center. You can create a goal to learn to eat intuitively or to stop fighting with your sister. You could create a goal to learn to make the world's best carrot cake. It doesn't matter what the goal is, it only matters that you have one and that it's something you care about.
And when you actually do achieve the thing, the confidence it will give you in your ability to create the life you want is the foundation you'll use to propel you closer to that vision you created of the new you, the you who walked through the fire and came out scarred and beautiful.Believe me.
Excerpted from "DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart." Copyright © 2020 Rachel Hollis. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of William Morrow (HarperCollins Publishers).