Throughout this journey we call life, we all have moments of elation, excitement, anxiety, and dejection. Although we are technically aware of what life brings – the highs and lows, the wild swings that seem to appear so suddenly without warning – the variability in it all isn’t exactly desirable. Most of us don’t want to operate within unpredictable circumstances. As humans, we crave surety. Unanticipated surprises that throw life into an unexpected whirlwind are usually unwelcome.
But, variety is the spice of life, right? Sure…but we usually utter this cliché when that variety is something that can fend off boredom, free us from mundane routine, bring us unforeseen joy, or expand our horizons. This isn’t the phrase that comes to mind when new, but unfortunate variety bursts through the door and spices up your life that was – at least for the time being – perfectly seasoned. We don’t think of this sage piece of wisdom when we hit traffic on our normally clear route home, or when our wi-fi isn’t working, or when we lose our job and are forced to start fresh.
But, it is this type of variety that I want to focus on.
We are all operating within a sphere of unpredictability. We simply cannot know for sure what will happen later today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. And, while this may cause some anxiety, this uncertainty should be cherished. I mean, how bland would life be if each moment was known, scheduled, and unwavering? Of course, with this cherished uncertainty comes blindsided attacks by life that do everything they can to knock you off course and into a downward spiral. Accept this fact and continue living. Life tends to be a balancing act – when you’re too high, something brings you down; when you’re feeling low, a pick me up is right around the corner. But, we want it to be good all the time! Be real, this is not possible. Life is not always sunshine and roses. So, how should we handle the variety that we never asked for but got anyways…
1. Recognize the necessity of the circumstance
Necessity? Huh? I’ll explain. As we’ve established, life is an experience, within which good things and bad things happen. Understand that and you’ll realize that the pain generated from an unwelcome experience is fleeting – it will subside.
2. Take ownership
Only you are responsible for your problems. Sure, something may happen to you over which you had no control. I experience it all the time as a co-owner of a business, as I'm sure you do as well in your line of work or in your personal life. It sucks, but, who’s going to alleviate the problem if not you? The things that are affecting you, whether caused by you or not, are up to you to fix. Once you realize this, you will feel empowered to play a more active role in the creation of the life you desire. Never say, “Why me?” Say, “Try me!”
3. Frame your situation
As fellow Helium Books co-founder, Jacob, so eloquently laid out in his post from a few weeks back, it’s necessary to analyze your situation within the greater scope of your life. Say, for example, you’re running late to a meeting with your boss. Rather than raise your cortisol levels through feelings of anxiety and stress, take a step back for just a second and realize how minor this issue really is in the grand scheme of things. The meeting can likely be pushed back or rescheduled - no big deal. Never make mountains out of molehills. Your quality of life will only diminish.
Equipped with these tactics you’re ready to handle whatever life throws your way...right? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps an anecdote will add some clarity, offering an example of how to put these tenets to use in reality...
As a business owner, unanticipated obstacles are just part of daily life. Recently, on the very website in which you're reading this, we as a company have encountered our fair share of hurdles. From design to functionality, issues have risen out of what appears to be the thinnest of air - testing our patience and temper. Yet, rather than succumbing to our immediate, innate emotional (over)reactions, we talked our way through these moments - using the framework outlined above as a rough guide.
(1) Sure, the website was having issues, but they would be resolved eventually. And, let us not forget...we still have an operational website that people want to visit! There is good within most every bad.
(2) We could have blamed our website provider, third-party vendors, etc. for the problems we were facing. But, why? All that would do is leave us bitter and without a useful solution. After all, we chose the provider and vendors. No one forced us to do anything. Whatever problems we were facing were our responsibility to resolve. With this understanding, we took an active approach, identifying and implementing successful procedures.
(3) Our website's functionality and appearance are crucial to our brand, customer satisfaction, growth, etc., etc. So, when it is not performing/looking exactly how we'd like it, stress starts to seep in. This is natural. When something important to you is threatened, any barricade you put up to stop the ensuing tension stands little chance of standing firm. To fight this force, what we actively tried to do was grasp the bigger picture. The issues, while present and annoying, were not overly major we realized...the website would carry forward performing its primary functions just fine. This was a minor hiccup in respect to the overall direction of the company. We would get past it and maybe, in the not-too-distant future, even laugh about any anxiety we felt.
By the end, an objectively negative situation was tackled head on with a clear mind, not crowded by unneeded emotion, and not made overwhelming by unattended, misguided feelings of doom and gloom.
You’ve always been able to handle the good, now you know how to handle the not-so-good. I’ll tell you, this isn’t an easy process to implement, it must be revisited consistently for your mental rewiring to kick in and take hold. Frustration and a victim mentality will win from time to time. For me, they certainly do. But, actively fight them off with every opportunity you get. Eventually, these voices will grow quiet.
So, I urge you to try it out. Recognize the undesirable variety that comes your way and work through this system. And pay close attention to the impact these mental hacks have on your life and the lives of those around you!
Like I said, the uncertainty and variety that life offers should be cherished. It’s easy when life is good. When it gets hard though, we can’t wallow, we must go to battle. We must transcend temporary pain, take control, and continue our confident march down the path of life. More variety is waiting. Seize these moments that make life worth living. Welcome all life that life brings.