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5 Steps to Breakthrough Challenging Times with a Positive Attitude

I lived through a challenge that rocked our nation and especially Boston. The Boston Marathon bombings in April of 2013 sent me into a range of emotions. It was a difficult week. I was there. I was not at the finish line but we had been at the halfway mark. I’ve watched the Boston Marathon ever since I was a child on TV but for some reason or another I had never gone. 2013 was the first year that I actually went to be there in person and it was incredible. The inspirational energy and support of watching people and cheering people on for their goals was incredible. I get chills just remembering being there.



Some people wear t-shirts with their names on them and thus you cheer for strangers as you yell, “Go Kim!” or “Come on Joe!” People come from all over the world and all walks of life. There was someone from the United Kingdom dressed in British flag paraphernalia. There was a blind runner, a barefoot runner, a runner with one leg, a runner in a Wonder Woman costume, and even someone running in a hotdog suit. Though you don’t know these people personally, we were all coming together as a global and national community. I left feeling SO inspired.

Then to get back to my home and hear the news of the bombings was devastating. The juxtaposition of feeling so high earlier, and then so low in one day, was a lot to take. I used a certain coping method throughout the week to help me through this difficult time.


One of the best ways to help break through challenging times with a positive attitude is with a method I call the AFTER method. The AFTER (A-F-T-E-R) method will help you to focus on the future or AFTER the challenge, yet moves you forward and gets you through the challenge in a positive healthy manor.


A for Acknowledge


First acknowledge the challenge or the situation you are in no matter how difficult it might be. Admit that what is going on in your life is the truth and that it may be challenging but you are definitely aware of it and would like to move forward.

F for Feel

Then feel it. This step is an important key step. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of your situation. Sit with those emotions for a little bit. Sometimes if we just try to push the feelings out too fast, or stuff them, then they won’t ever go away.

T for Teach


Allow yourself to be open to the situation to teach you something about yourself and about your strengths. Bringing out your strengths will help you to move forward with confidence. Ask yourself, “What can I learn about myself from this situation?” There is a great quote from Henry David Thoreau: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." The phrase, “learn what it had to teach” is the key. You can do this by either talking about it to someone or writing in a journal some with some reflections. Reflecting on the situation will help with clarity in decisions and next steps.

E for Explore

Explore the possibilities of the future. Establish a vision of what is possible in your life. Explore the positive aspects of moving forward. Ask yourself, “What would it look like to be out of this challenging situation?” Think about what it would be like if you worked your way through the situation in a positive manor.

R for Release

Finally, release. Once you’ve explored the positive vision, you can release all of that negativity and negative energy of the situation. The release of this negativity will allow you to really focus and take action on your positive vision.

In the days after the bombing, I felt and used all of these steps during the highs and lows of the week. It was moving to hear the President and all of the speeches from our leaders in Boston, speak about the future vision of the 2014 Boston Marathon. Then, another low hit as the next morning was the capture of the suspects. It was strange knowing all that was happening just 15 minutes down the road from me. What a week. But I got through it along with the nation.

The month after the bombing we explored the vision and looked forward to the future with the 2014 Boston Marathon. I released the negative feelings I had about that situation and was ready to be there on the sidelines cheering my behind off!


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