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Are you suffering the pain of loss? Maybe it was the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or even bankruptcy that has left you feeling hopeless.

In this episode, Dr. Rick explains the difference between losing hope and losing perspective and gives you the first step to overcoming your hopelessness.

Show Highlights Include:

  • The dramatic difference between losing hope and losing perspective (5:34)
  • What you can learn from tragic loss (6:37)
  • How to shift from coasting to making progress in your life (7:20)
  • The most important question you can ask yourself (14:21)
  • Why you shouldn’t underestimate the power of small steps (16:16)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

"The wisest person I ever met in my life, a third grade dropout."

Welcome to How Ya' Livin', a transformative podcast featuring bestselling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby. And now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rick: Hello, everyone. So glad you could join us today. Got a great topic. I want to talk about are we moving forward or are we merely existing? I really think that if I look at my life and as I examine the lives of others, many of us tend to just coast from time-to-time. The problem with just coasting is that we're not moving forward and the reality is coasting is a misnomer because the reality is either you're moving forward or you're moving backward. [0:01:02.3]

Entropy is a backward move. It's the second law of thermodynamics is just anything made up of a physical matter is in the process of decay and eventual chaos. And so, the goal is not to be in a process of decay and eventual chaos. Therefore, the goal is not to be pulled backwards, but to lean in, to move forward, to take another step. This is important because you don’t accomplish anything in life unless you're moving forward. You don’t act upon anything in life unless you're moving forward. You don’t do anything worthwhile. You don’t fulfill your purpose unless you're moving forward and when you don’t move forward, when you're being pulled back, I believe you're merely existing and the reason why I want to talk to you about this today is because I spent way too many days, months and years merely existing. Let me explain what I'm talking about. [0:01:59.2]

Back in the 70s, I met this incredible woman. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever met and I fell in love with her instantly. The problem is, 100 other guys did as well, but I muscled up the courage to ask this woman named Trina to dance with me and she said yes. We're in college. Everything is just great. The year is 1974. I'm dancing with the most beautiful woman I've ever met in my life and something came over me that compelled me to ask for her phone number. Trina was the first, only woman actually, in college who gave me her actual real phone number. It resulted in going on a date that lead to going together that lead to 4 years later, me proposing. When she said yes, my entire family, the entire campus community was in shock, but I had married the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my life. We start our careers. Trina was a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. I was a television reporter, a cub reporter at a CBS shop. [0:03:06.0]

All of this in Northern California and we were definitely moving forward. We were moving forward in our careers. We were moving forward in our marriage. We were moving forward in every aspect of life, even in the realm of having children. God blessed us with two beautiful sons and it was a fairy tale until one day, Trina found a lump in her breast that resulted in a diagnosis of breast cancer, and six years later, all that forward movement came to a sudden halt. The furniture in our home that used to be laughter and joy and anticipation and forward momentum was now sadness and despair and disappointment and depression because me and my two little boys had lost my wife and their mommy to breast cancer. It was the saddest season of my life. [0:04:02.3]

I was only 40 years old. That was about 23 years ago and I remember telling my father at the funeral home, I said, "Dad, I've lost all hope," and that Godly man, the wisest man I've ever met in my life, that third grade dropout, he said, "Son, you can't lose something God gave you. You haven’t lost hope. You've lost perspective." Let's just pause there for just a moment. Is it possible that somebody is listening today that you're merely existing? You're just kind of coasting and because perspective has been lost, you may have been passed over for a promotion. You may have gotten fired. The relationship might have gone sour. Money might be an issue. I have experienced all of those, by the way. You may have lost someone. You may be going through bankruptcy. You may be going through a divorce right now. You may be going through something that's so traumatic that it has caused you to lose perspective. [0:05:07.2]

But my question is - have you lost hope? And here's my answer. As long as you're breathing, as long as you're getting up in the morning, as long as you're opening your eyes, as long as you're listening to this podcast, you haven’t totally, completely lost hope. Otherwise, you wouldn’t get out of bed. Otherwise, you would just hope to die and to end it all, but if you are moving in any kind of way, you still have the semblance of hope. This expectation that perhaps despite even what I see, even what I feel, maybe, just maybe my life could be better. At the casket, this is what I saw. I saw Trina's body. I saw my mother crying. I saw my friends crying. I saw two little boys so devastated because they'd lost their mommy. [0:06:02.7]

I felt like I was in somebody else's nightmare and trust me, all of my senses said, you have no hope, and so I just merely existed through that day and I remember telling my dad, "I have no hope," and he said to me, "I haven't lost hope. Can't lose something that's in your spirit. It's in your heart. Can't lose something that God gave you. You've lost perspective." And even though I didn't act upon it, that September 1996 day, those words rang in my heart with a piercing familiarity so profoundly that I want to plant this in every one of your hearts right now. You haven't lost hope. You've lost perspective. And just that thought is just enough of a nudge that might cause you in the coming hours, in the coming days, in the coming weeks, in the coming months to merely go from coasting, to merely go from existing, to perhaps taking one step forward. [0:07:14.2]

Friends, I got to tell you something. In my travels, I meet people every day, not some days - every day. And they say the exact same thing that I said to my dad, "I've lost all hope," and my response is, "No, you haven’t. You're at this conference. You got up this morning and brushed your teeth. You put your clothes on. You're sharing with me that you've lost hope. All evidence to the contrary. Had you lost hope, you'd end it, right then and there, and so, any evidence that suggests any kind of forward momentum is indicative of a spirit that hasn’t given up yet. And if you haven’t given up, you haven’t lost hope. Now, here's the nudge. You've lost perspective. [0:08:01.7]

Is that enough of a nudge that can cause you to simply do more than just exist? I fed on my dad's words for years. I really fed on those words for those first couple of weeks after Trina died. If you've suffered a loss of any kind, you know that you're literally numb during the memorial service, during the funeral service, but for every one of us, it's different. Grieving is idiosyncratic, but for me, about a month after Trina died, October of 1996, that period was even worse than the funeral. Let me explain why. During the funeral, you have hundreds of people around you. Your house is filled with activity. You're numb. There's bustling all about you. There are cards. There are flowers. There are all kinds of signs of encouragement all around you. A month later though, everybody goes back to work. The flowers start to die. The cards start to fade. [0:09:05.9]

The phone calls, believe it or not the phone calls start to subside. The first days after the funeral, everybody wants to comfort you. They need details. There's the business of death. Right? There's the scheduling of getting in and getting out. Right? A month later, nobody is calling. So this is what literally happens. You walk into the closet and you smell your wife's perfume. You reach over across the bed, 2:30 in the morning, and you don’t feel anybody. You go through the day and the profound sadness that she's never coming back hits you like a ton of bricks. You reach for her picture, only to discover that you'll never be able to touch her face again. That, with nobody calling, that with this just profound sense of loneliness throws you into a feeling of just wanting to merely exist. [0:10:03.8]

Do you know what? It was during that month, the worst month of my life, that I started hearing my father's words once again, "Son, you haven’t lost hope. You've lost perspective." I lost perspective, y'all, in such a way that I thought I was having a heart attack, only to call my doctor, to meet my doctor at his office for the medical folks to put me on an EKG machine and go through all of the various testing and I remember my doctor, with tears in his eyes, saying, "Rick, you haven’t … you're not having a heart attack. You have a broken heart." I had lost perspective. Devastating. Disappointing. Frustrating. Absolutely the lowest point I could ever be in my life. I was feeling no hope. I was feeling nothing but pain. I was focusing on my feeling and not focusing on the perspective. [0:11:06.6]

I want to ask you a question: Is it possible that for one minute your life could be better today, and you know what the answer is. The answer is yes. It is possible for one minute, for two minutes, for five minutes, that your life could be better today. Rick, how in the world could I get there based on this feeling of just existing? Here's how. Why don’t you think of one thing you can be grateful for? You know what's interesting? For those couple of months afterwards, as I thought about my father's words that I've lost perspective - I haven’t lost hope, guess what I found myself doing subconsciously? Being thankful for a mom and a dad. They were like the ballasting component of a ship that keeps the ship stable. They were trying to keep their son stable. I would be at my father's bedside about a year later and my father would pass away and I remember him telling me, walking me through that day at the funeral home for Trina's funeral. [0:12:07.9]

He said two profound things that day. He told me that I hadn’t lost hope, that I had lost perspective. And he also told me this, three words - he just simply said, "Son, just stand." And so now we're at the end of his journey and I'm by his side, and he said, "Son, I had to give you something to challenge what you were seeing." That's profound, y'all. Let me say it again: "I had to give you something that would challenge what you were seeing. All you saw was death. All you saw was emptiness. All you saw was despair. All… if that's all you … if that's all you're seeing, you will convince yourself that there is no hope. There is no reason for which to hope. There's no reason to go on. And I had to challenge that thinking. I wasn’t just thinking about you. I was thinking about my grandsons. I wasn’t just thinking about my grandsons, I was thinking about your mother. I was thinking about me. I was thinking about all of us who are trying to surround you, trying to say, 'Ricky, somehow keep your head up.'" [0:13:10.1]

Friend, listen to me. Put your head up. Even though your head maybe lowered, lift your head up. Think of something today. Make a choice to think of something today that you can be grateful for. Put your head up. You don’t have to just exist. If you consider the fact that you woke up this morning and you started your day, an indication that you still believe that something can change, and that, my friend, is the difference between merely existing and literally trying to move forward. I literally, in the coming months, and even in the coming years as I continue to heal, held on to two profound statements from a third grade dropout dad, "Son, you've lost perspective. You haven't lost hope. Son, just stand." It literally helped me move from self-medicating to starting to climb out of my rut. [0:14:10.1]

I want to challenge you this day before we say good-bye. I want to challenge you to ask yourself a question: What is my next step? What should my next step be? You've spent a lot of time telling yourself, convincing yourself that you're just existing. You've spent a lot of time convincing yourself that you're just coasting. You've spent a lot of time saying "Woe is me," and I completely get it. I'm not here to judge you. But you've spent a lot of time convincing yourself that you have no hope. I want to tell you something. You haven’t lost hope. Hope, in some form, is still residing in you. Here's the question. Are you willing to make a choice to grow your capacity for greater hope? That's the question. [0:15:00.7]

So this is what I want you to ask yourself today: What will your next step be? And here's what I would suggest - make your next step be a choice. Make a choice because nothing in your life is going to change until you make a choice. Despite the power of my father's words, nothing really changed until I made a choice. Trina dies in September. I hold on to my mom and dad's words. I wallow in a valley of despair. I drift on a sea of despondency and discouragement. I am surrounded by a hurricane of depression and I keep convincing myself - in October, in November, in December, in January, in February the following year that I have no hope, that why should I even stand and then something began to happen. As I began to consider small little ways that I could think about what I could be grateful for, something began changing in my spirit. [0:16:10.2]

That small step resulted in a larger step. Is there something I could do for somebody else? I remember buying groceries for a neighbor, putting the groceries on the porch, ringing the doorbell and leaving before the people got there. Why is that significant? In and of itself, it's really not, but for me, it was getting beyond my pain to the point that I was willing to help others. Small steps, initiated by a choice. I can remember it as clearly as if I said it today and it was 23 years ago - "Ricky, either you're going to roll up and die or you're going to try to put one foot in front of the other and live." Friend, that's called a choice. Make a choice today. Nothing, nothing happens without you making a choice. Oh, what a great day! I hope you're uplifted. I hope you've been encouraged. I feel like I've even been encouraged by this particular podcast. And so friends, until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick asking you the most important question I could ask - how ya' livin'? See you next time.

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his best-selling book, Lessons From A Third Grade Dropout, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/freegift to get the print or audio book right now.

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