Have you ever felt like your destiny was controlled by external considerations, forces or people? If you’re in a plane that’s about to crash, your options are limited. If you’re about to be fired from your job, you don’t have much recourse to keep your job. If your spouse wants to divorce you, you’re definitely going to have difficulties in trying to stay married. Colicky babies, teachers who write the WORST exams, cars that break down just when you need them most… there are a LOT of times when control over the outcome isn’t in our hands.
Of course, you’ll always have those EXTREME problem solvers. The guy who tells you how to stop a lion attack after two beers. Apparently, you’re supposed to break its jaw. The lady who tells you how granny survived two world wars and the great depression. Turns out the secret is a garden and home canning! OR- how about that baby who can’t sleep through the night? Well, there’s this amazing naturopath who recommends a raw foods approach for mom AND baby; it’s only $1100 monthly for the coaching and special supplements. Now, all of these approaches may help a bit. If not, you could always give the lion some beer, give your neighbors some of your home canned jellies and give your in-laws some of your extra raw food recipes and some supplements. Family togetherness, right?
Extreme problem solvers deal in situations that most of us will never confront. Or- when we do confront them, we muddle through the terror of the bumpy plane ride that might land on a pride of lions. We figure out that for about a third of the cost of canning our own stuff, we can freeze some of it instead. Eventually the upset baby and overtired parents will figure out how to work around the dairy allergy, gastric reflux or better bedtime routine for themselves. It never hurts to learn a bit about some of these situations. It’s just that stress can induce us to try to master one million ways to survive things that we’ll probably never need. All of it will come at a significant cost in terms of our energy, finances, focus and happiness. It’s like spending all of our time on the thin edge of an unlikely outcome, instead of facing the more practical problems before us.
There’s another sort of extreme we often resort to. We resign. Figuring out how to navigate our surly boss and their micromanagement is too hard. Learning that new software is too taxing. Ratcheting down our dollars spent, calories or carbohydrates consumed or time spent on useless or trivial pursuits is too uncomfortable to even contemplate. So- we disconnect. There’s no nice, neat SOLUTION presenting itself. It’s not packaged as a single step surefire silver bullet, so we don’t wanna. It’s plain and simple: we don’t want to risk putting ourselves out there. Bad stuff is out there. Failure. Risk. Lions!
So we have a convenient and universally understood construct that we employ when we want to maintain the status quo: que sera, sera! Whatever will be, will be. That’s it! Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about the future. Just do what makes you happy now. When we’re tired, grouchy or depressed, we believe that garbage. Ask yourself, though- is it REALLY true that we’re not in control? Sure, we’re not in control of EVERYTHING. We are, however, in control of SOME things.
To keep that job, we have to follow up. That’s pretty much the same thing with parenting. And Peopling. For anything that we do where we want to consistently achieve better outcomes, we have to engage with energy, focus and intention. If we QUIT- what’s the outcome? It’s a roll of the dice at that point. In almost every circumstance, failure is inevitable. At least in the sense that the desire outcome eluded us. Fear of missing out on that desired outcome causes us to decline to put forth the effort required to have any possibility of attaining it.
Our mental equation after digging into the details of almost any challenge goes something like “I didn’t know when I started this thing that it was going to be so hard or take up so much time/ money/ energy/ effort. I’d better back off and see how we come out before I put any more resources into this thing”. So we don’t follow up on that lead for a job listing. We don’t haul our tired carcass out of bed to hit the gym. We don’t make the time to practice the flute. Or the new software. Or that recipe that we wanted to impress the gang with.
Worse, we don’t ask for things. We muddle through that crazy math class without visiting the Professor during office hours. We don’t sign up for that internship or scholarship. We don’t tell our nearest and dearest that we’re BLUE, DEPRESSED, just about OUT OF OUR MINDS with stress due to our children,, our jobs, our marriages or our other roles and responsibilities. (After all, que sera, sera, right?)
It’s a downward spiral. We disconnect from our own inner witness. The one that says that we are worthy. We are valuable. When we are in need, we may feel anxious, ashamed, hopeless or resigned. There is a need to find our own inner witness again. The one that says that we are worthy of the attention, commitment, connection, energy, relational skill, resources and time that others invest. That WE invest.
Spending time outside of the influence of the noise in our own head is essential to hearing our true self. Personal practices are a means of integrating the self by getting PAST the white noise of our anxiety, depression and even learned helplessness. We need access to these rituals and routines on a daily basis. There are contemplative spiritual practices such as solitude, silence, reflection, prayer, and meditation.
There are also activities that help with embodiment through creative endeavors such as art, cookery, dance, drama or movement. There are also transition times in our day when we unplug and prepare for the next part of our day: these may include listening to an audiobook, music, a soundtrack of nature or white noise or taking a powernap. Personal practices are like our joints and musculature in that they help us to do our peopling with more resilience, focus and engagement.
Unfortunately, we often hurry through our days when we feel taxed in terms of attention, energy and time. Unless these habits of integrating BEING and DOING are well-established, we may neglect this aspect of self care and set ourselves up for unanticipated negative outcomes with respect to our felt experience of daily life. We can FEEL more brittle, disconnected and just plain DRY.
Maintaining these habits reduces the likelihood that we will fall into the trap of being equally resigned to all outcomes. In THAT sense, personal habits are a practice (or a set of practices) that build up our optimism. They enhance our felt sense of competence. They increase our connection between aspects of the self including body, soul and spirit. They also enhance the likelihood that we will be able to tolerate a bit more of the craziness around us.
Whether it’s a relationship, a business or a grade from school that’s at stake, letting UP on our investments of time and work leads eventually to failure. Loss of work in terms of momentum leads to loss of the original vision. Sometimes, when we are most fatigued and most inclined to resign ourselves to the outcome- when it just seems like FATE will decide, we need to choose to work harder. We need to choose to see a better vision.
Now it’s just down to the believers. Me and you and just a few… “If it’s meant to be, it will be…” NO. Are you going to get into those skinny jeans on “que sera… sera…”? That school you want to attend? Are CLIENTS coming to you because it’s “meant to be”? NO! C’mon! Yes, we’re not in control of every aspect of every moment of our lives. We’re in control of our response. And- there’s power in that! For most of us, the change that we want to see in the world is the one that we first have to BE. (And DO.)
And- if you’re waiting for the world to change… you might be waiting a long time. There’s risk in choosing to accentuate agency. Do it anyway. Your life matters and it matters to a great degree in precisely the way that your beliefs, behaviors and the synthesis of those two things (alignment) say that it does. Go strangle the life out of resignation… Fifty five? Forty five? Ninety five? You’ve still got stuff to do! DO IT!