Saved from the endless and fruitless struggle to understand

Anyone can be mindful if things are going well. Meditating on a mountaintop doesn’t take a ton of skill.

The real question is, what is your default response to life’s difficult moments?

Stoic philosophers promote a life in harmony within the universe, over which one has no direct control. Frankl later coined a term for this called response flexibility. His research found that between the stimulus and response, there is a space, and in that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

Thinking back to several of my own low moments, here are some strategies that have been useful for me.

First, instead of demanding perfection, we apply resilience by having compassion for ourselves. Taking the hit, absorbing the energy, and reminding ourselves that whatever happened isn’t personal, permanent or pervasive.

Like when my company fired our entire department out of nowhere. That night on the commute home, the story echoing inside my head was, listen, your worthiness is solid, you are a welcome presence who creates value, and since you’re great, you can be great anywhere.

Second, instead of trying to control things, we make a plan for dealing with unexpected outcomes. Accepting small and sudden change, while still taking control of our life and finding alternative means, like water flowing around a rock.

Like when the power went out on our entire block. After ten minutes, we hopped in the car, made our way to the nearest coffee shop, flipped open our laptops and got back to work.

Third, instead of regretting our decisions, we do whatever we can to improve our circumstances. Staying future focused, optimizing whatever is already propelling us ahead, and trusting that the right path is the one we take.

Like when my first job out of college as a bartender fizzled after six weeks. My dad told me to take the day off and celebrate, then hit the ground running the very next morning and darken people’s doorsteps into somebody hired me again.

Fourth, instead of screaming up at the skies and asking why the universe is so bloody unfair, we take life giving action and keep moving our story forward.

Like when that client stiffed me for three grand despite multiple efforts to collect the money, and then disappeared off the face of the earth. My mentor reminded me that it’s part of being in business, a rite of passage for all entrepreneurs, and that the best thing to do was to raise my fee and go find three new clients who actually valued my work.

These four moments are response flexibility in action. And just like physical flexibility, say, doing the splits or touching your head to your knew, it takes practice and it can be quite frustrating.

But it’s certainly a better use of our energy than our endless and fruitless struggle to understand why difficult things happen to us.

Remember, the mysteries of this world can’t be resolved by our sheer desire to resolve them, but we can certainly lessen our suffering by shifting the way we talk to ourselves when they happen.

What is your default response to life’s difficult moments?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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