- October 23, 2020
You’ve heard many self-improvement writers tell you that you get to choose how you feel about situations in your life. They tell you that your reactions to events matter more than the events themselves.
Here’s the thing though. Often, in the moment, those events impact you in such a way that you just can’t help but feel the way you feel. This works both on the positive and negative ends of the spectrum.
There’s this quote from the movie Blow that shows exactly how your emotional processes work:
“Sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust, and when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again, but life goes on.”
When you’re caught in the moment, caught in your emotions, it’s hard to learn valuable lessons from what happens to you. But you can learn to look at the situations in your life and analyze them in a way that makes you better off in the future.
Does everything happen for a reason? No. But you can adopt an attitude that’ll increase your odds of having long-term success in life. Learn to adopt the attitude that the moments in your life are there to teach you something.
Far too many people go through life without taking the time to use what happens to their advantage. They just throw their hands up, go through the emotional swings life puts them through, and try to make it to the next day — an entire life spent going through the motions. They live out the quote I mentioned above but never draw any lessons from it.
Be different. Start paying attention. Look for signs in the events that happen to you.
The Most Powerful Teacher in the World
Sometimes people ask me why my writing is ‘harsh’ or ‘aggressive’. I keep things frank and blunt because lighthearted messages tend to go in one ear and out the other. As much as I love inspiration as a source of motivation, it pales in comparison to pain. Nine times out of ten, frustration gets you to act.
When painful moments in your life happen, or when you’re just feeling a general sense of malaise, use those feelings as a signal to act.
I used to store all those frustrating moments at my job in a mental bank that I’d use to stay motivated while writing on the side. It kept me going for the half-decade it took to pull it off. Those moments in my life taught me the value of sacrificing my short term emotions for long-term results.
My wife left me about a year and a half ago. For those first few weeks after the split, I finally knew what real depression felt like. I did wallow in my feelings. I didn’t just instantly snap out of it. Controlling my perceptions took time.
But after the pain subsided to a degree, I used it as a signal to act and drew lessons from the situation. I learned how to be authentic, create boundaries, work on myself at a deep level, and translated a lot of that pain into art. That period yielded my best professional year after my worst personal moments. I didn’t let my pain go to waste.
Don’t let yours go to waste either. Am I wishing some tragedy to happen to you? Hell no. I just know people go through various levels of pain and frustration in their life.
The universal lesson is that pain is a sign that something needs to change. You don’t need to chase the perfect life of self-improvement non-stop without ever being content.
But if you’re not happy, if you’re frustrated and dissatisfied, there’s probably a reason for that. You should investigate that reason and use the answers at your disposal.
If you ever find yourself truly down and out, you can learn the valuable lesson that destruction gives you room to build. Sometimes you’ll never reach a new level until your current situation crumbles.
Of course, you don’t just have to learn from pain. You can learn from everything. You can learn from success. But make sure you draw the right lessons from that, too.
Valuable Lessons You Can Learn From Accomplishment
One lesson I’ve learned from success is that luck plays a role. I can look back on my life and see a few chance moments that moved my life in an entirely different direction. I worked hard but I try to avoid the belief that I know all the answers or have some golden touch.
When good things happen to you, when you succeed, understand your success is a mix of both factors.
Let’s say your relationships, career, habits, etc are moving in the right direction. Teach yourself, right now, that you should never take the good things in your life for granted and that no situation is finite.
As you grow in your self-improvement journey you’ll pick up tons of little lessons along the way.
You’ll learn that skills you once thought difficult can become second nature. This will teach you to tackle new challenges more quickly. You’ll learn to deal with rejection. You’ll definitely learn little personal lessons unique to you along the way. The process of reaching for a long-term goal reveals more about yourself than any visualization can teach you.
You might end up getting everything you want and learning the lesson that success doesn’t make you happy. Instead, you might realize that the process itself matters more than anything else.
In general, it’s wise to adopt the attitude and habits of a philosopher. You’re active in the process of trying to improve your life, of trying to tease out the secrets of the world, of trying to gain a sliver of understanding about the infinite complexity involved in human life.
If you dedicate your life to learning, you’ll be wise. If you don’t, you’ll go up and down on that emotional roller coaster without ever getting any answers from it. That’s no fun.
Learn and live. You can do both.
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