You can't bounce without a collision
When the world is chewing; casting and rolling you from side to side in its cavernous maw, it is hard to catch your breath, to seize but one moment to figure out what is going on. You feel that if you could just get your thoughts in order it would all be fine. But it won't stop.
The song goes that your mother warned you that there would be days like this but while no doubt her notes on what you should do would be similarly aspirational, helpfully they are not so musically accessible. So what to do?
Make time. You have to. I know that doesn't seem likely but the world is not going to stop, no matter how much we plead and beg, so we have to create the time and space for ourselves if we are to have any hope of learning anything.
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then the theory goes that you probably misunderstood the situation! Possibly, but action is not the same thing as progress. Granted, philosophical contemplation for hours is also not going to get you all that far. Here goes
- Breathe! (Take this next step with caution if you have breathing or heart issues, check with your doctor). In for a count of 6, hold for a 2-count, exhale for 7. Keeping your heart rate under control helps oxygenate your brain and helps keep your hormonal responses in check.
- Focus on your values. What is important to you? Really important. What matters about what you are trying to do?
- Forget about the result, it will take care of itself, and is seldom the real goal.
- What is the next thing you can do to enact your values. Not tomorrow. Not later. What is the very next, right this moment thing that will get you closer to what matters?
- Do that thing. Right now.
- Repeat steps 4 & 5. Continue to focus on your values and the process, taking one step forward at a time, constantly aligning yourself to your current situation, not how it should be or might have been but what you have now.
Of course, that isn't easy. You could quit. "They" say 'you can't quit'. It's nonsense, you can quit anytime. People quit a myriad different things at every minute of every day. Right this moment, somebody is giving up on reading this post! Quitting is easy.
What "they" should tell you is that while quitting is in fact an option, quite often, living with that decision is neither an act of simplicity, nor particularly short-lived.
I've tried both options (I know, to those of you who followed the burpee year, you may find that concept strange, but I am actually pretty average) and while the results are somewhat skewed by my mental make-up, as an experiment it appears to be replicable with different subjects. Sticking stuff out is hard work and often hurts but the pain fades quicker and is easier to live with than the pain of giving up - at least after the initial analgesia of temporary relief.
Now that's not to say that everything we do should be like getting involved in a land-war in Asia. We are human. We are allegedly intelligent animals. It is perfectly acceptable, and indeed recommended, to review results after the initial investment, compare what we are getting and what is required with what is important and what, if anything, we are prepared still to give. If after that we decide to walk away, go for it.
The shame is not in giving up, it is in forgetting what matters and choosing an easier path that we sell to ourselves based on a lie.
So what about defeat?
What about it?
There are very few perfect records in life. And while we might all dream of being the elite, the pointy end of the evolutionary pyramid; but statistically speaking, it is much more likely that we will be average. Which means, we will probably lose some, just as we are likely to win some along the way. The result is a statement of fact, not a statement of worth. Deal with it. The point is to fight for it. To crush where we may and go down swinging if fall we must. And either way, the glories of victory and the anguish of loss - they both pass. So we must once again remind ourselves of what matters and set to it. Or not. The choice remains ours. But know that it is a choice to be made and in accepting that to be true, enjoy that simple freedom. It may not seem like much but it is something that nobody can take from us.
Where does that leave us? Well, if we chose this, if we determined this endeavour for ourselves, we may as well cherish this experience and relax, for this is our time. We can do our thing - that thing that nobody else can do, for they are not us - and do it with our all because we know that, at some level, it matters to us. And that being so, we cannot be defeated. We may not always win but we will not be defeated.
As Orwell wrote (far better than I ever would)
"The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with a power to learn from past mistakes"