One topic that often comes up in conversations with my clients is “how to keep it together when sh** hits the fan.” This conversation takes many forms and the question can be asked in different ways. But that’s basically what it boils down to. How the heck do you keep your cool, stay calm and graceful, when everything seems to run amuck?
This is not one of those articles with 4 easy tips to stay chill as efff when things go awry. I’m not going to tell you to just take 10 deep breaths, go to your happy place and move on. I’m not going to say that, because if it were that easy and simple, we’d all be doing it, no one would feel stressed or anxious ever, and the whole self-help industry would fold. Tony Robbins and Oprah and their whole gang would become obsolete and need to take up new professions like figure skaters or accountants.
There isn’t a simple equation to follow, pill to take, book to read, or mantra to repeat that keeps us in this continual state of Buddha-like patience and ability to stand solid as a rock as things crash and burn around us (or it might feel that way).
Because some things that piss us off today, might not even pop up on our radar tomorrow. Something we would normally view as benign might seem like a nuclear explosion when we’re least expecting it. We’re changing and shifting and evolving who we are each day. And this means the circumstances that challenge us evolve with us.
And when it comes to the tools we pick up and use to support us – the books, the breathing exercises, the journaling, the therapy, the accountability partners, the lifestyle and exercise…it’s not just one thing that’s going to create the tipping point for us to stand up more powerfully or succumb to the stress. It’s EVERYTHING.
It’s who you hang out with or who you’re married to. It’s where you live and how you spend your time. It’s where you work and what kind of work you do. It’s what you eat and how you move your body. All of these things combined together will either increase or decrease your ability to withstand what life throws your way.
The truth is, or my truth, is that the choice to stay powerful in the wake of chaos and breakdown is a moment to moment decision. It’s a rep building process to develop consistency. It’s a practice you dedicate yourself to. And it’s all the time. Opportunities to grow and relate 24/7, served up hot and fresh.
It’s funny how we might have all the tools, the knowledge and understanding of what the more powerful move is. We can be an example of maturity and responsibility and a source of inspiration for others when they get the opportunity to choose, and yet we’ll avoid that route at all costs when it comes to our own circumstances. We’ll speed by that exit on the highway, flip it the middle finger and spit out the window as we travel on to more nonsense and bullshit, fully aware of what we’re choosing.
No one is immune to this reaction. The invitation to “Fuck Everything Land” is quite tempting. Most of us will take a visit there every once in awhile. And that’s ok. No one said you had to keep it together, every time, all of the time. But there’s a point when you realize that those trips aren’t serving you – they’re actually making you a more angry, stressed and unpleasant person. Taking that wild detour happens, but what’s more important in the grand scheme is how much quicker you get back on course once you realized you’re off.
Here’s my second truth when it comes to keeping yourself together – there’s too many damn things to be grateful for. There’s too much abundance around me. When I feel that fire start to rise up within, when things aren’t going the way I would have originally intended, or I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face by life, I remind myself of the fact that all my basic needs are met, every single day. I have plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. I have talents and skills I’m able to market and monetize on. And I have incredible relationships with people around me who love me unconditionally.
Abandoning all my faculties at the arrival of any discomfort or frustration and allowing myself to be overrun by it is a blatant act of disrespect to all that I am blessed with. It’s like it ejects you out of the present and creates this fixation on past or future, neither of which we can control. It’s also a total act of self loathing – withdrawing from my own emotional bank account and trust I have within myself to handle anything that might pop up. Our reaction is indicative of how we see ourselves and our ability to cope with these life situations.
So instead of seeing the shit hit the fan as a doomsday sign, it can be a reminder of all that we do have to be grateful for. An opportunity to laugh at whatever it is that’s trying to test our patience and will.
I know it’s obvious, but I think it serves all of us to be reminded that we’re not promised a tomorrow. So anything that takes us away from the present moment and causes us to doubt who we are is not worthy of our time and energy. We are not defined by our shit-hitting-the-fan moments.
Shifting the objective from remaining zen-like all the time at all costs to treating it like a continual practice of self-discovery and love is a more effective way of keeping gratitude and personal power up. Because the stuff is always going to hit the fan. And that’s a lifetime of learning and growing.