Four years ago on a hot summer day, my mom looked at my sister and I and said: I guess we are not going to eat tonight because there’s nothing to cook. We politely nodded and went straight to bed. While laying on my bed something happened to me and I said:  no, we are not going to sleep like that. I went out in the dark found some pine cones, used a plastic bag to light up the pines. I made the fire and boiled some kazoo that a friend has sent us.  This is not something people usually eat boiled, but we enjoyed it, laughed about it and hoped that one day our lives would be better. To go through these terrible tough times, I trained myself to live in two worlds at once and create an anchor to keep me focus on what I want in life. So, here are my two ways to leverage poverty without going  insane.

Find you anchor

For many, poverty can be eating food that expired or not being able to afford a car. My experience of poverty and that of many other Haitian families was not being able to even supply ourselves with the basics. It’s very difficult to keep yourself sane when you find yourself in a situation like this especially when you have a big vision for your life. You often ask yourself if your dreams will ever come true or if you are just delusional. Convincing yourself that the dreams are possible is the greatest challenge one must overcome to create the desired life. This act of convincing can be compared to almost a form of violence and high pressure under which you submit the brain. The very best thing anyone living in a difficult situation should do if they want to succeed is to find a grander mission they feel strongly about. Then, work day in and day out to make the brain accept it as factual reality rather than a crazy thought. It works like an anchor–once the thought becomes integrated in your life, your hope gets restored.

Live in two worlds

After convincing yourself that you are here for a grander mission, it comes down to balancing your current real life situation with your imaginary life. I called that living in two worlds at once. The best way to manage your sanity during this difficult time is being flexible. I remember the many times I had to eat something I truly hated because I couldn’t afford better. During these times, my inner critic would kick in to remind me how my life sucks. In this situation, your flexibility of mind comes in very handy. I used to sit at the table using silverware like it was the best meal I ever had in order to calm down my inner critic. It all comes down to acknowledging your current situation (real life) without letting it define who you are and where you are heading. Children are very good at escaping reality to live in an imaginary world and many times their imagination manifests in the real world. It’s like having a switch in the mind and knowing when to turn it on/off. You can’t spend too much time in the real world, nor in the imaginary one. You don’t want to become a lunatic without a good grasp of reality nor a bitter realist who get consumed by the pressures of a difficult life.  To paraphrase John Anster:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Start now

Do not get me wrong, it’s hard and painful to go through poverty. However, as hard as it seems this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Poverty has taught me resilience, creativity, courage and most importantly to dream big regardless of circumstances. When you know your inaction will result in you spending the rest of your life in poverty, it creates a sense of urgency. The time will never be right and the best time is right now. I am not trying to glamorize poverty, but leveraging it to your advantage is a bet that only the bravest souls can win.

The universe is waiting to execute our orders. But if we keep on ordering the meal we always eat, we’ll miss out on all the other great meals on the menu. If you want to leverage poverty and create the life you desire, I am inviting you to find your anchor and live accordingly to your imagination.