You’re Wasting Your Time on Bad Coping Skills

Do these two things instead

Frank Vaughn
3 min readApr 12, 2023
Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

You fancy yourself a writer, but you can’t find the words. You want to be financially secure but your bills are piling up while your bank account isn’t. You want to be with someone but they don’t show mutual interest.

You’re bound up by either internal or external forces that seem impossible to break free from.

I’ve been there, and very recently at that. Want to know what I did about it? Well, do you? Ok. Here goes…

I got honest with myself

Almost every single time I’ve ever felt trapped in my circumstances, it was because I was in the wrong circumstances. And guess what? That was my fault.

See, I’m one of those — what do you call them? Adults! You know, grown people who have agency in their own lives.

My negative circumstances have almost always been traceable back to some really bad decision I made that put me there.

I had to be honest about my own fault in things before I could fix them.

And look. I acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen to us that we can’t avoid or could not possibly have foreseen, like when I had a spouse leave me for someone else.

Actually, that’s a super bad example, because the reality is, she either cheated on me, broke up with me, or did one because of the other at least once a year the whole time we dated before we got married.

Oh! I know! What about the time I got phone scammed out of thousands of dollars by some scumbag with a generic American name and a distinctly not-American accent? How in the world could I have seen that coming?

In that particular case, the question answers itself. So yeah. That one was on me too.

The point is, you need to be honest with yourself to the point of sheer brutality. Seriously examine the place you’re at in life and own what’s yours to own.

As for those outliers that might actually be someone else’s fault? Maybe a drunk driver hits you when you’re driving as safely as any human can possibly be?

Be honest about those, too. Seriously! One of the most revolutionary thoughts I’ve ever had went something like, “Sometimes people just suck.”

Whether your particular situation is actually your fault or not, just be honest with yourself about which is which. That will help you decide what comes next.

I forced myself to be realistic about what I could do

Whether recovering from a divorce or trying to claw my way out of financial calamity, I’ve always reverted back to a simple truth that an old farmer once taught me about dealing with daunting tasks:

Him: “Son, how do you eat an elephant?”
Me: “I have no idea, sir. I didn’t even know they were edible.”
Him: “Same as you eat anything else. One. Bite. At. A. Time.”

If you spent years with someone and they just up and left you, realize you can’t just move on from it instantaneously. Getting right back out there is a super bad initial reaction. Death always requires an autopsy.

If you’ve spent years digging yourself into a financial hole — or even if you suddenly fell into one in one fell swoop — realize that you can’t just gamble what’s left on red or black and get it all back at once.

NOT a solution. Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash

If you’ve fancied yourself a writer for years but you can’t squeeze the words out, don’t just sit around and wait for them to come back to you.

Basically what I’m saying is, don’t try to life-hack your way out of deep, serious issues. Shortcuts don’t lead to success, they lead to dead ends.

Likewise, doing absolutely nothing and just hoping for a miraculous rescue doesn’t lead to healing and recovery.

Doing too much and doing too little are both recipes for disaster. I promise that, with honesty and intentionality, there is a sweet spot between those extremes that will allow you to walk the right path out of those woods.



Frank Vaughn

Regional Emmy- and AP-award winning journalist and writer. Everyone’s brother.