How To Deal With The Highs And Lows Of Life

Two people standing before a wall with decision workflow

So I posted about being in a rut not too long ago, and I have to admit, it’s been a challenge trying to claw my way back out. But that’s life for you, right? A constant journey of highs and lows?

Sometimes, Low Me just barges into my life like an unwanted relative. But I can’t just close the door on him, because that’d mean closing the door on High Me too.

That’s why we’ll be exploring the things you should do when you reach either side of the spectrum, who shall henceforth be known as High You and Low You.

The High You game plan

This is when you’re nailing your life goals and juggling all your responsibilities without the use of cocaine or meth. Your finances are in order, you crush everything on the first try, and your self-esteem is at an all-time high.

This is the time to build your life.

High plan #1: Chase your ultimate life goals

Because when else will your grandest life goals sound doable?

If your dreams involve high-stakes sales pitches or standing before a crowd, then there’s no better time to execute than when High You is around.

Every effort now will lay the groundwork for your future self. Crank out those 80,000 words. Network with others in your industry. Start a new business.

After all, the best time to pursue the impossible is when nothing sounds impossible.

High plan #2: Keep your promises to yourself

High You is the older sibling to Low You, so you’ve gotta act like one.

That means it’s High You’s duty to stick to your workouts and maintain a nutritious eating plan. And it’s up to High You to do the responsible thing, because Low You sure as hell ain’t going to.

Besides, it’s always nice to allow Low You to say “At least I…”

At least I learned a new language last year.

At least I ate healthy most days.

At least I didn’t spend money on alcohol this month.

Also, if you can’t stick to a plan when everything’s going well, when else are you going to?

Game Plan Promise - Alise Storsul

You made a promise to yourself, now you keep it. Photo: Alise Storsul

High plan #3: Fill your cookie jar

Famously coined by David Goggins, this is simply the act of remembering your past successes to get you through the tough times.

Every time you come across something that builds your self-worth, make sure you store it in your mental (or actual, if you want) cookie jar.

So if you ran 20 kilometres when you thought you could only do 10, take note of that. Or if someone leaves a particularly encouraging comment on your blog, take a screenshot. I totally don’t do this. Nope. Nada. *side glance*

It’s easier to collect these cookies when you’re in a positive mindset, so make sure to fill that jar when you’re flying high. Then when Low You comes about, you’ll have enough to last the drought.

“We must create a system that constantly reminds us who we are when we are at our best, because life is not going to pick us up when we fall.”

David Goggins

High plan #4: Buffer anything bufferable

You know what’s helped me most during my rut? Having a month’s worth of blog posts scheduled.

It was a morale boost to feel useful while not technically doing anything. It’s like savings for a rainy day: not as fun in practice, but great when you need it.

Look for other bufferable elements in your life. Is it actual money? Pantry items? Your studies?

Routine tasks are a great place to start. For instance, prepping your clothes and tasks for the next day is a great way to buffer, because who knows which You you’ll wake up to tomorrow?

High plan #5: Stack the odds

Life is all about averages. Even if we factor in the life-changing windfalls or disasters, you are still the culmination of all the decisions you’ve made in life.

It’s just like the lint in your dryer. The colour you scrape from the filter will be the sum average of the clothes you’d put in. You won’t get white lint if you were drying your blacks, for example.

Likewise, you can’t expect to magically put out a bestseller if writing isn’t even part of your routine. Unlike school, the universe will never stop calculating your life’s GPA. So it’s up to High You to keep your scores up.

Bonus: Remember that nothing ever lasts

You could feel invincible and think that the world’s your oyster, but nothing ever lasts.

Which is why it’s good to stop and smell the flowers from time to time. Appreciate how good you have it, because as cliche as it sounds, this too shall pass.

Diamonds glowing on a black background

Diamonds may be forever, but even that won’t last in the grand scheme of things. Photo: FLY:D

The Low You game plan

Maybe you got laid off. Maybe a loved one passed. Maybe you don’t even have a reason. Sometimes you just fall into a rut and you feel like half the person you used to be. That’s okay. Take a deep breath and read on.

Low plan #1: Sometimes you just gotta accept it

“Not every bad day can become a good day. Some days are fucked, and cannot be unfucked.”

Self-Help Singh

One bad day doesn’t make a bad life. One relapse doesn’t kill your previous efforts.

The term ‘roll with the punches’ isn’t just a platitude. It’s an actual technique. Would a parry or a block be better? Of course. But shit happens. You were beaten to the punch (ha, literally). So you learn to accept one bad moment, bolster the pain as much as you can, and get right back into the fight.

But don’t force yourself to feel better if you need more time though. That’s the main point here. Gather your wits first if that’s what you have to do. Just know that being hurt doesn’t mean the fight’s over.

Low plan #2: Take it as a recovery period

Growth doesn’t happen during the workout. It happens at rest. Most times, rest is voluntary. Sometimes, it’s imposed.

Maybe you get injured. Or Low You decides to take over for a while. That’s fine. Look at it as a scheduled time-out. Start recalibrating. Note what you miss and why you miss it.

Do you wish you had the energy to do the groceries? Or the joy of not feeling sick? Make sure you remind High You of that. Then you’ll know exactly what you should be doing when you’re over your rut.

But don’t feel bad about not pursuing anything when you’re low. Because when this is all over, you’ll come out on the other side much stronger.

Game Plan Bed - Toa Heftiba

It could be burnout. Or it could be a great time to rest. Photo: Toa Heftiba

Low plan #3: Don’t bank on feeling better

We never want to feel bad. So it’s understandably frustrating when Low You checks in once again. But that doesn’t mean you should wait till you’re ‘better’ before you start doing what you want. Because ‘better’ may never come.

Instead, be content with where you’re at today. Feeling emotional because you can’t get the printer to work? Okay, that’s your baseline for today. So maybe we don’t print anything.

Maybe we try writing a to-do list instead. Or clean our desk. Or pretend to work when we’re not (which is harder than actually working, to be honest).

Like Jim Kwik said, if you only have 40%, and you put out that 40%, you’ve still given 100%. The math may be shady, but you get the point.

Low plan #4: Action beats thinking

I don’t care whether it’s going for a walk or spring cleaning your entire wardrobe (which, let’s face it, Low You isn’t going to do), but what’s important is that you try to do something.

Don’t attempt to outthink your problems. You’ll only end up making mental roundabouts. And with Low You’s pessimism, every outcome would probably seem shitty anyway.

So err on the side of doing. Going for a haircut may not help with the rent, but it might make you feel better about yourself. And who knows? That could be the tiny piece of momentum that would snowball into a boulder.

Bonus (not really): Remember that nothing ever lasts

I usually don’t end my posts this abruptly, but I felt it was the best way to drive home the fact that no matter how sucky things may be, it’s not cliche to remember that this, too, shall pass.

Regardless if you’re feeling high or low, a good thing you could do is to sign up for the newsletter. There, you’ll get exclusive pep talks for both Yous. You’ll also get a free guide on how to grow your WordPress audience, so do join in the fun!

108 thoughts on “How To Deal With The Highs And Lows Of Life

  1. Pingback: Don’t Just Procrastinate. Make It Do The Work For You Instead. | Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

  2. Hi Stuart, Another well written article. I love the cookie jar analogy. It is when you need to dip into that jar to recharge yourself and feel positive again. Having a haircut does often give me a lift. It is like taking some weight off your head when you are feeling all gloomy and stuck.


  3. Pingback: Finding The Right Gear: Tips To Rev Up Your Productivity | Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

  4. I definitely recognize that I’m Low Me at the moment and only recently have I tried to focus on doing instead of overthinking which I tend to do a lot. I came across this article at the perfect time. Very encouraging! Thank you!


    • I appreciate you sharing your current circumstances here on the blog. Just because Low You is around doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do, am I right? I hope that Low You sets you up for the arrival of High You!


  5. It took me far longer than I care to admit to realize that there was no way to be at 100% all the time. Now I see the “low” times as opportunities to recharge my energy and log some valuable life experience (even if it sucks in the moment).

    I find that coming out of a low period tends to be a very creatively productive time for me. And I’m getting better about accepting that there are just going to be times when I am not producing creative work, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.


    • I think I get that too, in that I used to be able to write only during the dark times of my life. Weird how that goes.

      And I like how you use your low times to recharge. That’s how I treat injury time for sure. I tell myself that it’s a much-needed break from the constant grind at a sport.

      Love your thoughts. Thanks so much for taking the time!


  6. I saw your personality shine through this post. This is my first time reading something for you, but I guarantee that I became a fan.

    Very well said. And thank you for the inspiring post. I loved how you put them as high and low selves which is technically very true.


  7. Stellar blog post my friend Stuart. I have to say you are a Prolific Writer when it comes to matters of inspiration, life, successes and failures.

    This post just reminded me to view life as a win or lose scenario because they highs and lows can be associated with the winning or losing in life and it is a game that can go either way. I love the points addressed here such as filling the cookie jar which will be beneficial for those days when there is drought plus the keep the promises to yourself and the urge to go after your goals, now those are the highs of life🔥🔥🔥👌

    Have a great day


    • It’s interesting how so many people resonate with the cookie jar method, since I thought most wouldn’t have cared, so it’s great to hear your feedback on this.

      Also, I’m stoked that you’d call me prolific when it comes to the matters of inspiration, because I have to say that most times, I’m in need of inspiration myself. So thanks once again!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, I’ve been wanting to read David’s book for a while now. This inspired me to go and rewatch his interview with Joe Rogan. It was very nice to read your words. They go together with the most important personal lessons I’ve had this year. Thank you for sharing, it always helps when we can read a piece that offers us balance rather than lopsided versions of reality and healing.


    • I must admit I’m not the most balanced person here, but I’m glad I could give both sides their time under the spotlight. Mostly it’s because I go through the same things myself, and am simply sharing my experience.

      Well I have good news for you, because David is coming up with a new book (Never Finished) very soon, so you have so much more inspiration to soak in. I know I’ll be reading that book for sure.

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment!


  9. What you say is true Stuart; especially when it comes to grief. There are days you don’t want to do anything, talk to anyone, or feel anything: but in order to move forward you have to do something. anything. Even if it’s just sitting in the sun or going for a tear-filled walk.

    “Better” will only come when you allow it to. When Low You kicks your ass, High You has to kick its ass. (I do like your teminology, by the way.)

    The past 2 1/2+ years have taught me that it doesn’t do any good to dwell on the bad just to feel like crap. No matter what life throws your way, there’s always something good to be had.

    My outlook on life definitely changed after that day; once the “HF…what am I going to do now?” wore off. And now I stop to smell the flowers a lot more than I used to.

    Great post as always Stuart. You always give me something to think about. :)


    • Whoa, I love your thoughts on this topic. And I’m just starting to learn too that doing something is what helps us get back on track. Even if it’s not to magically turn ourselves into High Us, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

      And there’s always a plus side to everything if we want to find it. I remember a Chuck Palahniuk (I think) interview where he said that his dad kept pestering him for a Hollywood star’s phone number, and that when his dad died, he comforted himself by saying ‘Well, at least I don’t need to share the number now.’

      I’m grateful that you’d share your perspectives here Diane, not just for my benefit, but for everyone else. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You always have such funny comparisons in your posts! I found your advice about ‘don’t bank on feeling better’ the most thought-provoking because I always try that. I try a sort of ‘you’ll not feel like this tomorrow’ speech -and you’re right: it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s definitely a me thing. I find that if I don’t wait for a certain moment to be happy, then I can take ownership of my life direction and at least do something right now.

      I’ve tried waiting for High Me too much to know that some tasks are better off delegated to Low Me, lol.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post Stuart! Oh god yes when you’re flying high, snapshot and store those amazing moments! Heck, we’re only human at the end of the day and it’s ok to take a step back and those low days are inevitable in this life aren’t they? But it sounds like you have that right balance (says the Libra here who’s all about balancing those bloody scales 😅)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh hello, fellow dual horoscope (am a Gemini). I guess bringing in my horoscope for this post is strangely apt, lol. And yes, being aware of our timings allows us to best optimise our actions. Here’s to being better regardless of where we’re at!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. love this and great wisdom Stuart.

    “Low Me just barges into my life like an unwanted relative. But I can’t just close the door on him, because that’d mean closing the door on High Me too.”

    Exactly right.
    We ended every night with the kids and our thumbs in a high / low share.

    Started with the high since our brains tend to go right to the low… oh no.. so we gotta train that puppy daily. It’s sooo much easier alrighty with we’re on top of the world.

    Cigarettes were bad enough Stu and now you’re mom is probs turning in her grave. 🤣

    Had a great day!!!
    You’ve got this and are smarter than I am… I’ve got nothing in drafts I’d even think of posting and yikes it’s Wed.. I best go post.. ❣️❤️


    • Ha. Me and ‘smart’ probably don’t fit too well together, but I thank you for your confidence in me.

      Lol, that last-minute reminder to post is a stressor, ain’t it? That’s part of the reason why I like to buffer my posts when I can.

      And I’m glad I quit cigarettes for sure. Best decision ever!

      Nice seeing you, Cindy!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes. For purposes like this, I’d recommend dedicating an entire page to the cookie jar for quick access. Sure beats having to scroll through all the ups and downs before finding what you need. Which is why the bullet journal method is awesome sometimes. Thanks for your thoughts, Michelle!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is such a helpful post, Stuart! Especially when you talk about the “low plan”.
    I feel like I’ve gotten into a rut mainly work-wise. But the good thing is that I do realize it.

    However, even during my break last week, I decided to just relax and not do anything rather than forcing myself to work on things I really want to. I used your Low Plan #4 and tried to get small things done. So, even though I didn’t accomplish any of my bigger goals, taking time off for myself has helped me feel better and refocused. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • As they say, the first step to improvement is awareness, so it’s cool that you’re already connected to your ups and downs of life.

      Doing small things is a weird one, because most times, the momentum you get from those small things end up pushing you to do bigger things. Which is why I’m very supportive of taking baby steps, a la Atomic Habits.

      Thanks so much for your lovely input!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s really great advice, and I completely agree with you on the fact that when you’re feeling low it is important to feel the feels sometimes and allow yourself to feel this way and show some self-compassion, or you’ll just end up even more frustrated. I heard about someone who scheduled their days with 3 different options: high energy (with bigger achievements and long workouts for instance), low energy (smaller more manageable things, with a short yoga session instead of a workout for example) and “medium” energy (something in between). I really liked this advice and I think it is very similar to what you are suggesting here!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ooo, three modes seem more practical, though it can be harder to define.

      And weirdly enough, I’ve found that training Low Me to do more things is quite pragmatic, since he shows his face more often than High Me.

      What’s most important is that we don’t shove all our feelings under the rug, amirite?

      Always love having your perspective, Juliette!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, and it depends a lot for people because for instance it’s usually High Me in the morning for me and that goes progressively towards Low Me as the day ends 😂
        But as you say, the most important thing is to feel the feels and accept things as they are – fighting it usually doesn’t help!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Sighhh…so true so true. We all have our high and low days. Most times, it’s not hard to figure out which it is. And now with your carefully curated self-help lists, we all can better manage these moments. Thanks pal! But I do wonder some times, what if you wake up one day and you’re not really sure if this is a High or Low me day? Then what? Cos if you’re like me, and I kinda hope you are, then you would understand that some days are jus so blahhhh you don’t know which side of the fence you’re on, and things could play out in any number of ways! So Stu if there’s any help you can throw my way about such days, please write a sequel to this wonderful post and gimme some pointers ok? Thanks man!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol I wish I was more qualified to handle that question, but all I can do is share my personal experiences. It’s a good question, and I will certainly be doing some pondering over that.

      For me, anything that doesn’t involve Low Me is actually a good day. So I’ll even consider Mid Me a High Me :P

      I super appreciate the idea for the follow-up post. Always great to have feedback on what you’re interested in!

      Liked by 2 people

    • My thoughts would be its possible to take neutral day in either direction. If you feel, oh this is going to be bad, then it likely will be. But if you are gentle with yourself, and gently push, you can maximise that potential.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Great post, Stuart. Lots of good advice here. I especially like “take it as a rest period.” Great spin! But truly this: “This is when you’re nailing your life goals and juggling all your responsibilities without the use of cocaine or meth” was the best. Reading funny stuff helps with the lows too, you know. ;) Thanks for that! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nothing lasts. I try to remind myself of that both when things are going poorly and when they’re going well. Helps keep me brace for the inevitable turn of fortune’s wheel.
    Your excellent post reminds me of a quote: “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” The source is former US president Richard Nixon. Not an illustrious turn in office, but a good quote nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely quote for sure! Basically, we can either numb ourselves to everything, or open ourselves up to joy—with the caveat of accepting the accompanying pain. Took me too long to realise that as I’d always taken the numbing route.

      Even now—with this blog, getting awesome comments from you—I’m reminding myself that nothing lasts, so I best be thankful for all this before I stop blogging someday.

      Liked by 2 people

      • As an elementary school teacher I often see adults wanting to protect children from not just every negative experience, but also every negative emotion. I think experiencing the range of emotions is part of living life and teaching kids to deal with that is doing them a favor. Yes, we all strive to minimize the negative and increase the positive, but I think accepting both leads to a fuller life.
        And please don’t ever leave the blogosphere. The only acceptable excuse for that would be if you were temporarily going on a motivational speaking tour, which I could totally see. :)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow, was just having this discussion with my sister-in-law, where she was talking about allowing her son to make his own mistakes, even though she knew that he was headed toward failure. So you mentioning this is like FB serving me an ad after I’d talked to a friend about it, lol.

        Lol motivational speaker, eh? Perhaps that could be my new career path!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m someone who prides himself on being positive, and I usually am 95% of the time, but right now, I’m at a bit of a low. I have a sinus infection (4 weeks in) that is getting to me mentally and physically. I’ve been to the doctor, who put me on antibiotics. At least three times, I thought I was getting better, only to be back with the weariness of not breathing normally. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, like rest, drink plenty of fluids, use a Neti pot, and decongestants, and still, I’m stuck in the same place. I can’t see a specialist until the 15th. I miss exercise because I gave that up two weeks ago to concentrate on resting. One night I didn’t sleep one minute because the sinus pressure was so horrible.

    I can feel myself being less patient and snippy, reinforcing that I don’t like myself when I act this way. Sorry for the whine session. Time to break out of my funk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see myself as a positive person too, which makes it hard to accept the down moments in life. So I can relate to what you’re saying. But it seems that life has decided to throw you a test to see ‘how well you walk through the fire’, as Bukowski would say.

      Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we still don’t get to shape our lives how we want it to. And for that, all I can say once more is that nothing ever lasts, so hang in there, Pete!

      Also, I may be weird, but I’ve found that keeping moving somewhat helps more than total rest. So I’ll at least get a few light reps to get the blood flowing.

      Hope to see you out of your funk soon!

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Nothing ever lasts in the nub of it, isn’t it? Whatever kind of season I’m in, I just try to live it to the full. If it’s a good day, I embrace it because I know I can’t have it good forever. The doo-doo always hits the fan eventually. If it’s a down time, meh, hang on in there. Things will change, they always do. I do find it useful to have a non-negotiable list for all the days. Mine includes exercise or stretches, getting outside and opening the windows to let in fresh air and fresh thoughts. At least the, even on a really crappy day, I make some positive things happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Things will change, they always do.”

      I love this sentence, because it allows me to live in the present instead of going ahead or back in time to something that’s beyond my reach. If things are going well, I enjoy it more. If things suck, it’ll change.

      I believe in non-negotiables too! Not so much in the ‘benefits’ some of these habits bring, but the growth we gain from trying to maintain said habits through the unpredictability of life.

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. I really love this! [And the fact that I’m listening to Adele’s “Hold On” makes it hit better].

    I would’ve loved to say more here in the comments, but then…it’s all good.

    PS: I may or may not keep screenshots of milestones and special comments on my blog😏


    • Wow, never thought of that. Maybe I should start including recommended playlists for my posts to set the tone right, lol.

      Lol, I appreciate your comments regardless of the length, so thanks for taking the time!

      And yes, I may or may not have a cookie jar folder on my computer too :P

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I loved this. So many good ideas for both sides of the coin. Life certainly is a rollercoaster and it can be hard to be positive when you’re in the dip. But you’ve outlined some brilliant techniques. I sometimes fall into all or nothing thinking but im hoping some of your techniques here will help me manage the relapses/crashes. You’re so right, i can get up one morning and find my battery is flat. You’ve suggested some really useful tools to help me through those days and to try to combat the negative self talk. Thank you Stuart


    • I’ve always bought into the hustle mindset and have beaten myself over not being my best when I’m down. But I’ve learned that we are indeed on a rollercoaster ride, and that life is not a constant, no matter how much we want it to be.

      Weirdly enough, that acceptance allows me to ‘hustle’ even more, since now I don’t blindly expect myself to go 100% all the time.

      I love your comment. Thanks for leaving such a thoughtful one!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dang, that’s tough, and I’d love to tell you that you shouldn’t be pressured to hide your blindness until you get a chance to speak with them, but you probably know better about your experiences, so I’m just going to stand in solace with you.

      Regarding careers, I’ve been thinking a lot about my future and I’m getting nowhere, so I’m right there with you!

      Liked by 4 people

      • I don’t know which is more infuriating. The simplicity of the job? (I only needed to do some data entry work), or the HR thinking that I don’t know what is internet, excel, email is, or don’t know English. This is after picking up the phone on my own, explaining my knowledge of programming, and telling them about my blog.

        I suppose I should thank my lucky stars though, I wouldn’t want to work with such a company anyway.

        Thanks for your support Brenda. It means a lot to me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • As a HR professional that makes me more angry – HR ought to know better. Hopefully I’m able to deliver more enlightened HR professionals to the workplace through my teaching. There’s no excuse in a profession that is supposed to operate to high ethical standards.

        I was teaching about diversity and inclusion today – guess I’m on a mission. My students got a bit of a lecture too about the role of managers to promote inclusion and diversity and be role models.

        Liked by 2 people

  22. Love this post Stuart. It’s easy to forget we have a high me and a low me. We gotta accept the low me to allow the high me to exist too. So true. We reject a part of ourselves we reject all of ourselves. 🙏

    Liked by 3 people

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