Yesterday I had a meeting that I didn’t want to attend, didn’t go my way, and didn’t leave me feeling particularly well. In fact, I still haven’t totally shaken the feeling. We all face situations like this, so, how am I dealing with it?
Life is going to be disappointing at times, sometimes destroying everything around me. The secret is to understand how little control I actually have over my own life and become comfortable with this idea. Two important steps I’ve taken to train my mind in advance of difficulty are my daily meditation practice and studying the ideas behind stoicism.
I’ve written before about how important meditation is for me, but I still cannot stress it enough. My morning use of Headspace is the most important thing I do every day. Dedicating my fist twenty to thirty minutes of each day to this practice sets my mental framework for that day and, cumulatively, each day going forward.
Two of the most life-altering books I’ve read in the past year are Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I think a common misperception about stoicism is that the idea is to live without emotion or enjoyment. Both books help to dispel that notion and introduce the concept of acceptance and objectivity in a practical way.
I’m always amazed by how my mood changes after I work up a sweat. Exercise is funny in that it’s somewhat a form of meditation. My mind has to be present and focused on what I’m doing, or I’m going to drop a 70kg kettlebell on my head. This helps me create some distance between me and whatever I’m feeling. I’ve spent the past year and a half following the training protocols of Pavel Tsatsouline through his books Enter the Kettlebell and Simple and Sinister. Prior to that I was an avid crossfitter for several years. And prior to that I weighed almost 250 pounds, I was unhappy and unmotivated.
Sometimes a little distance is all I need to help me step back, look at a situation objectively, and figure out what’s really going on. I’m a pretty impulsive person, and that means my initial responses are typically emotionally based, without too much thought or reason. As one might expect, my initial responses are not usually the best responses. What I need is perspective. Perspective is what I receive with distance. Distance is what I receive from meditation and exercise.
These three concepts share a cumulative relationship. They build on each other and they build over time. I can’t have one without the others, and if I ignore one I’ll lose the others. Only with all three together can I arm myself for future difficulty. My real secret with how I deal with adversity is that I don’t deal with it. I prepare for it.