We are headed at break-neck speed towards year end and I have some things I want to share. This year many people have lurched from one challenge to the next and have felt as if they are out at sea in the waves, and even when they are gasping for breath and struggling to stay floating, the waves keep on crashing down on them. Does this resonate for you, even a little bit?
Before the COVID crisis, I heard so many people saying that 2019 had been tough and they hoped that 2020 would be easier and better. We all know what happened to that hope! So, the truth must be that for periods of time, things are rough, and challenges are rife, but for sure the good times will roll back in. The other truth is that a whole year is never hard - that’s just how our brains perceive it. There is always support, to balance the challenges. Sometimes it's just hard to focus on that when the challenges seem to dominate our experience. All things are transient, nothing lasts forever, even when it feels as if it does.
Let’s unpack Nassim Nicholas Taleb's idea of “antifragility” and see what this concept has to offer. Resilience has always been something I have strived to help people develop but now I see the absolute value in becoming antifragile instead.
If you were to feel delicate and fragile, and imagine you were a parcel packaged for posting, you would put a sign on yourself; “handle with care.” You would want the world to be careful with you, not to tell you hard truths or ask you difficult questions, or make difficult demands on you. If you felt robust and trusted your own strength and capacity to cope, you would invite the world to “hit you with it all”, knowing you could bounce and not break. That would be a more liberated and enjoyable way to engage with the adventure of life, with all the twists and turns and ups and downs that come with it. So how to develop that trust in yourself and life?
My first offering today, is: “what if life is happening for you?”
“What if you are having exactly the set of experiences you need, to get you where you need to go, to understand what you need to understand, or shift what you need to shift?” This would give you confidence that whatever came your way would serve you and so, you could face it open heartedly and without all your self protection and defence. You could trust that if it was all serving you, that you could engage fully with the experiences and the waves and be curious about them and the gifts they carried for you. If you trusted that you could handle whatever came your way, you could relax and “enjoy the ride” even when it was horrible and super difficult.
Maybe this is what the adventure of life is about and maybe life is batting for you? Instead of feeling the need to control things and change things, spend your energy suspending the judgement of them and finding the ways they are serving you. This is called reframing and I think it's one of the most powerful tools we have in our 'live life to the full' toolbox.
When I travelled to climb Mt Kenya a few years ago, the mountain guide explained it all so well and I have always remembered his explanation. “We need keep our hands open to allow life to come and go - and along with it, money, people, joy,” he told me. When we cling and close our hands, we cause ourselves stress and strain and we stop the ongoing flow, blocking it with our clenched fists. What a wise man, with such a brilliant description of an antifragility tactic (if anyone wants his name to guide them on an expedition in Kenya or Tanzania, remember to ask me).
When you are swimming in the sea and a strong current starts to drag you out, swimming like crazy is futile. It’s counterintuitive, but letting go, surrendering and allowing the current to take you back to shore eventually, is the answer. Relaxing, in that instance is the key to surviving. Being antifragile in life, it turns out, requires the same mindful surrender.
It helps to remember the words of the song by Darius Lux: “Everything’s going my way”. What about using it as your mantra day by day? Maybe the waves will slow down and calm seas will return... and maybe they won't yet, but I am certain everything’s going your way! I hope this can bring some comfort to you and help you face the waves in your life and not wish 2023 away or put undue expectations onto 2024. I’m sure there will be some people in Israel, Palestine, Syria, The Sudan, Yemen, or The Ukraine among many other places who may want to throw stones at me for being hopeful when they are living in the blackest of storms, and I do pray constantly for their suffering to end soon. I still believe in this mantra.
With much love and wishes for your internal calm, whatever the seas of life are doing.