If you are reading this article, chances are you might be dealing with a difficult season, have just come out of a one or are heading into a challenging period in either your personal or professional life. But in this age of social media, where we are bombarded with images of people living their “best lives” through their highlight reels, it is easy to believe that some people have all the luck, while you are struggling or feeling stuck. Truth is, nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. Life is a every changing journey, filled with peaks and valleys or highs and lows that each of us go through. Since no one gets to go through life without experiencing peaks and valleys, how can we make the most of these peaks and valleys to make them work for us?
Understanding The Peaks & Valleys of Life
My latest read Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson, answers this question by explaining that- when people know how to make good times and bad times work for them, they worry less and do better. And ultimately, they become easier to live and work with. According to Johnson, peaks and valleys refer to those high and low moments we experience throughout our lives. The peaks typically represent our successes and the moments we celebrate, feel good and content. On the other hand, valleys are seen as times of struggle, anger, disappointments, unhappiness, and failures. But that is not the sum of it. There is still good in the valleys. Valleys also provide opportunities for development and growth and can serve as preparation for climbing the next peak of our lives.
As I read the book, I found the simple yet deep insights of the peaks and valley approach helpful to rethinking my own approach to dealing with personal high and low moments. So here are my top 8 top takeaways from the book that I hope might be useful to you as you make your personal peaks and valleys work for you:
- It is natural for everyone everywhere to have peaks and valleys at work and in life: Personal peaks and valleys are as natural as the physical peaks and valleys you see in the landscape all around you. Peaks and valleys are scattered all around us and are connected in similar ways. You can feel “up” in one area of your life (career) and down in another (relationships). We all have ups and downs, and no two people experience similar situation the same way- we are all different.
- Peaks and valleys are not just the good and bad times that happen to you. They are also how you feel inside and respond to outside events. How you feel depends on how you view the situations you are faced with. The important thing is to separate what happens to you from how you feel about yourself as a person. Losing your job does not make you a lousy employee, nor does getting a divorce make you a failure. Separate your emotions from the act/event itself. You are still good, worthy, and valuable even if a bad thing happened to you. You can still feel good about yourself even when bad things are happening to you.
- Peaks and valleys are connected. The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times. And the wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times. There is no sharp difference between where the highest part of the valley ends, or the lowest part of the peak begins. Similarly, our physical and personal peaks and valleys are connected. A lot of what you and I will experience in the future will be determined by the choices we make in the present. This includes choices about how we spend our time and money, whether we invest in ourselves and the right relationships. When we waste our resources, make poor choices, and lose sight of what matters most, we are creating your own future bad times.
- Peaks are moments when you appreciate what you have. Valleys are moments when you long for what is missing. How you experience a valley has a lot to do with how you spend your time in it. We are all sometimes guilty of turning our peaks into valleys by what we choose to focus on. When we do not celebrate our small wins and the progress we have made and just focus on what is missing or lacking, we can change our personal peaks into valleys. Negative thinking (See previous post) can create valleys in our own minds even when good things are happening to us, and our goals are being achieved. One way we do this is by comparing ourselves to others and using their situations to determine how well we are doing. If you want to have fewer valleys, avoid comparison. Plus, we do not get to stay in our peaks and valleys forever. The secret is to truly appreciate and enjoy the time for what is while you are living it.
- You cannot always control external events. But you can control your personal peaks and valleys by what you believe and what you do. For you to change a valley into a peak, you must change one of two things: what is happening or how you feel about what is happening. If you can change the situation- great. If you cannot change the situation, change how you feel about it to make it work to your advantage. This is especially important in times when you are faced with hardship and adversity. Always look for the silver lining in the dark clouds and choose hope. Choosing to have a positive mindset usually leads to a better result.
- Between peaks there are always valleys. How you manage your valleys determine how soon you reach your next peak. It is easy to feel unhappy and demotivated when you are going through a valley moment. Therefore, it is crucial that you find and use the good that is hidden in a bad moment. Manage your attitude and invest in improving yourself and your skills to help you reach your next peak moment. Afterall, if you do not learn in the valley, you can become bitter. If you truly learn something valuable, you can become better.
- A plateau can be a time for you to rest, reflect and renew. Just as peaks bring us high moments and valleys bring us low moments, plateaus provide an opportunity for you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Personal plateaus are just as natural as personal peaks and valleys and can help you pause or press the reset button on your life. Because plateaus are a neutral zone, they can help you to assess what is happening in your lives and gain clarity about your next move and steps. The trick is not to stay at the plateau too long since nothing happens there.
- A great way to get to your next peak is to follow your sensible vision. Imagine yourself enjoying your better future in such specific believable detail that you soon enjoy doing what takes you there. Here is where you create the image of your future peak (think about your big dream or SMART goal) in your mind. Imagine what your future peak will look, sound, feel and taste like. When you make your future peak clear, meaningful, and sensible to you, it will serve as the pull that gets you through your valley when you encounter challenges in making it a reality. By imagining yourself enjoying the future peak or in that better place, you will start enjoying doing whatever takes you there.
At the end of the day, it is not about trying to avoid the ups and downs of life but learning how to make the best of them. The valley prepares us for the mountain top experiences. Challenges give us opportunities to grow. Valleys are our reminders to keep showing up. If you do not appreciate your valleys, you will not be able to fully celebrate your peaks. There is a lesson to be learned from all our personal peaks, valleys, and plateaus. Until next time, remember, ItsALearningLife!