Stephen Alter was born and raised in the Himalayas, where he and his wife, Ameeta, continue to make their home. He is the author of more than fifteen books of fiction and non-fiction, including Sacred Waters: A Pilgrimage to the Many Sources of the Ganga. For ten years, he was a writer-in-residence at MIT and before that, director of the writing program at the American University in Cairo.
His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Research Grant and an honorary degree from Wesleyan University, where he studied as an undergraduate. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Writers’ Mountain Festival, which brings together writers, mountaineers, filmmakers, artists and musicians from around the world to celebrate the heritage of the Himalayas.
1. Live to Fight Another Day
Throughout your life and your own personal journey you will face a number of incredible challenges where you will be faced with two choices: 1) Stand and fight or 2) Live to fight another day.
As masculine and macho as perseverance and facing down impossible odds may sound, it is often wiser to know when to fold. This does not mean quitting. It means pausing, reassessing the situation, and deciding where to move from a place of greater clarity and knowledge
When faced with a huge obstacle in business or finances, you can continue banging your head against a wall that won’t budge. Or you can do the wiser thing. You can momentarily retreat, lick your wounds and come back later with a greater sense of purpose.
2. Understand That You Are a Small Part of a Whole
One of the many benefits of being out in nature, is that you begin to realize just how small you are. The world is full of 7 billion people and trillions of other organisms all fighting to survive. You realize that you are not important.
As depressing as this may sound. It is actually a cause for excitement because it means that you have free reign to dare boldly. No one cares enough about you for failure to be final. People are so caught up in their own concerns that they have very little time to worry about you as well.
This means you are free from the worry of judgement of others. Live life the way you want and don’t worry about what people think. You are a tiny part of a giant universe and at the end of the day it is better to dare boldly, and fail greatly than never to try at all.
3. Use Your Pain as Fuel for Your Story
Everyone suffers some kind of pain in this life. A break up or divorce, loss of a loved one, business failure, personal or moral failure; everyone has something in their life that causes great pain.
Instead of dwelling on this pain and wallowing in self pity, use it. Use your pain as fuel to create the greatest life possible and to share your story so others can avoid your misfortune.
The greatest way to cope with pain is to turn it into a triumph, if you can use it as a way to help others and better the world, not only will you relieve the pain you have felt, but you will save others from ever experiencing it as well.
4. Get in Nature
Spending time out in nature is one of the quickest ways to reconnect you with the earth and with yourself. There is a sense of peace that comes from sitting and meditating beside a quiet stream that is difficult to duplicate.
Some of you may live in a big city with very little immediate access to mountains or the ocean, but even getting outside for 30 minutes a day and walking in the park can be an extremely therapeutic and rejuvenating experience.
5. Seize the Moment
Too often, we focus on seizing the day, the week, the year with little to no thought about the present moment. Be present, intentionally set moments to memory. Live in the present and stay out of your head. Let tomorrow worry about itself.