Written by Beau DeCourcy
To what degree does your reality depend on your immediate environment? In other words, how easily is your mood, thoughts, and feelings affected by your surroundings, situations and opinions of others? From my experience, far too many people’s quality of existence relies on too many factors they cannot control. Misfortune, bad weather, abrasive people, heights, uncertainty, etc… Each one of these circumstances can make a happy person scared, angry, depressed and so on.
A weak reality is dependent on outside factors to be happy. Frequent and quick fluctuations in feelings and moods may reflect a lack of self-control and thus an inability to reduce and manage stress effectively. But changes in mood and feelings are choices made by each of us. Control your thoughts and you’ll control your feelings. A simple concept to understand, but difficult in application. Learning to minimize negative reactions and feelings from any issue, big or small, is a skill that can guide you to a better existence.
Letting small and relatively inconsequential daily happenings influence your thought process is not only a waste of time, but adds to an already stress-laden existence for most of us. Furthermore, more serious misfortunes can be made worse if they pull you into a state of chronic distress. They are to be dealt with and resolved, and without a doubt they require energy and attention, but cultivating a reactionary reality is not only stressful, but robs us of our freedom to experience life as we choose. When we partition our brain power toward pointless thoughts of revenge, fear, loathing, and insecurity, we compromise our ability to navigate trying times successfully, and we ruin our chances to experience freedom in our feelings and even more to the point, a happier life.
Take a moment to evaluate how often you feel yourself being drawn into a negative train of thought and recognize how these thoughts serve little purpose. On the other extreme, avoiding problems can make the situation even worse and is also the reaction to a fragile reality. Learning to deal with both, annoyances and serious misfortunes and situations skillfully is important.
Below I have listed five practices that have helped me in fostering a strong and positive reality. I certainly have not been in nearly as many bad situations that others may have, but I have experienced, as we all have, both day-to-day dilemmas and dangerous and stressful situations. Each of the practices below have allowed me to, not only successfully overcome these situations, but grow stronger from them. Perhaps the greatest benefit in applying these principles is the return in freedom and control over my own thoughts and feelings.
The Five Practices:
1. React less, and relax more: Climbing has taught me that bad situations require good attitudes. If a negative incident or situation, no matter how inconsequential, affects you so completely that you are consumed with negative thoughts, you will become incapable of making the best choices in the situation. Simply don’t allow yourself to react on impulse feelings; relax instead. By relaxing, your mind will be able to focus on what matters, and not on what bad things can happen.
2. Widen your gaze: When something frustrating or unfortunate occurs, step back from it and realize there is little you can do immediately, in most cases. Try to see the big picture and how inconsequential the problem may be in the scope of your life. Often times we hinge our reality on such microscopic problems that we lose perspective and inflate the situation rather than deal with it effectively.
3. Don’t be too serious about it all the time: If possible, find the humor in the situation. Not every situation or problem has a humorous side, but most do. Find the paradox and satire in your situation. Doing this will lessen the negative affect it has on you and will allow you to see a different side to the problem.
4. Remember: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Take solace and pride in your resiliency. Past problems didn’t kill you and may have made you stronger. Many people have overcome great hardships and have become better people because of great misfortune. You’re no different as long as you choose to come back stronger. Trying times tend to have two different affects on people: they either harden and become stronger under pressure or collapse from it; both outcomes are choices.
5. Fake it if you need to at first: As my jiu jitsu coach and mentor Jay Jack says: “fix your face.” Meaning, just because you feel pain or anger or fear doesn’t mean you need to display it to the world and certainly not to yourself. A strong face/composure will spread and change you from the outside, in. Any adversary, animate or inanimate, responds to your demeanor. Look like a victim and you will become one. Allow that abrasive person to see they are getting to you and you’ll allow them to succeed. From here on out, smile at your fear, and gaze confidently upon your obstacles before engaging them.
By implementing these five practices, your reality will strengthen so that annoyances or larger problems will not consume your existence. Often people react negatively to undesirable experiences because they feel that is what they are supposed to do; to suffer through issues, rather than skillfully navigate hardship with perspective.
Remember that a strong and positive reality fosters freedom and happiness. It is in uncertainty that the greatest freedom is found, and without a strong reality, navigating uncertainty can be difficult.
What practices do you utilize to strengthen your reality?