At the point when life should be good enough for us, we close ourselves off from all the real and present opportunities available.
Quite the contrary, when we let go of the way it “should” be, we free our minds. And when we do that we’ll be able to deal with life’s unexpected changes, challenges and chaos in the most effective way possible.
We create space for acceptance, learning and growth.
We learn from our mistakes and sometimes from the mistakes of others.
We see the world through an unbiased set of eyes.
Also, slowly, we permit ourselves to step forward with a clear and focused mind.
With that said, I don’t generally give up when I need to. I don’t always have a clear and focused mind. Because I’m only human, and human beings have the tendency to hold on too tight. Sometimes life slaps us very hard and we attach ourselves to the agony, even when we know better.
When I’m holding on too tight, I can truly feel it in my gut. I feel anxious, disappointed, irritated, and upset. There’s an aching for things to be different than they are. A feeling of rejection and betrayal and hopelessness.
I’m sure you can relate. We’re all struggling through this one together, in our own unique way. Also, majority of our torment is the result of being caught up in whatever story we’re telling ourselves about how life “should” be.
So for starters, here’s what I try to always remember.
Mantras for Letting Go of How it “Should” Be
- Life is change. You must accept the fact that things may never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really a new beginning.
- Even though you cannot control everything that happens, you can control your reaction about what happens. By doing so, you will gradually master change rather than allowing it to gradually master you.
- Every difficult life situation can be an excuse for hopelessness or an opportunity for growth, depending on what you choose to do with it.
- Daily effort is never wasted, even when it leads to discouraging results. For it always makes you stronger, more experienced, and more educated in the long run.
- If you want to be effective and productive, let go of your need to always be right.
- When you hear only what you want to hear, you’re not really listening. Listen to what you don’t want to hear too. That’s how you grow.
- Be humble. Be teachable. The world is bigger than your view of the world. There’s always room for a new perspective, a new step, a new possibility… a new beginning.
First Steps for Coping with Unfavorable Outcomes
Reflecting on the mantras above can be incredibly grounding when life doesn’t go as planned. But what can you do if the immediate tension inside you is spiraling out of control?
Here’s a brief outline of some initial steps to cope with the immediate tension that arises from unfavorable outcomes in our lives:
- Recognize the tension inside you. – If you see yourself getting angry and flustered, it’s a sign that you need to pause, take a deep breath, and practice the remaining steps.
- Fight the temptation to act in haste. The greatest harm comes whenever point you act out of anger – actions that might include giving up too soon, consuming unhealthy substances, or even attacking another person. So whenever you notice anger building up inside you, try not to take any form of destructive action. Rather, turn inward and mindfully assess whatever it is that’s arising.
- Sit with your feelings, and give them space. – Turn directly towards the pressure you feel, and just be a witness. Consider it to be something that is going through you, however is NOT YOU. It’s a feeling, a dark cloud passing across a vast sky, not a permanent fixture. Treat it that way. Instead of obsessing yourself with dark clouds, 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 OK with not knowing. Now that you’ve given yourself some necessary space, tell yourself, “I don’t know why things are this way.” And be OK with this unknowing. Give yourself full permission to not have concrete answers in this moment. What would it be like to allow this moment to unfold without knowing? What is it like to not know what’s going on in the hearts and minds of others? What is it like to not know how to respond to life’s chaos? What is it like to be here right now, without jumping to conclusions?
The bottom line is that when life dishes you a harsh dose of reality, the best initial steps involve sitting silently and witnessing the thoughts passing through you. Simply seeing it at first, not interfering and not even judging, because by judging too rapidly you have lost the pure witness. The minute you rush to say, “this is absolutely terrible” or “things should be different,” you have already jumped head first into the chaotic tension.
It takes practice to create a gap between the witnessing of thoughts and your response to them. Once the gap is there, however, you are in for a great surprise, it becomes evident that you are not the thoughts themselves, nor the tension and chaos influencing them. You are the witness, a watcher, who’s capable of changing your mind and rising above the turmoil.