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5 Principles to Live by When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~ Maya Angelou

We all have our stories, don’t we?

Some stories merely create a ripple in our lives, while others go deeper. So much so that they can change the course of our lives.

Dramatically.

Mine is such a story. It’s no sadder or deeper than anyone else’s. It’s just life; and I how I choose to respond to it, I have realized, is what really matters.

My story was (and still is) big enough to change the course of my life, though.

I chose to respond to it holistically, and by letting go of control and trusting what the universe has in store for me.

It wasn’t as easy as that, however. It never is. And I certainly didn’t decide to respond in such a way overnight.

What is my life-changing story?

My story is of endometriosis and infertility. With the pain that visited me every month, I had always suspected I had endometriosis. It’s not usually something a person really investigates, however—unless, of course, she’s in the midst of trying to start a family, without any success.

Which is exactly what happened in my case when my husband and I decided it was time to grow the clan from two to three.

After a year of trying, it was time to take a look at what was going on. What followed in the next year was a mixture of failure, heart beak, frustration, anger, and disappointment.

In all my adulthood, I had been in control of the key events in my life, and was very successful. I did well in my studies, I held great jobs, I bought myself a home, I travelled to destinations I wanted to, I married the person I love.

Now, for the first time, something that is considered so integral to life wasn’t going to come so easily into mine.

And I was soon to learn that infertility has more consequences than the obvious one of not being able to have a child.

I had to question everything I thought I knew about life:

  • What will my life look like without children? Will it be empty and purposeless?
  • What will my relationship with my husband be like as the years go by? Will it be meaningless? Will it last?
  • How will my family feel about me? Will I (and my husband) be pitied?
  • Will friends who have children still be a part of my life? Or will we drift apart because I don’t have any kids for theirs to play with?

I have realized that my actions are the answers to these questions. My actions are my choice.

When something unexpected comes your way, take a step back, take a look around at the whole picture, and decide how you’d like to respond.

This was something that I did—eventually. I decided that even though I had no children, I still could choose to lead a purposeful life, one that is enriching and filled with meaning. And the steps I mindfully decide to take each day will create that life.

I’ve bundled these steps into 5 overarching principles, and I hope they help you respond well to whatever unexpected challenges that may come your way. They certainly help me.

Be brave…

…about discovering who you are. Many of us have our lives totally mapped out—this is how many children I’ll have, this is where I’m going to live, this what work I want to do—to the point where we may not question whether it’s what we truly want.

So when something unexpected happens that changes our life plans, it can shake us to the core. We become vulnerable, unsure of ourselves, and unsure of what to do—and this can feel very uncomfortable. Be brave and ride those feelings out, because you may just discover what it is that you are truly in search of.

Be honest…

…with yourself. Even though life hasn’t turned out the way you had planned, it does not mean that you have failed. There’s no need to make excuses, judge yourself, or shy away from this truth.

And it’s okay to feel angry and hurt; these are natural feelings and are a part of being honest with yourself. But acceptance is necessary. Accept what is. The sooner you realize this, you will be able think clearly and take steps in the right direction with a positive mindset.

Be open…

…to a different life and to new experiences. There’s no point hanging on to what could’ve been, because it can make us bitter and resentful.

With an open heart and mind you can truly let new experiences into your life. You never know what exciting events may come your way, but that’s the beauty of it.

Be gentle and kind…

…with yourself. Whether you believe what’s happened in your life is your fault or not, you must be gentle with and forgive yourself. It serves no one, especially not you, if you don’t “talk” to yourself lovingly.

To create a life of purpose, we must first love ourselves, because only then can our actions come from the heart. And when your actions come from the heart, you see clearly, feel strong, and are sure of your choices.

Be trusting…

…of yourself and the universe. All you can do is your best and go with the flow—and trust that your life is turning out as it should be.

Going with the flow can be challenging, especially if you’re someone like me who likes to be in control.

So remind yourself constantly that even when you try so hard to create a life that you want, the universe may decide otherwise. And how you choose to respond to it is what matters—that’s really what life’s all about.

Flow with the nature of life and you will have the strength to handle everything that comes your way.

Photo by Engendered_human

Avatar of Lesh Karan

About Lesh Karan

Lesh is a holistic food and health coach, and a real food blogger. Her life hit a road bump over 4 years ago when she couldn't create a (baby) bump of her own. So her corporate life took a mighty left turn into the world of holistic health. Lesh now helps others to eat well and be well through her 1:1 coaching , blog, and eBook (to be released in 2013).

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Holly Ennis

    I admit I didn’t read the entire post before I decided to comment. But I just couldn’t move past this very sad story without being surprised that you hadn’t considered adopting a child. The world has plenty of children that will grow up without love and it just seems like you have so much to give. I understand I don’t know you personally and there are myriad factors at play in this decision but I do wonder if it is not still possible for you to build a family despite the cards you have been dealt. I do not mean this as a criticism or even a judgment but I was just curious as to why this might not be a viable option. I am in no place to judge (I personally haven’t even tried with my husband yet so I don’t know about my fertility possibilities so who am I to judge!). Just wondered what your thoughts were.

  • kdavenport25

    Lesh, as I sat and read this post I began to cry because I am in the exact same situation as you. I have felt everything you mention in this post. Thank you for writing it. For long time I have had no one to relate to on this matter nor have I found someone to address it so honestly and thoughtfully. All the principles you mention are so helpful and true. I have been visiting Tiny Buddha for a long time to find inspiration and daily courage in dealing with the sadness associated with infertility. This post today really helped me and made me realize I am not alone. Thank you so much again.

  • Lina

    Such a relaxing post, naming the most powerful characteristics of a loving life. I love it, and try to live by this every single day.. It is hard to keep focus on these values, yet without them life gets blurry and purposeless.

    Thank You!

  • Kristin

    As someone also struggling with infertility I can tell you that adoption is not even remotely as simple as most people think it is. International adoption has become a complicated mess of paperwork – many countries are now closed to it or struggling to become compliant with the Hague convention. Domestic adoption can cost a couple between $25,000-$35,000. Adoptions are also subject to miscarriages (something falls through, the birth mother decides to parent, etc). After years of struggling with infertility sometimes these stressors are too much to manage emotionally and financially. You have to be able to fully mourn the loss of the biologically child you thought you could have and move on to adoption with a completely open heart, shutting one door before you open the next.

  • Lori

    Exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you for sharing this post! Such a great reminder to be gentle and kind with yourself.

  • Holly Ennis

    Makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for your insight. I am so sorry to hear about your struggles and I appreciate your willingness to share and educate me in this. Best of luck to you and have a great day.

  • AlpineTiger

    Great words to start my morning on the right foot.

  • Sumitha

    Lesh, I was in your shoes a few years back for the same reason, and frankly, I didn’t handle it half as well :( Kudos to you for such a positive attitude! My heartfelt wishes to you for dealing with however the story of your life unfolds…

  • Razwana

    Lesh – acceptance is the biggest form of forgiveness; especially in a situation like this. Something that can feel very final can end up becoming the start of something new.

    And forgiving yourself? It’s the first place to start ..

    - Razwana

  • Joan Harrison

    Trusting the universe is the key Lesh. I think you are amazing for realizing and trusting that there was another route that had been planned out for you. Good for you for using your lessons learned to help others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.lareau.1 Jonathan Lareau

    Great post Lesh…thank you. Here is another quote that I’m sure you can appreciate. Not sure who it’s by: –”Every time we think we are being rejected from something good, we are actually being re-directed to something better.”

  • fabi

    thanks! indeed, I am in a very difficult moment realizing that what I truly want may not happen. Life can be such a roller coaster!

  • Amna

    Beautiful :)

  • Tra

    Wow this was a great article. It resonates with me in struggling with my current situation. Thank you for creating a source of light for me and letting go of that control. xoxo

  • Penny Lee

    Thankyou, perfect x

  • Kate

    Thank you for your post. It’s helpful. Though, you should be very thankful/grateful for your husband, as I’ve waited 39 years for one. Nothing. I’ve wanted a baby since I could talk, but as of today, just having a man who wants to be my companion is enough. It is VERY difficult to accept that it may not happen, though. Being alone in your late 30s, and (possibly) going into your 40s and (possibly) life is something I can’t fathom. I’ve been patient. I’ve been good. I am compassionate. I give. I love. The one thing I’ve asked for, PRAYED FOR, for almost 39 years, is…just…not….here. It breaks my heart.

  • http://twitter.com/GoalsHappenHere Goals Happen Here

    You created beautiful life growth from something difficult….and are also helping others…kudos to you!

  • katt

    Thank you Lesh for your thoughtful words. Your statement- how you choose to respond to it is what matters- resonated with me a lot. I needed to be reminded.

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    That’s a great quote! Thanks Jonathan :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you for your heartfelt words. It’s not an easy situation to be in at all. And I’m glad that my post may have helped a little. Sharing your story does help to heal. So I hope you find support and can share your story openly. I wish you much peace in life and many beautiful miracles x

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you Sumitha for your kind words. It took me some time to get to where I am now, so please don’t be too hard on yourself. And I wish you all the best with your life too. Life is a miracle, so let us all embrace it whole-heartedly :-)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Hi there, thanks for your comment. We did explore adoption, and as Kristin has said below, it is a whole gamut of paper work, and years of anguish to know if and ever you can adopt a child. In Australia we have strict rules. there is no private adoption — we follow something called the Hague Convention — which means we can only adopt from certain countries, and even so each country has a quota on how many children from their country are ‘allocated’ to AUstralia. Beside, successful adoption also brings up many other challenges that having your own child doesn’t.
    This is quite a complicated topic, so I hope I was able to give you a snapshot of adoption — at least in Australia.

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you for sharing your story Kristin, and for explaining the trials and tribulations of adoption. We had considered it too — and decided after investing that it wasn’t for us. Especially since we saw a friend go through the adoption process as well and how emotionally challenging it was. My heart goes out to you. I wish you peace and joy despite your situation.

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you! :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you so much Katt. We always have a choice in how we respond :-)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thanks Razwana. Totally agree :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you Amna

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    My pleasure Penny!

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thanks Tra. I’m glad my post could help you :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    I’m so sorry Kate. Yes, I am so very grateful for my husband — if that didn’t come across in post, I’d like to shout it out loud here that yes, I am blessed to have him in my life. He is my rock.

    You can apply the same 5 principles of this post to your situation too, Kate. Even though it must be hard to hear, trust that your life is unfolding as it is meant to and respond to it gratefully and graciously. Miracles do happen. I wish you all the best in your life story. x

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Hi Fabi, thanks! Yes, life is a roller coaster — might as well enjoy the ride! :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank Joan. Yep, trusting is key, and sometimes its easy to get caught in life and forget about that. I also need a constant reminder. Much blessings, Lesh :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thanks Alpine Tiger (what a great pseudonym)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thanks Lori! :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    So true Lina. Thanks for reading and for your comment. All of us need constant reminders, and it’s great that Tiny Buddha creates the space to do that. :)

  • http://twitter.com/mindfulfoodie Lesh Karan

    Thank you Lori for having me here on your beautiful, inspiring site. I am honoured to be here and humbled by everyone’s thoughtful and kind comments. May you be kind to your life and that life is kind to you. Much blessings to you all. Lesh x

  • Joy

    Lesh, so many great points but I really love how you said,” Be open……to a different life and to new experiences. There’s no point hanging on to what could’ve been, because it can make us bitter and resentful.” I think that is really key “when life doesn’t go our way.” I know that was my pattern “when life doesn’t go my way.” to hang out in what could have been. Sure in certain circumstances it can be helpful to reflect so we can learn (for instance if life didn’t turn out our way because of something that was in our control). As someone who has spent a lot of time trying to change what can’t be changed I recommend this advice strongly. Thanks so much for your openness and sharing. Many blessings.

    Love,

    Joy

  • Mary

    I like this article, especially where you mention the questions you had to ask yourself:

    I had to question everything I thought I knew about life:

    What will my life look like without children? Will it be empty and purposeless?

    What will my relationship with my husband be like as the years go by? Will it be meaningless? Will it last?

    How will my family feel about me? Will I (and my husband) be pitied?

    Will friends who have children still be a part of my life? Or will we drift apart because I don’t have any kids for theirs to play with?

    It is true that we often have presuppositions that play into our emotional reactions when something does not happen the way we expected. In fact sometimes that is the main cause of our emotional distress (I am not saying that is necessarily the case with you, I don’t know).

    I myself am dealing with a chronic illness, fibromyalgia. I experience pain but the worst symptom is chronic fatigue which means that I have had to give up driving and a job that was very fulfilling to me. As a result I feel like I am in limbo, because no one really knows what causes this illness or how to treat it. I am only 48 years old and I often feel like my life is over.

    Of course the reality is that this is just another challenge, and it is up to me to find what meaning I can in this. I have felt like I have lost my purpose in life, but who says that having a fulfilling job is my purpose in life, according to the Universe? This is an assumption that I have made, which may be completely wrong.

    As I slowly try to sort this through I have started a blog, and I see that maybe this is how I can be of service to others, even though I cannot work at an outside job. Who knows it might lead me into another career as a writer. We’ll see.

    Again great article. You gave much food for thought.

  • that.girl.next.door

    Hi Kate, out of everyones post, your resonates with me the most. My heart goes out to you! I met my now husband almost three years ago and not a day goes by where I dont feel so fortunate to have met him after so many disasterous (and sometimes traumatic) relationships. I am 36 soon. Keep dreaming babe and never give up hope, because life’s journey is sweeter with your soul mate I dont care what anyone says!! I so hope you meet him. (We actually met on a dating site and have been inseparable since).

    And yes, we have been battling infertility with no identified cause the whole time we have been together. It is absolutely heartbreaking, especially failed IVF, however I feel so so fortunate to have met my wonderful husband to begin with.

  • http://twitter.com/gsmilyg Smile

    Sumitha & Lesh try to think beyond these wordly desire. Everything you get out of this world has to be left here only. Try to focus on GOD rather then these worldly things. GOD has given everyone some time to live in this world. Why to waste that precious time for worldy things? Rather try to understand who U R? Sorry I am little hard but this is the truth of life.

  • Sumitha

    @twitter-98438891:disqus, While I am a bit of an agnost, I completely agree with the spirit of your message. There are things you can control and things you can’t. Better spend your energies on the things you can control, like your own attitude which @twitter-125450593:disqus has shown an excellent example of in this post. The rest, will work out the way they were meant to be… irrespective of how you deal with it.

  • Michael :)

    “Letting go of control and trusting what the universe has in store for me.” Love that!

  • MehdiRene

    Great tips to *always live by! “Flow with the nature of life and you will have the strength to handle everything that comes your way.” Love that. Thanks for the words and wishing you the best.

  • Lucy

    Great post, thank you – and very close to my heart. This is another quote that is one of my favourites: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”~Joseph Campbell”

  • NYCSCM

    infertility is a special kind of pain, and I’m sorry to hear you are experiencing it. I am too, in a different way: we get pregnant, we just can’t stay pregnant. The questions it has raised about my relationships with my family, husband, friends and my own body are difficult, but also – i’m glad for the experience of learning more about myself. no one knows what the future holds but for you to feel so calm in the present and in the face of the unknown is true peace. I’m so glad you’ve found that and wish you all the best.

  • Ramya S

    Great Post,Lesh. Thank You very much. You have put forth the questions that go on in my mind too all the time..I’m also in the path of pro-creating , having seen a few battles in the past..and hoping that things will turn out well in the near future..Initially, I didnt want to disclose that I(we) were having trouble retaining the baby that we conceived..I didnt want the sympathy, I didnt want the unsolicited advices, I simply didnt want to face people..But, now, I’ve come up to a level where I can share my story to a few..I started a blog, where I vented..Societies in countries like India have not yet matured enough to let people be on their own as it is in many western countries..People try to poke in adding more pain ..However, all said and done, as you pointed out, it is very much in one’s hands as to how to deal with the situation..My husband has been telling this for a loong time..But, its very difficult for me to let-go all the time..The “all-the-time” being in a equanimous state is more of a challenge now. Thanks for the post.

  • Niki

    I am right now going through the sort of ordeal i wish it never happened. My father throughout my childhood was caring and giving and loved my mother. Suddenly after 23 years of their marriage, he chose the path of infidelity. I was the one who confronted him and brought it out to my mother and sister. Not Once, But Twice. And even today, i always doubt his actions and believe that he is still cheating us. My mother forgave him and moved on because she loves him and us. I now feel that I have no control on his actions. I want to forgive him but the belief that he is still cheating stings badly every minute. Even if he is still cheating, he cares of us and lives with us. What should I do?

  • Niki

    Hi Lesh..This story inspires me a lot. I suffered from and ordeal i wished had never happened. My father since my childhood loved us and my mother. He has given us good values and good bringing-up. We were a perfect family. Suddenly after 23 years, he chose the path of infidelity. And i was the one to confront this and bring out to my mother and sister. Not once, but Twice. We were shattered but my mother chose to forgive him because she loves us and him a lot. I am now living in a life full of doubts and belief that he is still cheating on us. It is very difficult and painful to accept the truth. But even if he is still cheating on us, he lives with us, fulfills our wishes and cares for us. But I cannot stand him cheating but i realize I have no control over his actions. I want to let to of the thoughts that i cannot control. My life has turned upside-down. I now want to change the way I think. I think I just need a little time and I can move on with my life and accept the truth.

  • Qwerty

    Excellent post. iIts funny because i was just going through a battle with myself and the part of me that wants to not give up found this article by googline “principals to live by”. I read it and your words were the perfect fit to reiterate that i don’t have to lose this battle.

  • emma

    great attitude and very true

  • usman

    rpmanandvan-removal.co.uk

  • Asus a

    This is 5 blur principals which is good for people does not think with different views to a subject themselves and let’s others think for them. It is like curing an AIDS patent with stopping his defense system because we do not know the cure! But the cure EXIST! We still didn’t find it! So think instead of letting your self going with the flow!!!!Maybe you are the one to find it.