“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” ~Seneca
Like most people, I’ve tried to control many aspects of my life, and this hasn’t always worked in my favor. Just when I thought I had it all under control, life has inconveniently shown me many, many times that I was getting a little too cocky.
You name it, I’ve tried to control it—from my schedule and time (hello, Type A personality) to forgoing random opportunities because my mind was made up on going a certain direction. I even tried calorie counting at the height of my exercising routine because I wanted ultimate control of what I put in my body.
Now, none of these are necessarily bad. Planning your time leads to efficiency, forgoing things because you are on a mission means you might be on the path to your purpose, and calorie counting could help you get the body you’ve always dreamed of. But when you do these things day in and day out, all at the same time… well, let’s just say the process can be stressful.
But I tried anyway because I figured I might as well try to control what I could since life was going to be random no matter what. It also gave me satisfaction, almost a somewhat false sense of accomplishment, that I was shaping my own destiny.
I think most of us fall into this way of thinking, because we all want to foresee things before they can potentially happen in order to feel safe. But ironically, when try to control life, we end up missing out on possibilities that may have come our way if only we’d let go and allowed life to happen.
It’s hard to say what exactly I’ve missed out on because of my former desire to control most aspects of my life. I won’t worry myself too much about it, because it’s a pointless exercise. But I can think of a couple big areas, one of them being a complete career shift that could have happened much earlier on in my life had I not resisted so much.
Instead, I was rigid and decided that I wanted to stick to a career that I didn’t enjoy because it was my college degree and I was making great money. I did end up switching careers eventually, just not in the area I had a unique opportunity in at that time.
The Three Golden Rules
Try as we may, we can’t always control life, and sometimes painful things happen that we couldn’t possibly predict or prevent.
Recently I lost a job that I was excelling at and actually enjoyed. My performance was on fire, I got along great with all my coworkers, and then one day, out of the blue, I got called into the CEO’s office and told that, due to ongoing strategy changes at the company, my time was up.
Talk about knocking the wind out of my sails. I had just gotten back from a work conference and was slated to lead a new project before receiving the bad news.
Has this been easy since it happened? No way. I still struggle with it daily. But somewhere, deep down, I know that life happens for me, not to me. And that this has created an opportunity for something bigger and better.
What is that something? If I could predict the future, then I’d probably be playing the lottery knowing I’m picking the right numbers. But I can’t foresee what’s coming down the road. I can only choose my attitude when I hit roadblocks along the journey, which ultimately shapes my choices.
What helps me maintain an optimistic attitude and cope when thing go wrong? Three very important ideas:
1. Life happens for you, not to you.
2. This too shall pass.
3. Be with what is.
When life doesn’t go to plan, we must embrace the change and realize that our lives are comprised of chapters; one has ended and another one is about to begin. But we can’t move on to the next chapter if we continually re-read old ones. We have to willingly accept that life goes on, and that we have a chance to create something bigger and better.
I lost my job, but I don’t want to play the victim card. Yes, life has forced my hand, but that doesn’t mean I need to feel sorry for myself. This just means I have a better opportunity coming my way, whatever that may be.
I also realize that time plays a crucial factor in our lives. Our time is limited, and it consistently passes at the same speed, with no bias. This means that, with time, the inner turmoil I am currently dealing with will, without a doubt, pass.
Last but not least, I know that I must be with what is. In other words, stop resisting. Fighting the fact I lost a job won’t suddenly bring it back. Fighting the fact your relationship ended won’t necessarily have them running back into your arms.
Before we can move on, we must accept what is happening in the present moment. Then and only then can we proceed forward with calmness and clarity.
But There Is No Golden Formula
I understand this may not be easy to digest when you’re hurting, especially in situations that involve a loved one. Grieving is a natural part of this process, and I am not discrediting it in the least. It's part of the human experience, and it's okay to take as long as you need as you internalize.
I lost my father over five years ago. The death of a loved one is probably the hardest loss to deal with. How are you supposed to see the space that has been created from such a tragic event? I understand if you don’t, because I fully admit it’s been hard, even five years later.
But at the same time, I trust that life is working for me somehow. I just have to stop resisting. I have to understand that the feelings of loneliness, desperation, fear, and loss will pass. I have to stay in the moment and fully accept all that is happening to me.
No, it will not be easy, and it isn’t meant to be.
Trust The Process
You’ve probably heard the proverb “If live gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Our lives are a lot happier when we strive to make the most of what life gives us, but the step before it is equally important: trust the process and embrace the change, whatever it is. Only then, once you stop fighting it, can you go about making your lemonade.
We've all been faced with situations in our lives that force our hand. And we likely will be faced with these kinds of situations again in the future. In these moments, it’s important to hold onto the notion that life could be creating space for you to do something differently.
If you lost your job and didn’t enjoy the work, life is potentially giving you a hint to pursue something further aligned with your passions and purpose. If you went through a breakup, life is potentially giving you a hint that you deserve and can do better.
When I look back on my past, I realize that every loss has taught my beautiful, valuable lessons that now help me in the present. The same is likely true for you. In these moments of inner turmoil, or let’s just call it life turmoil, you are taking mental notes. Mental notes that will help you grow and help you in the future when dealing with whatever else life throws your way.
You’ve made it through loss and hardship before, what makes you think you can’t now? You can. You just need to remember three things: life happens for your benefit not against it, everything heals with enough time, and it’s pointless to keep resisting.
With these ideas in mind, it should be exciting to think about the potential you have in your life.
The next chapter could be even more amazing than the previous one. And you may even have chosen to start that chapter eventually. Your schedule just got moved up a bit.