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How to Change Your Life When It Feels Like Nothing is Going Your Way

Happy peaceful woman

“The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.” ~Timothy Gallwey

Have you ever wanted something so desperately that you became devastated after many failed attempts to get it?

Has the same pattern kept repeating itself no matter how you tried to change it?

Have you ever longed for something so deeply that you lost interest in life when it didn’t happen?

There was a time when I felt this way. I was at a total loss for what to do next.

I wanted just one thing in my life, and I knew it would make me feel happy and complete. But it kept eluding me. The harder I tried to achieve it, the further away it became. I felt repeatedly heartbroken and cheated.

I didn’t think I was asking for too much. Many people had what I wanted. I had searched for years to find it and thought I deserved it. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t have a normal life?

I wanted to find my soul mate.

I kept trying, but I kept falling in love with men who couldn’t commit. Each time, my boyfriend and I seemed so compatible. I looked forward to every hour spent together.

I could envision a life together, and my boyfriend seemed to be on the same track. But one day he would drop the bomb—“It’s time to move on.” I heard the excuse, “The timing is not right” so many times that I resented it.

After searching everywhere for answers, I kept hearing the same messages:

  • When things aren’t working, you need to stop trying so hard.
  • It’s better not to be so emotionally attached to the outcome.
  • Things will work better if you drop your expectations and work with “what is” instead.

This contradicted everything I believed in. I’d always gone after what I wanted. It worked while I lived at home and at school. Why wasn’t it working now that I was on my own and the timing was right?

What Stops us from Getting What We Long For?

Defeated, I searched further. I learned that often when we feel hopeless and stuck in life, it’s not just that we’re trying too hard, it’s that we’re trying to control things.

It’s not possible to have everything the way you want it. Too many other variables are involved—primarily what other people want. We all have conflicting wants and needs, and our desires are often thwarted when they conflict with what others want.

It took me a while to admit that I might be controlling. But we live in a society of achievers. People learn to go after what they want relentlessly, and that’s what I had learned.

Once in a meditation class I attended, the instructor compared his laid back, Eastern students with his Western students. He said Western students try to grasp in order to achieve stillness in meditation. Eastern students tend to allow.

With meditation, allowing is the only approach that works. Grasping pushes away the experience of peace. You must let go in order to sink into a state of meditation.

Next I learned something that was even harder for me to accept—the underlying reason that we try to control things. We do so because we’re afraid. We have deep-seated, often hidden fears about life. By trying to put our lives in order the way we want them, we feel more secure.

That idea took some serious introspection. But being honest, I finally had to admit that I was lonely and afraid of being alone.

That’s what made me so intense about finding the right mate. And my result was the same as that of the people who grasped to achieve meditation. I was chasing my potential mates away.

I was prematurely expecting each relationship to turn into a marriage and acting as if it was a given. I wasn’t being patient and letting things develop. It was too much pressure for the men in my life.

An Experiment That Can Change Your Life

After realizing I was suffering from the perils of being a control freak, I realized I had nothing to lose. Out of desperation, I decided to see what would happen if I had goals but let go and let things unfold without directing them toward a specific outcome.

At this time, I had also been laid off from my job, making things even harder because I viewed my career as the other part of my life that made me complete.

I started big by vowing to let my next relationship be decided for me. After all, my track record wasn’t so great.

I viewed this as an opportunity to start over without trying to control—without expectations—with less fear and more faith. I set my mind to believe that things would work out if I relaxed, trusted, and went with the flow instead of against it.

I began to follow Deepak Chopra’s advice of “being the observer” of my life. I calmed my fears by trying to be conscious that there is peace in the brief moments between our thoughts.

I began practicing meditation and yoga with a yogi who showed up in my life. I started walking for an hour every day with a girlfriend, Mary, who I’d just met in my company’s outplacement program. She had been laid off the same day I was.

My life changed markedly in a very short time. For the first time, I realized I didn’t have to be full of anxiety even if I was single and unemployed.

I checked in with myself and realized that in each moment I was okay. I could handle this. I could slow down, try to find the best course of action, and focus on how to change—how to be more relaxed by allowing rather than grasping.

I still had goals, but I started going with the flow and being open to other possibilities instead of insisting on specific outcomes I thought would make me happy.

Incredible Things Materialize When You Learn to Let Go

Although unemployed, I began to feel far less stress every day. It was like a weight had lifted from my shoulders. I hadn’t been happy with my job anyway, and it felt great knowing I could try something new.

As a result of meditation, yoga, and exercise, I was able to stop the depression medication I had been taking for several years.

I had tried to wean myself off of it before, but it didn’t work until I loosened up and started being open to this new way of life—experiencing the possibilities instead of directing things.

Surprisingly, I was enjoying this experiment. I felt like I was truly living life instead of holding the reins, hanging on, and being thrown off course emotionally when things didn’t go the way I wanted. I started seeing that great things were coming to me.

Dropping my fear let me experiment with observing what was going on around me and allowing things to unfold. I began to see openings and opportunities I never would have found had I kept trying to make things happen. It was like opening gifts.

For the first time in my career, I decided to start my own business. And instead of hooking up with another boyfriend, I found a group of like-minded friends who made me feel at home.

I found them by joining a group Mary told me about. They were studying a book called, “The Quest.” When she told me about it, I said, “That sounds like something I’m on.” It turned up at just the right time—and so did Mary.

It took quite awhile for the right relationship to appear, but in the meantime something valuable happened. I got to know myself better, and I grew immensely. I became comfortable in my own skin and even grew to love being single.

Later when I was happy with my life, I met my soul mate and husband, Mike, at a singles event. He is completely different from previous boyfriends.

I knew he was the type who wanted a commitment from the start. His eyes sparkled the first time we met, and he was genuinely interested to hear as much about my life as I was about his.

We have so many things in common. We share the same interests, we’re intellectually compatible, and we even like the same food and furniture. Where we differ, we are still compatible. It’s amazing to me how it all turned out.

There is no other way to know what it’s like to drop your expectations and go with the flow unless you try it for yourself like I did. There definitely is no way to trust it until you experience it working.

I’ve watched others go through similar disappointments in life trying to make things happen. Many of us are wired to pursue specific outcomes that we believe will give us security. If only we realized we could be happier if we open up and tap in to what comes our way while we’re busy making other plans.

About Jan Tucker

Jan Tucker is an author, speaker, and yogi who helps people transform their lives by returning to basics, finding their inner balance, and living a healthier, less stressful life. She teaches the many “how to live” concepts of the full yoga path. Visit PerfectInnerPeace.com/ebook for a free subscription to her online magazine and the free e-book, “10 Ways to De-stress Your Life Permanently.”

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  • Isn’t being the observer just an amazing tool, Jan! And ah, control. It lies buried when we don’t even know it’s there 🙂 Just love your story!

  • Inner Peace

    Thanks Susan! yes! That is the crux of the matter…just an observation. ; )

  • Valentina

    Loved your story, Jan! I’m so happy that you eventually found not just what you wanted but something even better. Whenever I get anxious because I’m not getting what I want I remind myself to relax and wait for the universe to bring something much much better, beyond my wildest dreams. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  • Lily

    Jan, your story inspires me! This week I was discussing with my yoga’s instructor how it is dificult for me finding time to meditate and she told me that it is dificult for everyone, even for her that is doing yoga for more than 30 years. That if we really want, we should make this a priority. So, since last Tuesday, I am meditating. This is my new intention. Hope so, I can transform myself as you did to yourself.

  • I’m routing for you, Lily! I heard this from a monk who studies Yogananda, and I always remember it: Whenever you’re thinking about something you want to do that is extremely valuable to your life but you feel you don’t have time, think of it this way: You can always find the time to eat, right? Sometimes you eat a little more, sometimes you eat a little less when you’re rushed, but you always eat! (He was talking about meditation.). It made me smile…and he is so right.

  • Thanks Valentina, I find that the universe is much more intelligent about what we really need than we are. When it brings us things we don’t like, it is also good because it coaxes us to change and improve. It’s when we’re on the right course–when we are aligned–that the magic can begin to happen.

  • Lily

    Thank you Jan! I am so glad to hear from you. I am even more confident that finally I am hearing and attending the universe 🙂

  • Hi Jan,

    Thank you for your post! It contains a lot of excellent advice and wisdom.

    Who is the author of “The Quest?”

    Thanks!

  • rt

    Great blog Jan. I’m going through a major life change and am leaving my marriage of nearly 30 years. And the hardest thing I must admit is doing it alone. So I am constantly working on everything I need to get my life back and happening but really feel the pressure of where I’m at because things have not changed or happened. So I’ve decided to stop and surrender. To accept and realize I am doing the best I can and even if I’m not where I want to be, I’ve done everything I can.

  • Hi Dave, Thank you for enjoying it. Depending on where you are and what your belief system is (or what you want it to be), The Quest may or may not be the right resource. It is written by Richard & Mary-Alice Jafolla. I describe this book and others I recommend for different reasons on my website. If you’re looking for something specific, I’d be glad to make recommendations.

  • Hi rt, Surrender is a very powerful thing. It’s what letting go is all about. I could write a book about it! I wish you well on your new journey. Just remember, one step at a time.

  • Jeremy

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. I am familiar with patterns of control…and I needed to hear this message. I have recently gone through a period of growth and I am open to the Universe and believe the outcome is better out of my hands.

  • Jeremy, It’s wonderful that the timing of this post was right for you. What an exciting time in your life. You’ll think back to these days and smile at the change in your perspective. Enjoy what comes!

  • regina

    Their has been so much in my life that i have had to question.My life has not been very simple.When thing are going good somthing seem to happen. But i am an optimist i also believe their is more to life then waiting for somthing to happen.If you believe in your self and your capabilities to achieve.To go higher then you thought was possible .

  • rt

    Thank you.

  • Hi Regina, Yes, that is the issue…when things are going well something seems to happen. John Lennon said “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”

    The question is, how can we best deal with the obstacles while moving toward our goals? Can we navigate the waters by heading straight for the waves? Will a 45 degree angle give us a smoother ride? Should we change course altogether and find a way around the storm? Should we head back and start over?

    Life has infinite options and we are free to try them all.

  • Lindsay

    Just what I needed to hear at this point in my life. I have such a hard time letting go of control. I never realized how much of a control freak I am until I couldn’t control my circumstances. It should be easy to relax and let go, but I’m going to have to be forgiving of myself and take little steps toward that goal. Crazy how hard it can be to relax in today’s world. Maybe my husband can help to hold me accountable 🙂 Thanks for the article!

  • Thank you for reading and commenting, Lindsay. I think we all need reminders about this issue. I still fall into it sometimes. It helps to identify the underlying fear that is driving us to want to have control. Then we can work on letting go of the fear which is a really healthy thing to do! Good luck with your experiment! ; )

  • Rosemary Hugharts

    Wow, very insightful, especially about trying to control things and why we do feel the need to aggressively go after what we desire.

  • L

    Jan thank you for writing this. The past couple of years have been hell for my need to be in control, absolutely nothing has gone my way. For some reason I think I need to master non-attachment, either just as a life lesson or something that will serve me in my career. I’ve spent most of my life in and out of depression and struggling with crippling anxiety, but I found God/Source and am slowly learning to let go of my attachments. The biggest one is probably my life purpose and career, I’m super ambitious and the timing just doesn’t seem to be right yet. Hard not to feel like a useless human being but I’m aware that the only way I can achieve true success is to be completely at ease with the possibility that I may never actually be “successful” according to society. I’m learning to be gracious, open, positive and deepening my empathy for myself as well as humanity, because what good is success if you can’t be a decent human being eh? 🙂

  • w

    I can relate. I’ve been having this problem for years, especially the part that giving pressure to men and think that marriage will happen just like that. Having too much expectation. I am very anxious about everything and what I imagine about future most of them are negative.
    When I read your story I feel a bit relieved that I’m not the only one feeling it.
    I ended up aware that I don’t love myself and tend to blame anybody around me when things happen.
    I wish I can be far more better and enjoy the flow of life.
    Thank you very much!

  • Otávio

    This doesn’t help me at all. All of this talk about letting go is only useful when there’s no danger you’ll end up in a mental hospital or damaged for life. Anyone who has gone through some serious hardship (not mere disappointment with life) will realize that if you don’t keep you feet on the ground, you’ll be overwhelmed and completely lose the way back, and there’s no way to look at this in a good light.

    In any case, I’ve been struggling for years with a series of serious issues (health, spiritual, mental) and all I can say is that the only things I learned from this is: 1) not to conform our lives (and our understanding of our lives) to any doctrine or philosophy; and 2) that it it’s VERY important to make the world a better place to be lived on; and 3) losing the sense of an enclosed personality will lead you to break through isolation, which is the only thing that will save you from very difficult situations. No matter how well prepared and skillful you are, you cannot go too far all by yourself.

    I have to say I agree with allowing things into your life, and that I find this article useful in some cases. There are points in my life where I can see myself putting all of this to good use, but right now is just not one of them.

    With all of this said, I can only point out to the fact that we all come out wiser after the difficult trials of life. If anyone is reading this who is in some serious hardship, I can only tell you to learn the power of cooperation and solidarity. And after life is done abusing you, use that experience and make a vow of good will to help others in need. This is the only path to erradicating suffering from your life (and the world).

    Believe me, it’s much better to work hard, making sacrifices to help others than to struggle to save your life when it is too late.