How do you handle unexpected life events? What happens when your best plans and intentions are thwarted by unforeseen circumstances? We’ve all had experiences when life goes in a very different direction than we would have chosen. It can be incredibly upsetting, and we might end up making things worse because of the way we react to what has happened.
Think about the movies you’ve watched where things don’t “go to plan.” Some of our most cherished fictional stories are the ones where we watch a character over-react to something that has happened only to make things WAY worse than if they’d just accepted what is and moved on from there. Some of my favorite films that illustrate this include Vacation, Meet the Parents, What About Bob, and Groundhog Day.
A few months ago, I held my first book-signing. Whenever I plan an event, whether it’s a recital, a presentation, or a family gathering, I imagine what could happen. I look for the problems that might arise, anything that could get in the way of enjoying the moment, or even unexpected fun surprises.
My book-signing was no different. I imagined an audience consisting of people I did and did not know. I could see myself talking about my book and reading passages. And I anticipated the post-presentation conversations I might have afterwards. Imagining this event helped me to prepare.
Life tends to unfold in ways we can never anticipate, however. Sometimes the unexpected can be a happy surprise. Other times, we might find ourselves experiencing something unpleasant instead.
My book event was scheduled on the same day as a street fair. I knew about this ahead of time and hoped that the people attending the fair would also be interested in hearing about my book. What I did not know was that I would be setting up behind the hosting shop rather than in front. Nevertheless, I set up my table and prepared for people to show up. My family and a few friends arrived, and we chatted for a bit until I realized it was time to start. Apparently, my audience would be entirely known to me, and the fair goers were not coming around to the event.
I did my presentation and received a very warm reception from my loved ones. Afterward, we spent a little time at the street fair in front of the shop. Once I was alone with my thoughts at the end of the day, I noticed some negative self-speak. “You should have asked where you were going to be setting up rather than assuming you’d be out front.” “You should have cancelled as soon as you found out about the street fair.” “It was 90 degrees outside- no wonder people didn’t want to come to your signing!”
Whenever the word “should” appears in my thoughts, I know that I am not accepting what is. I am resisting whatever has happened. “Shoulding” keeps us ruminating in the past rather than embracing a new experience and allowing learning and growth to happen. We end up in resistance mode instead. And resistance to ‘what is’ puts the brakes on forward momentum in life.
Accepting what life deals us can be challenging, especially when we feel disappointed or frustrated. Those are valid feelings that need to be acknowledged. But staying there is a recipe for STUCK.
In this episode of Growing in Uncertainty, I talk about how to resist less and accept more of what life presents. And I talk about how true versus fake acceptance looks and feels.