…it is the ability to deal with them effectively.
I hate to be the one to break this news to you, but it’s better that you know now. Ready? Here is a hash truth for you:
Your life is going to have problems for you to deal with
No one wants this, but it is a fact of life. There will be problems big and small, yours and those of other people as well, that will infiltrate your life on a regular basis. There is no way around, there is no insulation against it. So, with this in mind, what is the next best thing? That is an easy answer but not simple execution –> Develop the ability to deal with problems.
My life has been simple in some ways, for example I did not get married until I was 48. I was single throughout my 30s and until age 42 when I met the woman that is now my wife. I only had me to look after, and as a guy, the bar can be set pretty low. If I had a decent apartment, a vehicle that runs, and a bed, I was good. Seriously, other furniture was optional, and in some cases missing from the equation without really being an issue. This wasn’t a problem for me at the time. Now it would be, but back then, not a big deal. I didn’t save money for the future, I didn’t really plan for the future either. I existed day to day in the truest sense of the words, and I didn’t care that I lived that way. The problems I had were in some cases existential, like what was I going to do with my life after retiring from being a Pro Racquetball Player? As long as I was paying my bills, I wasn’t too worried about anything else.
After getting married, we chose not to have kids, so again my life is more simple than most. We work hard to make our lives easy.
Another piece of the equation is this: We are developing the ability to deal with things when they do happen. I am well aware that this is not a popular answer, as many think that money isn’t the answer. But I will tell you this, having money on hand to resolve some issues when they arise is a HUGE help. Money won’t solve all of your problems, but if you can fix something, like a car that breaks down, without much juggling to do so, I can guarantee you that this is a good place to be. Before you get another tattoo or do some retail therapy to lift your spirits, take a good hard look at your financial situation and see where that money SHOULD be spent. Unless you have little to no debt and money set aside for emergencies (ideally three to six months of household expenses) then don’t waste your money anywhere else.
But here is the reality of life…it is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. Like I said and as we should all know by now, sh*t happens. It is just a part of life, so the sooner you can wrap you head around that and start effectively dealing with things, the better off you will be. You have to learn to keep things in context of what is actually worth expending mental energy upon and what isn’t, because there is a lot that isn’t worth it. If no one you know is terminally ill, if you have a roof over your head, if you have time to solve a problem, then you are just fine. Things may be uncomfortable for a bit, but this too shall pass. Take a deep breath and pause for a moment. Teach yourself to see a path towards an answer or action to take in this moment of pause.
In the words of Jocko Willink when things don’t go as planned: Good. Watch the video here. As oversimplified as this may seem at first listen, it is the way of a warrior in action. You can only exert control over things within your sphere of influence, the rest is out of your hands. By adopting the attitude of “Good” when things didn’t go the way you had planned, it takes the emotion and the feelings out of something that is outside your control anyway. It is what it is, and now that you know what the outcome is you can pivot accordingly. There was a time of an undefined future before the decision or outcome was clear. Now that you know what your outcome is, you can start planning and acting according to the know decision. It makes things easier, so try to learn to see things in the manner. Start small and apply it to larger and larger things. That chip in your windshield is not life altering, so say “Good”. You’ll have a brand new windshield soon, or you will learn to live with it the way it is. Either way, life moves on. With practice, you’ll be applying the “Good” approach to losing a job or ending a relationship.
Ask yourself this: How many times have I thought I wanted a certain outcome but didn’t get it, only to realize later that what I did get out of that situation was for the best after all? It happens a lot more than you may realize or you are paying attention to. I lost in the finals of the last State Singles Championships I played in, and I was devastated at the time. After a while though I realized that if I had won that day I would have continued being the same person and player I was then. It TOOK a tough loss to make me realize that I was on the wrong track and that I needed to make some changes. The hard lessons are the toughest to swallow at the time, but they are the ones that really move the needle, proverbially speaking. In most cases, it is pain and suffering that it necessary to get us to change. I didn’t say “Good” at the time, but later I realized that this is exactly what I needed at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that soul-scorching loss on my record.
Start inoculating yourself against the things in life that are going to enter your world. Practice by doing things that are difficult, failing at them, and then trying again.
Get better, not bitter.
Improve from the lessons life throws at you. The way I became a very accomplished at restringing racquets was to make every error there is to make first. Then I knew what I was doing. The goal is to only make a particular error once and learn enough awareness from that experience to avoid making it twice. THAT is real progress at a pace that is as fast as reasonably possible. That is as good as it gets. This is the approach I apply to all things that come my way.
Life is going to throw you some challenges; accept this and prepare accordingly. We all can handle more than we think, and especially when you can say “Good” and move on. Next time a speed bump happens in your life, just ask yourself this: What Would Jocko Do?
I wish you luck in your endeavors