Yet I notice that despite my good intentions, life as a human is just tough sometimes. It seems no matter how much I learn from my mistakes, life simply continues to have its rough patches and I haven't managed to smooth the way for myself as I thought I'd be able to.
However, in contrast, I have got easier about the fact that it can be hard.
When we think we must have everything figured out -- all the before, during and after -- we are putting ourselves mentally at our worst. We become preoccupied with analyzing and assessing our problems. Mentally we shrink, not expand, and creativity is replaced by stress. In essence, we begin using our imagination against us, worrying about things instead of seeing the creative solution that is unique to the situation. We become less and less clear. We choke. We panic. We react. (See last week's post on reactivity!).
So, hands up if you ever have come at your parent, partner, child or boss utterly promising yourself you won't get riled up and then, in heat of the moment, being unable to stop yourself spiraling downwards.
Just Plain Losing It
Let's say I plan and rehearse all those things I want to say to my boss about why I deserve a raise. Do I walk into the boss's office already struggling to remember my well-rehearsed speech? Am I so concerned about flubbing it that I'm tongue tied? "Well, I went to that confidence class," I remind myself, "so it should be fine. I'll just breathe and do like they said" Wrong. I've slid so far down my own ladder internally and my state of mind is so degraded that that I can't remember anything I've learned. I'm a goner.
We go about trying to solve problems by processing them, even though the evidence shows that the more mental effort we apply the less flexible, responsive and creative we become.
Trying to go at life's issues in the typical ways that we do -- planning, strategizing, making resolutions, withholding, weighing options, practicing behaviors, trying to control ourselves -- just often don't work out the way we envision.
Is there an easier path?
You may have noticed that we humans already possess an ability to have a new thought in any given moment. When we are not all tied up in mental knots we have awareness of what's happening around us and we have the ability to tune in. What's more
- Everyone has intelligence to use and with which to reflect.
- Everyone has a "heart" to feel emotional life as it happens.
- Everyone has an ability recognize and express love.
- Everyone has a sense that allows them to recognize what is good for them (gut, intuition or wisdom, whatever you want to call that).
And yet how little we understand that this is true.
It's funny to me that everything I did to try to avoid difficulty or pave the way for myself in my best-laid plans never carved out the life I expected, never made people behave the way I'd hoped, and never controlled a single life event no matter how hard I applied the hammer and tongs.
Very often I found creative ways out of situations that I would have described at the time as impossible to resolve. Yet here I am. This has happened to all of us. How is that?
The moment someone says to me "I can't handle this!" I often see that, in fact, they are handling it perfectly well. Even if you have a mindset that is paralyzing you right now, it won't last. It's going to change. Something different is going to occur.
But we don't seem to trust that will happen. Instead we go petal to the metal on our mental accelerator. Our brains are full and then we send them into overdrive.
Many people find that this whole scenario shifts when they take a moment to write things down, or they let their internal world settle, before opening their mouth. What actually happens in this moment is not that the writing does the trick, but that they begin to access the fact that they have possibility. A brand new idea can pop up. And it often does.
I am constantly witness to the incredible resources we all have available in any moment. I wish I had a dollar for every person who has said to me "I don't know what to do!" who after a short few moments in conversation actually then revealed that, in fact, they know exactly what to do.
No one need do anything to create this capacity for fresh thoughts. No books can teach you. No other person can give you directions. You already have this. We are all essentially "Plug-and-Go" -- born equipped to deal with life and solve our problems when they arise through absolute reliance on this beautiful fact of life:
Random, unpredictable and completely unlimited numbers of ideas are circulating in you, right now, waiting to take shape.
You will never rid life of problems. You will never shed all your personal problems. But really, is that a problem?