“What is This Here To Teach Me?”

In life we expect to encounter our share of failures, whether it is as trivial as not being selected for the softball team or having a business deal fall through. No matter the magnitude of failure, they all exist to teach us something as long as we are open enough to listen to the message. The most successful people in the world have all risen from failures of the past, and have adopted them as contributors to their story, not a tarnish.

It is easy to give up after failures, not wanting to face family at holiday parties and admit to the lack of tangible accomplishments. It is easier for us to give the whole thing up and just stop feeling the pressure of others expecting something from us, right? Well, that feeling of embarrassment exists to do just that, to have you give up in order to protect us. Our minds, which were once wired for protection from predator threat in the wild, are still wired for protection but protection from negative emotions. Now that we no longer have to fear the attack of a wild animal, our minds have evolved to protect us from mostly social fears. It is the protective mind that will tell you that you should stop if you don’t want to feel that embarrassment or rejection again. It will stop you if you let it.

Knowing that each failure exists to teach us something is the most powerful thing to get us through the debilitating fears the mind as produced, and have us continue our journey to be great (whatever that may look like for you). Next time you are faced with a failure, ask yourself,

“What is this here to teach me?”

In my own life, I have found that the lesson to cultivate the persistence to continue pursuit after failure, alone has been enough to continue my journey. There are times when I do get discouraged and think things would be easier if I just gave up and throw up the white flag to all of the people who have never understood what I have been moving towards.

Who you are meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So, learning to appreciate your lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future are clear signs you are moving in the right direction.

~ Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure (2012)

Oftentimes these failures can feel like taking steps backwards, but the fact is that simply taking that action was progress enough because those who never took action could have never failed and learned, or won anyway.

Perhaps the answers are just you need to better equip you for the step in your journey. Keep going!

Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.

Appreciation > Expectation

I previously wrote a post about freeing ourselves of expectation, which did not encourage having “low” expectation, but to rather have none at all. In this post I want to take a deeper dive into the dangers of having expectations and how it can sabotage our friendships, romantic relationships and work relationships. The appropriate word for this challenge is indeed, “sabotage,” because we place this danger upon OURSELVES with expectations.

The main danger of expectation is its capability of overlooking appreciation as a result, in all scenarios in life. For example, perhaps your significant other took out the garbage without you asking but left the bottles in the bin in the kitchen. You expected him or her to take BOTH the garbage and bottles out without you asking, so what does this typically lead to? This leads to the overlooking of what your significant other DID do and focus on what he or she did not do. Now, is this fair to your partner who thought he or she was helping out? I’m not sure that it is. Rather, if we were free from all expectation in this scenario, we might be more likely to see what our partner had done and appreciate him or her for doing the task at all.

Another example might be the expectation of getting something in return for doing a friend a favor. Your friend asks you to drive them to the airport often, asked for help on a new move or asks for a money loan. As a result, you are keeping score of these favors you are doing for this friend and expecting them to repay you for all the things you have done for them, and when they don’t return the favor, resentment builds.

The true destroyer at the end of the day is this resentment that has resulted from expectation over appreciation. Perhaps you can relate to a time when you had a friend or significant other who did things to show their appreciation of you but also omitted from doing other things that you had expected of them to further show their appreciation. It just wasn’t enough in your book. How did this relationship work out? Most likely, after continuing the cycle of expecting and not getting, while overlooking things to appreciate, resentment built and most likely tarnished this relationship till it could no longer be repaired.

So, now I ask you whether it was, in fact, them, who was the problem in the relationship for not having obeyed your expected (and often unexpressed) request, or was it you, overlooking what they did do any rather focused on what they did not? I encourage us to work on freeing ourselves of expectation or at least communicate our expectations to another. Conversely, focus on the good and appreciate what this other person HAS given you. Is it worth losing over expectation?

6/25/18

Three Things I’m Grateful For:

  1. Pursuing the curricular work/ activities that bring me joy everyday
  2. Having a loving family and friends who I get to talk to and see daily/ weekly
  3. The gorgeous weather we have been having in the Northeast

Embracing “Fluidity” and Feeling Connection

I’m not sure others share in this experience, but there are many times I have interactions with people and cannot help but observe them—the way they talk, listen and present their ideas. These intriguing people are who I can only best describe as having a sense of “fluidity” in the way they are. Some characteristics of people with this “fluidity” are open, attentive, curious, shameless, spontaneous, and non-judgmental, to name a few that come to mind. I observe these individuals from the perspective of a student, yearning to adapt this more fluid way of being in my everyday interactions.

All of us, myself included, can be guilty of having our minds drift during conversation with a colleague, worry about a friendship or family matter in the middle of an experience that should be wonderful, truly not listening to someone who is close to you because we are distracted, ashamed to voice a more raw version of an opinion because we feel humiliated in its potential inappropriateness…

These sort of actions are indicative of not living our life with fluidity, something that seems to come so naturally for some and not for others. I have learned overtime that much of this hindrance comes from insecurity and shame.

Insecurity and shame are the feelings that have us retract from our real and natural self to adapt to environments and social circles in fear of turning others off or not fitting in. On the other hand, people who present themselves in this fluid way appear, conversely, to be secure and shameless, free of worry or care for the thoughts and opinions of others. As a result, they often seem to experience connection more easily. Now, whether or not that is true of them, I am not sure, but the more I am exposed to people I at least perceive to be this way, the more I am inspired to work on letting go of my shame and insecurities to live a more fluid life, regardless.

The one thing that does give me hope that the fluidity in these individuals is genuine, is the look in their eyes. I don’t know exactly how to explain it but the look in their eye is that of a portal, as if I can see right through their pupil with no wall blocking our connection. All of us are guilty of unconsciously stunting connection at times with small actions such as holding back texts you want to send, letting the mind adrift during conversation or responding with what your audience wants to hear rather than your own opinion in an effort to feel more accepted. Ironically, acting in this less-fluid manner has us feel less connected, more insecure, more self-conscious, and in turn… Still not feeling accepted.

I encourage us all to embrace the actions of the “fluid” by truly listening to one another, be genuinely curious of one another, act on intuition, say what you want to say when you want to say it, don’t hold back opinions and be more courageous to disagree (one I personally must work on the most). We are only forced to be ourselves this way and we have no choice but to prompt more connection.

5/7/18

Three Things I’m Grateful For:

  1. Having the opportunity to be part of a family beyond my own
  2. Being surrounded by people who love me and people I love
  3. Experiencing the challenges in life with those I can lean on