When life has to be a certain way to be good enough for us, we shut ourselves off from so many of the real and current possibilities that exist.
On the contrary, when we let go of how it “should be”, we free our senses to deal with life’s unexpected changes, challenges and chaos in the most efficient way possible …
We create space for acceptance, learning and growth.
We learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.
We see the world through an impartial set of eyes.
And gradually we allow ourselves to move forward with more peace of mind.
With that said, I do not always let go when I need to. I do not always have a clear and focused mind. Because I’m just a human being and people tend to hold on too tight. Sometimes life hits us really hard and we cling to the pain, even when we know better.
When I hold too tight, I can really feel it in my gut. I feel anxious, frustrated, irritated and upset. It seems that things should be different than they are – a feeling of rejection or betrayal or hopelessness.
I’m sure you can relate. We are all fighting through this together, in our own unique way right now. And the vast majority of our torment is the result of us getting caught up in what story we are telling ourselves about what life “should” be like.
So to begin with, here’s what I’m trying to remember …
Quotes and Reminders to Release “How Life Should Be”
- We often take for granted the things that most deserve our attention and gratitude. How often do you pause to appreciate your life just as it is? Look around right now and be grateful … for your health, your family, your comforts, your home. Nothing lasts forever.
- Some of the most powerful moments in life happen when you find the courage to let go of what cannot be changed. Because when you can no longer change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself – to grow beyond the unchanging. And that changes everything.
- To let go is not to be forgotten, it is remembered without fear. It progresses with a present mind and a lesson. So remind yourself right now: you are not your bad days, you are not your mistakes, you are not your scars and you are not your past. Be here now. Be free.
- Forgive yourself for the bad decisions you have made, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and ruthless. All of these are important lessons. And what matters most right now is your desire to grow from them.
- Be selective with your energy today. If you can fix a problem, fix it. If you can not accept it and change your mind about it. Whatever you do, do not try to invest more energy than you have, stumble across something behind you or something that is just in your head.
- Life is change. You have to accept the fact that things never go back to the way they used to be, and that this end is really a new beginning.
- Even if you can not control everything that happens, you can control your attitude about what is happening. And by doing so, you will gradually master change rather than let it gradually master you. (Marc and I discuss this further in the chapter “Adversity” in 1000 little things that happy, successful people do differently.)
- Every difficult life situation can be an excuse for hopelessness or an opportunity for growth, depending on what you choose to do with it.
- In the middle of particularly difficult days when I feel that I cannot endure, I remind myself that my story of getting through difficult days is 100% so far. (The same goes for you too.)
- Too often we waste our time waiting for a road to emerge, but it never does. Because we forget that paths are made by walking, do not wait. And we forget that there is absolutely nothing about our current circumstances that prevents us from making progress again, one small step at a time.
The first steps to dealing with adverse results
Reflecting on the reminders above can be incredibly groundbreaking when life does not go as planned. But what can you do if the immediate tension in you goes out of control?
Here is a brief description of some initial steps that Marc and I take actively (and cover with our course students and participants in live events) to cope with the immediate tension that arises from adverse outcomes in our lives:
- Realize the tension inside you. – If you notice that you get angry and confused, it is a sign that you need to pause, take a deep breath and practice the remaining steps.
- Resist the urge to act in a hurry. – The biggest harm comes when you act out of anger – actions that may include giving up prematurely, consuming unhealthy substances or even attacking someone else. So when you notice anger building up inside you, try not to take any form of destructive action. Instead, turn inward and consciously judge what is happening.
- Sit with your emotions and give them space. – Turn directly to the tension you feel and be just a witness. See it as something that passes through you, but NOT YOU. It’s a feeling, a dark cloud passing over a vast sky, not a permanent fixture. Treat it that way. Instead of occupying yourself with the presence of the dark cloud, try to broaden your perspective – give it the space it needs to pass. Sometimes you need a little distance to see things clearly again.
- Be okay with not knowing. – Now that you have given yourself the necessary space, say to yourself: “I do not know why it is like this.” And be OK with this unconscious. Give yourself full permission not to have concrete answers right now. What would it be like to let this moment develop without knowing? What is it like not knowing what is happening in the hearts and minds of others? What is it like not knowing how to respond to the chaos of life? What is it like to be here right now without drawing conclusions?
The bottom line is that when life directs you to a hard dose of reality, the best first steps are to sit still and witness the thoughts that pass you by. Only testify first, do not disturb and do not even judge, because by judging too quickly you have lost the pure witness. The moment you rush to say “this is absolutely awful” or “things should be different” you have already jumped your head first into the chaotic tension.
Exercise is required to create a gap between witnessing thoughts and your response to them. When the gap is there, however, there is a big surprise for you – it becomes obvious that you are not the thoughts or the excitement and chaos that affect them. You are the witness, a watchman, who can change you and rise above the anxiety. (Marc and I work through this with our students at the self-driving Getting Back to Happy course and at the annual Think Better, Live Better conference.)
We would love to hear from YOU.
So let us know:
- Which point above reasoned the most?
- In what way do you hold on to an idea of what life “should” be like right now?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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