There are certain truths about life that I have come to know and no longer question. The one that keeps showing up for me lately is how life keeps offering me the same lessons, a.k.a. opportunities. They can be interactions with people, signs I see as I travel about, and the myriad of different experiences I have each day.
The lesson life has been offering me for decades now is how to practice taking a forward step of action, no matter how small, when I don't feel like it or want to. This happens most often when I feel overwhelmed and don't know what I'm doing.
Maybe for you, it's your struggle with conflict resolution. So, life will give you lots of conflict situations.
Or you might find it difficult to say no to people, so life will pile it on and give you a bunch of ways to say no. Some large, some small. When you say yes, when you should have said no, life will give you near instant feedback in ways like rumination, feeling overwhelmed and fatigue sets in. Not to mention resentment and anger when you're being pulled in too many directions and running out of time.
Whatever it is for you, the purpose of today’s article is to let you in on a secret power you possess. I can tell you with absolute certainty, you have the power to live life differently if you’re willing to see life’s repetitive lessons for what they are: opportunities to learn, grow and thrive.
Glinda the good witch in Wizard of Oz said it best,“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
Each of us, and that definitely includes YOU, possess this power. It’s an inner knowing that life is teaching us something. We can choose to see life’s difficulties and obstacles thrown our way as opportunities. We can then learn through trial and error how to navigate through them in better, more skillful way so that life can teach us a new lesson.
How do we harness this power within? Ah yes, that’s the tricky part (or is it?).
I'll try to explain using two real life, recent examples of mine. In just the past week I've been given reminders about the power I possess to reset in the moment and choose my next step of action.
First lesson: In yesterday’s Ten Percent Happier free work-life 7-day meditation event (btw, you still have time to sign up – go here and get started!), the meditation teacher said something that really hooked my attention. He said “our worklife can seem daunting…it can seem like we’re trying to solve a whole day’s worth of problems every moment, but this is just a trick the mind plays on us and meditation can train us to see through the minds theatrics of imagining insurmountable futures. Instead you learn how to take things a single moment at a time. Building up a working rhythm that becomes a flow, one moment at a time.” – Mathew Hepburn.
I genuinely paused when I heard that. I felt it, especially the words 'trick the mind plays.' It’s a lesson I needed reminded of when I feel a sense of panic and overwhelm in my workday. I can reset by noticing the trick my mind is trying to play on me and in that space of awareness, intentionally slow down, pause so that I can be with the present moment.
There, right there, that’s when I regained my power!
You have this power too! Tapping into it and using it to help you is a skill you can learn. When we train our attention to be with the present moment, it resets our mind and body. It’s not a one and done though. Like me, you’ll likely need to reset hundreds of times in a single day, but so what!!
Isn’t that solution a thousand times better than simply allowing your mind to play the overwhelm and catastrophizing tricks on you? Which one is harder to live with?
Ask yourself this, can I be patient with myself in a way that makes the reset skill my new way of being when I become aware of my racing thoughts, bodily sensations of overwhelm (tightness, adrenaline, hyper-reactive, defensive, etc.) and catastrophizing predictions? Those are all warning signals. Once you notice them, right there in that moment is an opportunity to disrupt the pattern, reset and take back control!
When teaching this skill to my coaching clients, I refer to it as the power of the pause, but reset also has a nice catchy ring to it.
Second lesson: Last week I was taking a Pickleball lesson and the instructor was trying to teach me the reset skill (really, it's actually called that) and how it’s a game-changer for anyone wanting to advance their skill.
Of course I was all in because, well, basically I’m obsessed with Pickleball and definitely want to improve my skills.
Here’s how I’d describe the reset. It’s when the pace of play is getting quicker and a bit frenetic causing you to get out of position or make split second choices that typically lead to unforced errors. You reset the ball using a light grip on your paddle so that you can make a controlled, soft drop shot just over the net causing the other team to slow down and change their pace as well.
The reset lesson was a reminder for me, in a bigger life sense. I can’t control what others do or how frenetic their energy becomes, but I can choose to deploy the reset for my own self-preservation and regain control of my game. The game of life that is.
Btw, I'm not yet good at the reset Pickleball skill, but I'm working on it!
So back to the lesson...yesterday when I felt an insurmountable pressure to get some work projects done that are really taking me outside my comfort zone, I wanted to do anything but take on the daunting projects. It was both the quantity of work, the complexity and an impending deadline I was facing. I could feel my adrenaline ramping up and my mind started spinning, but hallelujah, right then in that moment I recognized it. Becoming aware of it is the golden moment of opportunity.
I could quickly dismiss it and get back to worrying and catastrophizing OR stay present to the awareness and choose to reset. For me that meant slow down, pause, take some full complete breaths and inwardly remind myself that it’s going to be ok. Then, with a tone of friendliness I told myself, ‘of course you’re feeling the energy of pressure, fear, uncertainty and overwhelm Rusti. What you’re working on is something you’ve never done before. You’re learning and experimenting. There is no certainty what you’re working on will be any good, well received nor make the positive impact you’re hoping for. And you know what? That’s ok. Do it anyway. Reset and take it one to-do task at a time. The time will pass regardless. Go ahead and just get started. See what happens and how far you get today. That’s all you have to do.’
I often speak to myself in this way because it creates a sense of distance, like it’s my most helpful, loving self speaking to me and encouraging me to be and see things differently. It's something I learned and have practiced for years in my effort to change my inner voice from being a punishing critic to an encouraging cheerleader. It's still a challenge, but my cheerleader shows up more than my critic these days, so woohoo!
The reset skill (a.k.a. power of the pause) gave me the space and time to defuse the pressure and overwhelm I was feeling.
Ok now it’s your turn: What repetitive life lesson is offering you opportunities to reset?
There are themes to the repetitive lessons we get in life.
What are the themes in your life? Leave a comment and let me know how it impacts your daily life and your health. I promise to respond.
And if you’d like help and support in better navigating your life lessons, I’m always here ready to help. Reach out for individual coaching or watch your inbox for the announcement of my newest group coaching course, The Better Way Method, coming out in January 2022.
If you found something helpful in today’s article and think someone you know would benefit from it as well, please share it.