Life is trying to teach me something.
I have noticed throughout my life, that when there is a lesson I need to learn, which I haven’t managed to learn yet, life has an uncanny habit of repeating the lesson over and over again until the message does eventually sink in.
Whenever I feel stuck or frustrated, or am finding something downright hard, I ask myself: “What is life trying to teach me?”.
This question helps me to get curious and step outside of the problem so that I can look at it more objectively. This allows me to detach from the situation and observe it without any judgement so as to gain much needed perspective and insight. Sometimes I don’t need to do any more than this, as this can occasionally be all that is needed to reach a solution.
Asking this question can also help to dilute any strong negative emotions that I am feeling, such as frustration, annoyance or hurt. The act of curiosity is incredibly powerful and zaps those feelings away and leaves me feeling lighter and freer to explore the situation in a more carefree way.
Acceptance isn’t easy!
Right now, though, I reckon life is trying to teach me acceptance. I find acceptance HARD. This pandemic has left most people finding a lot of things tough to accept, for a whole bunch of reasons. Sadly, for too many it is the loss of their health or their loved ones, or the collapse of their livelihoods. For some, the pandemic in and of itself is hard to accept, and for others, it’s the loss of social interaction, or the limitation and difficulty of travel.
Loss of freedom and choice.
Although I am extremely grateful for still having my health and my livelihood, I nevertheless find it hard to accept the loss of freedom and choice. I have been finding it immensely difficult to accept the restrictions and regulations that have been put upon us (even though I understand the powers that be are doing what they believe to be best for everyone). One thing I have realised during the course of this year is that freedom and choice are hugely important values for me. Having certain choices taken away from us all has been way harder for me to accept than I would ever have imagined.
And then I feel guilty for feeling this way because it sounds so trivial compared to all the much greater suffering that is happening around the world.
But as a wise friend once told me, just because the thing you are finding tough doesn’t seem as big a deal as others’ situations, it doesn’t invalidate your experience. This isn’t a competition or comparison on who has it worse. (See Brené Brown’s work on comparative suffering, which is enlightening, but is a subject for another day).
We all feel strongly when we experience conflict with our values and boy have I felt strongly about the loss of freedom and choice!
How can we accept what is so?
So how can we be fully accepting of all the things we find so hard to accept?
How do I accept the loss of freedom and choice?
(Ironically) we have a choice. We can do one of three things.
Either we can find the gift or opportunity from the situation, or we can actively turn it into one – even in the midst of great crises. However hard it might be to find it, there is always a gift or opportunity, even in the darkest of situations.
Or we look at what we are able to control and change and we put our energy and effort into doing exactly that.
Or we can let it go and choose to accept what is so, put it behind us and move forwards without any residue of unhappiness. We allow what is so to be. Acceptance is about not having expectations or a fixed view of the future or “how things should be”. It’s about relating to life as a series of happenings (most of which are out of our control), rather than being a central player in a story that we’ve made up and believe should happen. It is this fixed view of how life should turn out that causes our angst. When we let go of our judgement around how we think things should be, and go with what is, it is unbelievably freeing and liberating. The ability to dance with uncertainty and be flexible in the face of change and to look for the lesson in the process. That is where real choice and freedom lie.
Thus, the irony of my internal battle against my loss of freedom and choice, is that if I practice acceptance in my response to that loss, I get to experience real choice and freedom in the process.
The cost of not doing any of these three things.
The alternative is to deny, resent and reject what is, and allow it to eat us up and consume us with negative thoughts and emotions that sap our energy.
I realised that recently I have been doing exactly that, which is utterly exhausting and not particularly pleasant - for me or anyone around me.
Work in progress.
Hence, the lesson life is trying to teach me is acceptance. Acceptance of the loss of some of my choices and freedoms. I cannot control or change this loss so the gift is that I will forever more fully appreciate these choices and freedoms, which I completely took for granted before. The opportunity is for me to practice a skill (acceptance) that will serve me well for the rest of my life, as it is only through acceptance of what is so that we can truly find peace and happiness within.
Acceptance is definitely a work in progress for me, however. Some days I can manage it, and other days not so well.
What is it that life is trying to teach you right now?
Do you have any questions?
I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions or would like to explore how coaching might be able to help you with stress and anxiety, just get in touch. I'm very happy to have a chat.
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