When I was 10 years old, I started playing soccer for a coach who taught me something that has been stuck in my memory ever since.
The one specific phrase I always remember him telling me throughout the years was “that’s just life.’’ When things went wrong on or off the field, he was the first to accept the reality of the situation and it helped the entire team move forward. His trademark phrase later became a principle that I chose to incorporate into my way of thinking as much as possible.
One fact that couldn’t be truer is that many of the events in our lives will be entirely beyond our control. Don’t get me wrong; I still do believe that each and every person can possess a very high internal locus of control. My point is, if something is not within our control, we should simply accept that fact and “let it be” just like the Beatles did. No amount of stress or energy is going to give any of us the power to change the universe, so let it be.
Expect the best, and accept the worst. A chronic habit in modern society is the tendency to get extremely stressed about something that is already in the past. When all is said and done, clinging to that event is not going to make us feel any better. What it will do, is give us anxiety.
Including myself at several points, I know many people who have a habit of constantly worrying about the future. If we choose to spend day after day worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet, it is important we realize the decision we have made. By doing so, we are then making a conscious choice to be miserable. Not to mention, attracting the events that we fear right into our lives. We should do our best to fill our head with positive perceptions of how things will happen and let them flow naturally. If they do go wrong, take the approach of acceptance. Now more than ever, there are piles of evidence about how our thoughts shape our feelings, emotions and health. The realization that comes with this, is that we are capable of training our thoughts for the better.
Living in the present can go a long way toward a healthy mentality.
I am a firm believer in a theory of least resistance. If we go to backbreaking lengths trying to resist an event that is relatively self-governing, we are simply adding fuel to the fire. That event will be more likely to happen, and because we have invested so much thought, we will then also perceive it to be much worse. Unless you want to exhaust yourself, fighting the inevitable is completely useless. Accept life’s obscurities and they will no longer affect you in such a severe way.
True acceptance is a skill of its own, and those who learn to master it are able to immerse themselves in an abundance of potential.
In Colombia I met a backpacker who was incredibly skilled at spinning staff. Staffing is essentially the rhythmic swinging of a pole the same way the western depiction of a samurai might. He would swing this giant flaming stick around his head and body so fast that it would likely knock him unconscious if it were to hit him. When I asked, he told me that the only times he would hit his head was when he thought about it happening. His solution was to accept that he might get smoked, and for whatever reason, it never happened.
All unfortunate events have some sort of purpose to them, so take them in stride and absorb the lessons they provide. Nobody before us has figured out all the little “whys” of life, so we shouldn’t waste our precious energy trying to do the same.
Although I’m not going to pretend I have had a very traumatic existence, adopting a “that’s just life” philosophy has not only helped me deal with a list of major challenges including: serious injuries, breakups and my parent’s divorce, it has also facilitated many great memories and a new appreciation for uncertainy.
For most of us, being stressed is a decision. It is the silent killer, and we make the choice to carry it around every day. In the animal kingdom, the purpose of stress is for survival. It is meant to kick us into high gear during life threatening moments, like running from a sabre tooth tiger. I have to assume that most of us who are reading this won’t deal with many incidents like that in our lifetime. Learning how to manage our stress levels should be a huge priority in our lives. It can save our health, relationships and lifestyle. In this day and age, being mindful of our mental habits is just as important for us as physical well-being.
Take control of your thoughts, they are far more powerful than you may realize.
This article was originally published at ElephantJournal.com. This is an edited version in order to be suitable for sharing.