Last time, I suggested there were seven important steps to staying on course when, in times like these, the sea of life gets choppy.
Let's look at one of these steps more closely:
Let go of needing certainty and embrace change as the prevailing context of our time.
There's an ancient Chinese proverb used to heap curses upon an enemy: "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period". Some say its' modern translation is "May you live in interesting times."
Looking at the world today, it's pretty safe to say we are swimming in the soup of those "interesting times". Welcome to the Age of Change and Transformation! You can resist this reality and cling to the past or you can surf the tides of change and ride into the future. The choice is up to you. And don't think you don't have a choice in the matter. Thinking you have no choice is a choice; one that keeps you tied to the past.
Human beings are hard wired to seek certainty and limit their exposure to the unpredictable. We naturally want to feel that we have "everything under control". To a certain degree this is desirable and to a lesser degree, somewhat possible. It all depends on what the meaning of "everything" is.
If, what we mean by "everything" is that which is within our 2% sphere of control, the chances of being successful go up. The trick is to keep in mind that nearly 98% of what happens in life is outside our sphere of control. Catastrophic events often come with no warning. There is no cosmic "off" button we can push to prevent life from occurring on its' terms instead of ours. So, if you can't always control your circumstances and resistance doesn't work, what does?
Become a surfer. The old saying "If you can't beat em, join em" applies here. Change is happening. It doesn't care if you like it and it isn't waiting for you to be ready. Learning how to surf in the tides of change will require that you stretch yourself and kick up your courage a few notches. If this sounds intimidating and you tell yourself "this isn't for me", consider this; you're already in the soup! Why not learn how to swim?
In a world where speed is rewarded and change is constant, life takes place on the fly. We've become a "drive-by/drive-thru" society, slowing down only long enough to place our order and pick it up at window #2.
Learning to surf in the tides of change requires that we re-wire ourselves. We need to adapt a new model for how we respond to life, one that allows us to replace the old, culturally conditioned automatic reactions with the ability to consciously choose how we frame what is happening in each moment. This is a skill that can be learned. It takes an intention to do so, lots of practice and someone who will interrupt your old ways when they rear their charming heads. Here are some points to keep in mind:
1) Embrace the reality that life isn't happening to you; it's just happening. As hard as it may be to swallow, most of what happens in life is not personal, although it may seem to be. It's not raining on you; it's just raining! If you walk in the world thinking that life is happening to you, you're destined to suffer. Life happens. And then you choose.
2) Give up the need to be right and opt for what works to forward your life instead. This is a big one. Needing to be right about the way we see things doesn't leave much space for learning outside of what we don't already think or know. Consider the possibility of re-interpreting right vs. wrong to working vs. not working. Does your point of view open new possibilities for learning and taking new actions? Does it empower you to be creative and take risks? Are the people around you empowered by your presence? Is your life being forwarded in a way that is rewarding and gives a sense of freedom? This is my definition of what works. It's not right or wrong. But it does open new doors and forwards the action. A point of view that doesn't work is one that keeps you in paralysis, recycling the same issues over and over and never really making any progress. It's not about being wrong. It just doesn't work to move your life in a direction that is satisfying. Hence, opting for what works vs. being right helps to get you unstuck.
3) Get comfortable being uncomfortable. These "interesting times" are not especially comforting times. Surfing the tides of rapid change can feel a lot like being in "free fall". You could choose to see that as too scary, say "no thank you" and stay on the shore, or you could choose to see it as an exciting adventure that requires your full attention.
4) Learn to cultivate stillness. That may sound like a contradiction when we're talking about surfing in the tides of change. But in the midst of the outer turbulence, take time to discover the oasis within. This is what will restore you when life gets too crazy. Give yourself daily visits to the well of your inner wisdom. Spend time in silence and be still. Let your breath be your guide in this inner terrain. Invest fifteen to thirty minutes a day in your inner sanctuary and you'll reap enormous benefits. More on cultivating stillness in future posts.
The gift of these times is that surfing in the tides of change demands we wake up, stay awake and learn to be present in each moment. No falling asleep at the wheel or hitting the snooze button! Your life is an exciting adventure not to be missed!