Have you ever had big plans and felt like you finally knew where you were heading, just to have life laugh sadistically in your face? How do you handle these times when you get off track? What I see most often is anger and self-flagellation, and often a guilt-ridden path back to where we think we should be.
Luckily, there is a better way. In the last 14 months, I have been: not exercising consistently, working crazy hours, neglecting friendships, gaining weight, letting my blog and podcast collect cobwebs, and feeling overall stressed about the limited number of hours in the day. In the last 14 months, I have also: fallen in love, gotten engaged, bought a house, started a new role in my company that brings me immense fulfillment and great experience, traveled to new places to volunteer my time, and felt overwhelmed with gratitude that my life is turning out this way.
If you had asked me 16 months ago what the next year of my life was going to look like, I would have told you with confidence that I was going to move to California, continue working on my blog, launch my podcast, and focus a lot of my attention on eating healthy and exercising. I’m a perpetual planner, and in the past, I would have felt completely derailed by such a dramatic turn in life events. I would have berated myself for not doing enough, for not following through on my plans, and I would have been miserable. Instead, I’ve chosen to maintain gratitude for the incredible opportunities and experiences I’ve had in the last year, and I’ve accepted the chance to make a new plan.
One of my friends and mentors tells a story about advice she got from one of her mentors. He told her life is like surfing: you have to learn when to let a wave pass you by and when to paddle like hell for the shore. This metaphor is incredibly poignant. Sometimes you catch a wave and nail it, other times you wipe out, and still other times you wind up far from where you expected. We don’t always have to be perfect and catch every wave. We can intentionally sit one out, recognizing it’s not the right time, trusting another wave will be right behind it. And if we don’t see that wave right away, we can learn to be patient and accept where we are.
So much of how we choose to view ourselves and our lives is our choice. Where do we put our focus? What good can come of this? For me, the most important parts of cultivating patience and acceptance for all the curve balls of life has been connecting to my Why and fiercely holding on to gratitude. By articulating my Why, I can go beneath the surface and see that even though my life hasn’t gone according to plan, there is still plenty going on that serves my higher purpose. And why constantly chase what I don’t have or deem myself as “less than” when I can focus on all the tremendous gifts in my life? Sure, I could focus on the extra fluff I’ve gained around the middle and hope that my self-loathing will motivate me to make changes, OR I can focus on all the laughs, experiences, and delicious foods I’ve enjoyed with the person who cracked my heart wide open. Perception is reality. If we perceive our lives as wanting, then they will be. However, if we choose to be grateful for everything we have and learn to trust that life will unfold the way it should, then we’ll be ready to catch that next big wave when it comes our way.