Have you noticed that it isn't so much what happens to you that determines the quality of your life, but rather how well you deal with your life? It's about what goes on inside of you that matters far more than how you measure up to some external measurement of success. I'll take inner success any day.
We all have challenges to face -- some we will see coming and others will arrive out of left field. It seems odd that we are all left to our own devices to figure out how to cope with our trials and tribulations. Why aren't we taught some basic life wisdom and coping skills early on to better equip us for our life's journey?
With 20/20 hindsight, here are five wisdom tidbits and coping skills that have served me best in facing the more challenging parts of my life.
- Always look for the embedded life lesson. The question I ask myself here is "what is life trying to teach me?" Have you ever found yourself complaining about your life, claiming that you always ... or you never ...? These types of beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies because our beliefs are a filter through which we encounter our lives.
Think of it this way -- something happens that you don't like. You process that new experience through your existing beliefs, attitudes, and memories. That in turn generates the same old autopilot thoughts and feelings that you have always had to experiences like this. Then, your behavioral response is a fait accompli reflecting this point of view. It has become your way of experiencing your life. That's how it works, but how's that working for you?
Remember Anthony Robbins' quote, "If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten"? To get out of this endless loop, consider the possibility that all of your life experiences carry wisdom that is just waiting politely for you to invite it into your consciousness. So, do that. Probe deeper into your beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Look for patterns of how you create, promote, and allow your own suffering. Look for alternative responses. When you are open to receive life's lessons, they don't have to keep presenting themselves to you again and again.
- Trust that what happens is for your highest good. Have you ever lost your job or had a loved one die unexpectedly? Did you think your world had come to an end or were you able to see beyond your fear and grief to where the blessings might be? Having shared a home with my mother for the last nine years of her life, I put much of my life on the shelf to have quality time together and to serve as her caregiver. My loss of income and social isolation were more than made up for by the precious moments and deepened love we shared. I learned things about myself and about life that I can't imagine having encountered on my previous life trajectory. Catching a curve ball in life can open up new doors that you didn't have any way of knowing existed. Sometimes, they are the access point to some of life's most precious treasures.
- Focus first on embracing the undesirable truth. Whether receiving a terminal diagnosis, watching your marriage fall apart, or not getting accepted at your first choice college or the job of your dreams -- look it straight in the eye and accept it. It's so easy to fall into immediate reactions of blaming and judging others, getting down on yourself, or simply being in shock or disbelief. I remember when I hit black ice going 60 MPH and totaled my car. Having gone backwards down a hill and having the rear end of the car sliced in half by the tree that finally stopped it, I remember my first thought was, "I'm alive."
It's good to start with the fundamental facts and go from there with as little drama as possible. Just breathe into the present moment to bring your consciousness present to assess reality. When we start extrapolating with high drama mental and emotional scenarios, we are rocketing off into our imagination rather than being present to deal with reality. Be present in your reality, no matter how scary it is. You might just be amazed at your quick thinking, resilience, and fortitude once you accept the undesirable truth and get busy doing your best to deal with it.
- Take care of yourself and do your best. Some of my biggest life challenges have come in the context of people who wished me ill, didn't like me, or simply held beliefs dramatically different than my own. I have found that when I get into to trouble in these situations it is because I am focusing on trying to change the other person's point of view or behavior towards me. When I really succeed in dealing with these situations it is because I focus on taking care of myself and loving myself through the situation rather than trying to defend myself or my point of view in an effort to change the other person. It's taken a number of these unpleasant experiences for me to learn to let other people live their lives their way while I focus on doing my best to love, nurture, and protect myself. Opinions are like noses -- everyone has one.
- Find good help when you need it. As a life coach, I don't view my clients as sick or broken for needing my help. I see them as the smart ones who know the value of good resources. After all, how can you be expected to know something until you learn it? Life presents learning opportunities to us all the time and sometimes we need a plumber or doctor or marriage counselor or Hospice care. If we are smart, we seek and embrace good help.
If you have any other favorite pieces of life wisdom or coping skills, I hope you will share them in the comments section below.
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