You already know that sometimes life is hard.
Things happen that are awful. And, wow, the last few years and last week reminded us of that. There have been lots of circumstances beyond our control. COVID. Wild fires. Floods. Hurricanes. Tornados. Political division. Drought.
I wish these things hadn’t happened. I wish they weren’t happening. But they did and they are. These are things in life that suck.
Unfortunately, wishing that it didn’t suck gets us into trouble and actually makes you feel worse.
Sometimes you find yourself: Wishing someone hadn’t died; Arguing that you shouldn’t have lost the job; Getting angry that there shouldn’t be a pandemic; Wishing abuse hadn’t happened; Beating yourself up about a mistake; Wishing you weren’t sick; Calling yourself an idiot for leaving the vacuum in the hallway to stub your toe on; And more seriously, wishing that there wasn’t a war in Ukraine.
What happens when we argue with the reality of the suckyness?
All of this wishing, blaming, and arguing is to argue with the past that cannot be changed. If you try to change the past, you are always going to lose. You can’t wish or argue or blame hard enough. All the time spent trying, is just causing you to feel awful about feeling awful.
It keeps you stuck. So what should you do instead?
Am I suggesting you pretend it hasn’t happened and try to be happy all the time?
No. Not at all.
Life will throw you curveballs. Acknowledge it, and then move through the experience without the blame or wishing for a different reality. Allow the sadness, grief and anger. Let the disappointment come. Sometimes, it is supposed to be there. Let it, and don’t increase your own suffering beyond it.
I will show what I mean some examples.
Let’s say you left the vacuum cleaner in the hallway, and at night you stubbed your toe on it. Your toe will hurt. Now, you can get mad at yourself for leaving it there and wish you hadn’t. Maybe you call yourself dumb and tell yourself you are sloppy for leaving it there. If you do that then you get to feel all that frustration from those thoughts IN ADDITION to the pain in your foot. Or, you can just feel pain in your foot, not like it, and give yourself some compassion for not liking the pain. You might realize that we leave vacuums in hallways and stub our toe sometimes. It’s just part of what happens when we are human. So go ahead and say a bad word. Then decide that you don’t want to leave vacuums in the hallway anymore and try to remember to put it away next time.
Do you see the difference? I hope you can.
Here is another example. The war in Ukraine. I think it is awful. I really don’t want it to be happening, but I can’t go back in time and change it. If I spend time wishing it wasn’t the reality it is, then I feel resistant, tight, resentful and angry. I spin in blame and trying to change something I can’t change. Instead, I’m going to give myself the grace of allowing myself to feel very very sad about the events that happened there. I am being kind to myself to remember that I cannot change past events, and that it’s OK to feel sad and grief. I sit with the sadness rather than judge the event that resulted in it. This doesn’t mean I will give up and assume nothing can be done. Not at all. When I don’t waste energy on arguing with the past, I might be able to find energy for action to improve the future outcome. I can feel sad AND take action for the future based on what I believe is right. That feels right to me.
Here is the last thing I will share today. If you are really struggling and want to turn the bad things in life into something that moves you forward, then try this. You can focus your emotional energy and change future outcomes simply in the way you ask yourself questions.
Focus your questions on the present and the future. Not on the past.
- Instead of “Why do I always feel awful?” ask “How do I want to feel about this experience?”
- Instead of “Why did this terrible event have to happen?”, ask “What can I learn from this that I can use to improve things?”
- Instead of “Why am I such an idiot?”, Be your own your best friend and ask, “What do I need from myself right now?”
- Instead of “Why couldn’t I have done something sooner?” Ask “What can I do now that I would not have known had this not happened?”
The first question focuses on the past which you can’t change. The second question focuses on what you want to do in the future in the face of the current sucky situation.
I hope you find this shift useful. Meanwhile, please accept this big virtual hug from me any time something in life just sucks.
Inspired Leader LLC – I offer life and career coaching.
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