“You can’t stop the waves, BUT you can learn to surf.” 🏄– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Do you want to be less reactive to circumstances and events?
Then this is for you…
Unlike what most people think our suffering does NOT come from our circumstances. Instead, it comes from the story we tell ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Read on…
Sometimes we are heartbroken, sad and down. And other times we achieve a major life goal and feel on top of our game – boasting with confidence. And most of the time we just hustle our way through life, trying to do the best we can with our daily obstacles.
Things are constantly changing in our lives and we are tossed around with them as they do. It’s like a never-ending rollercoaster.
When we look at our happiness levels, we discover that our emotional states are for the most part completely dependent on our external circumstances. We are happy when things are going well. And we are unhappy when things don’t go according to our plan.
And when we do feel happy, this feeling rarely lasts for long because our circumstances are always changing – from moment to moment.
Two arrows: one is inevitable, the other optional
Now imagine being shot by two arrows.
The first arrow is the actual life event, like a disappointment, someone’s rude behavior, a breakup, or the loss of a job. This arrow is out of your control. It hurts, but…
The Second arrow is what really increases your pain to the max. It’s the storyline we add on top of the actual experience.
This arrow is the cause of most of our suffering: Stories like “I should have done this better. I’m such a loser. I will NEVER find a job again.” If you are honest with yourself you have told yourself one story or another like this. I certainly have!
The thing is… most of the stories we tell ourselves are not really based on facts and typically they do not serve us.
The second arrow (which we create in our mind) makes the situation at least 10 times as painful.
How to become less reactive
What if we could learn how to respond to our circumstances non-reactively, so that we weren’t always thrown around by the ups and downs of life?
Believe it or not, we have a choice of what MEANING we give to anything that happens to us.
In other words, we can avoid shooting the second arrow.
So when we catch ourselves creating this huge drama in our head, can we just feel the pain in our body, and give ourselves some compassion, rather than condemning ourselves?
The best way I know how to do this is through the practice of mindfulness. I started practicing mindfulness when my life derailed completely in my early 20s. I have practiced mindfulness ever since. If I only gave one tool to my coaching clients it would be mindfulness.
The real reason mindfulness is so insanely effective in improving our mental wellbeing
Mindfulness helps us become aware of the stories we tell ourselves (the constant chatter).
Our mind is like a giant train station. There are trains (thoughts) coming from all sides. And when we are not really aware we automatically jump on most of these trains.
The real magic lies in becoming aware when a train is pulling us and having enough mental space to decide whether or not we want to jump on that train.
If you have never practiced mindfulness, give it a shot. There are so many great apps that guide you through the first steps. The apps also work for more seasoned practitioners.
Here are the best apps I have tried:
- Insight Timer
So this week, give mindfulness a try.
Or if you have already done it and dropped the ball get back into it. 5 minutes per day is a great start. I promise you will benefit hugely from this practice if you do it consistently.
P.S. The quote in the subject line is by one of my favorite people ever, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who brought mindfulness to the Western world in the 1980s.