How To Rise Above Your Circumstances (Don’t Read This If You’re Feeling Miserable)

Published on January 8, 2011 by

Happiness and feeling good is more a state of mind than it is a state of circumstances. And yes, I know it's easier to make such a statement than it is to pull it off.

Sometimes it's even easier to believe that how we feel at any given moment is directly dependent on the nature of our circumstances. That's what most of us have been taught from an early age. If you weren't, you're the exception.

We are used to thinking we feel good when times are good and we feel bad when times are bad. But I bet you can remember a time when some things weren't going so well in your life and you felt pretty darned good. Even if for a brief time. Or maybe you remember a time you were talking with a friend who was down in the dumps and complaining nonstop. But then you distracted him or her with something, changed the direction of the conversation and all of a sudden they were laughing.

How do you explain that? What happened is you shifted their thinking. They shifted from thinking thoughts of misery to thinking thoughts of something much better. Whatever circumstance they thought was making them miserable or overly worried didn't change. But something changed, so what was it?

What changed was the person's thoughts.

What we are focused on at the moment determines our mood. Our thoughts lead to our feelings. In other words, when we shift our thinking, our feelings and emotions shift as well.

Even if we keep thinking about a situation that "made" us upset, when we think about the same situation in a more constructive way, we immediately feel better. The situation doesn't change, but our how we think about it changes and along with it, our mood.

It's true our circumstances influence our thoughts, our thinking and our beliefs. It's not true circumstances dictate and control what is in our mind and how we use our mind. That part is a choice. The problem comes when we allow our mind to run on autopilot, whether what we are thinking and imagining is helpful or not.

In 1902, James Allen wrote the now classic book "As A Man Thinketh." Of course, now the book's title would reflect gender equality and might be titled "As You Think." Aside from that, the insights you will find in the book can alter the course of your life. For instance:

"A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances."

I don't know of anyone who is perfect or who has a perfect life. We all have our times, moods or actions we wouldn't want broadcast to the world. We all have circumstances we want to improve. Maybe you are in some very tough circumstances right now.

It's during the toughest times what Allen wrote can be hard to believe. And even harder to put to use. It's also during the toughest times what can be of greatest use. It's kind of ironic. What can be the most helpful to us can be the last thing we want when we're feeling miserable. How do I know? I know because I've worked with clients for over twenty years...And I know because I've been there before. I've been in a place before where I didn't want to read what I've written today. So, if you're in a place where what I've shared isn't helpful to you know, put it away and come back later when you're feeling better.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment now or feel free to e-mail me anytime. I appreciate you reading this blog and would love to know what you think.


  1. Michaela McCormack

    I am 12 years old and have a program that I am trying to grow. My website is new and under construction. It's taking awhile because I am trying to do this myself. I believe and understand because I have been through alot in my short life. My mom fought kidney cancer. We lived in shelters and yet I watched her rise above all her trials time and time again. And with a smile and love. Next week I have been invited to speak to some youths in homeless shelters in New have CT and I wanted to talk to them about rising above your circumstances. I decided to look for help and info and saw your article. I wannted to know if I can have permission to use some of your information. For thanksgiving my mom and I went to Rockaway Queens to help serve those affected from Sandy. Although my website is not yet fully ready I have pictures that you can see when I partnered with Shoprite to end hunger and Thanksgiving. Thank you for your time and if there is any advice you can offer I appreciate it.

    • Alan Allard

      Hi Michaela,

      I visited your site and it is an inspiring one. You are certainly not a typical 12 year old, that's for sure. You have a lot of maturity, wisdom and courage. Let me know when you have more done on your site, especially the "About" page and I will write a blog post about what you are doing. Keep doing what you are doing, share your gifts and your love and expect to have it come back to you in greater amounts than you give--not necessarily from the same places you give to, but from somewhere in this vast universe we live in.

      You can certainly use any of my writings as you help others. Keep us posted on what you are doing and how your website progresses.


  2. joy

    Hello Alan. Thankyou for this encouraging Post. I Was Searching for Something tto encourage A Group ofWomen in my Community. When. I found myself engrosssed in your Article. I can identify what You said here. as dynamic truth. A few years back I allowed. Myself to be a prisoner off circumsttance until one day I Decided to find my God given purpose. I shifted my thouughts from my. Circumstances to my purpoose and its the best choice I've made. Circumstances have not Changed but they don't coontrol my life anymore. It has given me determination and courage to move forward. God bless you Alan. Continue with the great. Work you are doing.

    • Alan Allard

      Hello Joy, thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it. It's easy to get hypnotized by our circumstances and I'm glad you decided to do otherwise. My best to you as you continue to live a purposeful life.

  3. Chandra

    Hey Allen I read your article. A good friend of mines told me I was a "good girl" in a bad world, and he told me to rise above all circumstances. Yesterday we had a very bad argument and I really felt as if we needed a break. I was delivered from all my sins, but I kept doing the same thing redundantly like a curse. One day I asked God to help me, guide me, show me what u want me to do. I have planned to go back to school and work and stay strong. Focusing is my New Years resolution and staying close to God. Thank you
    A young independent mother of two

  4. Joel

    Thanks for putting my disorganized thoughts into something solid and yet simple. This is one of the greatest truths about life, we can direct our thinking to rise above our surroundings. Blessings!

    • Alan Allard

      Joel, thanks for stopping by and for your comments, I appreciate it.

  5. Artdeco

    Thank you for writing this blog.
    I have been brought up to think you are a victim of your circumstances.I find that you need to re think about the things you believe are holding you back.
    Your blog has helped me clarify my thinking and lifted my mood to think better.
    Best wishes Artdeco

    • Alan Allard

      Artdeco, I just saw your comment. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion!

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