I used to run with great effort, foisting myself forward with each step, and when my gait slowed, I would sprint to quicken my pace. I was rewarded for these efforts with shin splints, Achilles strains, and plantar fasciitis. Running and the feedback it gives your body are simple processes, and I chose to defy these communications with a fiery will, and unnecessary, complicated movements. Life is like this for all of us. We have values and set goals, and when the flow of life resists our plans, and gives us feedback, we resist its rhythm, determined to control it with our complex tricks and action plans. Like any good card player, life calls our bet and raises the stakes with even greater obstacles. Eventually, we feel overwhelmed and quit.
What if I told you that you could avoid this disempowering pattern by simply learning to trust life’s feedback? Obstacles emerge because there is something relevant for you to learn about your personal life or work. To meet these needs, you must slow down and address them even if they are not obvious steps towards your defined goals. Having an interesting and evolving life requires something that most of us forget: the unknowable. Let this sink in. IF LIFE WERE PREDICTABLE, THEN YOU WOULD NEVER LEARN ANYTHING NEW. Give yourself permission to observe, adjust to, and respond to things that do not instantly make sense, they just might better your life or save another’s. Of all of the interventions I have ever used with patients, perhaps the most successful involved me making fun of myself for several hours in the middle of the night to maintain the attention of a suicidal patient at a residential facility. Spoiler alert: she lived. Nobody would want a moment like that, and it sure did not seem to fit my goals at the time, but my life and hers are unfathomably better for it.
The Plateau-Flow Model
It would be a terrible crime to speak at length about lessening your life complications without providing you with a model to use. Fear not! I have one. It’s called the plateau-flow method, and it works as follows. Set goals which reflect your values, and work towards a plateau (i.e., accomplishing an important goal). When obstacles encumber your work, trust the flow, and address these obstacles with the understanding that they serve a necessary part of your journey. When you eventually peak, switch to recovery mode, trusting that the flow of life will lead you where you need to go.
In this way, you will live an inspired and evolving, but much simpler life than before. You will avoid unnecessary injury or illness – both emotional and physical – by trusting the feedback and challenges life gives you. As an added bonus, the self-compassion and acceptance you show life’s obstacles will help you better understand your own life and the lives of others, which will translate in to more success and happier relationships. Much like my newfound, injury-less running, you may find that listening to life instead of dictating its terms will allow you the freedom to appreciate it, and feel at ease.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 265. In The Books.