Life is like the ocean. On the surface, everything may appear calm. But underneath, there is always more going on that we can't see.
Sometimes this is beneficial, particularly when life is overwhelming. If we were able to anticipate all the waves, twists and turns that life throws at us, we'd end up worrying about things we have no control over. We'd be constantly treading water in fear, waiting for the shark to appear in the ocean beside us. With information overload, we’d end up terrified to move in case we headed off in the wrong direction. After all, an ill-considered decision could prove to be fatal.
In reality, we don’t have control over anything, but believing we do somehow makes us feel more secure.
Instead, we’re in charge of how we respond to any given situation, but that’s about it, the rest is down to the flow of life. And in my experience, during the trickier phases, this is probably a good thing.
While we navigate through our turmoil, dealing with the unseen challenges as they arise, we need to be aware that others are also going through similar experiences.
We’re not the only ones, despite it sometimes feeling like this. We all have our stuff. Some of us talk about it and share our problems; others don’t. Neither is right or wrong; we all deal with life differently based on our upbringing, experiences, and where we choose to place our focus. But whichever method we use to remain sane, we need to keep our heart open to others. When we’re so focused on our troubles, it’s easy to forget this. Just as we frequently can’t see what’s coming towards us, perhaps until it’s too late, neither can those around us. During interactions, therefore, it’s beneficial to treat others with the same empathy that we would like to receive, remembering that we don’t know what’s going on in their world.
As humans, it’s common to complicate life inadvertently. Here are eight steps to help us surf the waves of life with more ease and grace:
1. Breathe. Breath is our life force, but we often take it for granted. We forget that while we go about our busy lives, our body is working tirelessly for us behind the scenes. When we breathe deeply, we bring the best of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally to any given situation.
2. Pause and take a step back. Pausing before we act or speak ensures we respond to the situation or person rather than reacting.
3. Listen, then ask questions to clarify understanding.
4. Consider the situation from the other person's perspective.
5. Replace judgement with compassion. We have no idea how the other person is feeling or what challenges they’re experiencing.
6. Try to bring a smile or humour to the interaction (when appropriate).
7. Be prepared to walk away. We will never get along with everyone all the time. Accepting this removes unrealistic expectations that we and others place on ourselves.
8. Trusting our instinct and having our own back when needed is imperative. We struggle with this because we prefer to see the good in others. It’s easier to doubt and ignore our concerns than believe someone else does not have the best intentions. But sometimes we need to permit ourselves to let go, move on and be there for ourselves.
Finally, we have been born to enjoy life and be joyful as much as possible, even though it doesn’t always feel this way.
When interactions are not going well or overwhelm sets in, repeat the eight-step process above. Going back to our breath is vital. Our breath is our greatest gift and where our strength lies, let’s give it the respect it deserves.