“This should be easier/better/faster”. What to do when reality isn’t meeting your expectations.
“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.” – Epictetus
Today’s topic is one that I have to work at like it’s my full-time job. I am fundamentally impatient and always feel that things “should” be a certain way, regardless of my current reality. Personally, this is an area where I truly struggle the most - with this resistance to reality, this kicking against “what is”. Not sure what this looks like, or if you do this? Here are a couple of key ways it plays out in our daily thoughts:
“I don’t have enough [time, energy, resources]”.
Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you think “they should be nicer”. A coworker slacks off at work, and you think “they should work harder”. You “should” your way through the day, flustered, irritated and angered at why things are the way they are.
You know that you need to work on a creative project, but instead think “I’ll do it when I feel inspired/motivated/clear.”
Questions like “why is this happening?”, “why can’t it go better?” and “why me?” are questions that lack utility on every level. It sometimes feels like raging against reality is going to change it, but rage without action is just rage. These questions lack the power to change anything in our present circumstances, and ironically keep us mired in the muck of our reality as-is.
If you are in a no-win tug-of-war with reality, there are two tools that I highly recommend: the practice of Stoicism and Byron Katie’s The Work. I mention these together, because they fit together like beautiful puzzle pieces. In my opinion, stoicism is the philosophical underpinning and Katie’s work is the practical application. While stoicism and The Work have countless processes, questions, and things to ponder, one of my favorite series of questions to ask when reality has me hooked and spiralling is the following:
Q1. Is it true?
Q2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
Q3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Q4. Who would you be without that thought?
(Questions excerpted from Loving What Is by Byron Katie)
These tools are so, so important for creatives and 9-5ers alike. Every day, we are presented with countless circumstances and encounters that we can choose to either deal with calmly and directly, or silently rage about. The choice is ours. No matter what we feel, we can take action anyhow. Oftentimes, when I’m not in the “mood” to write music but choose to sit down and compose or improvise anyhow, I actually become inspired or discover something new. It doesn’t always happen, but 75% of the time it works. That’s a ratio I can live with.
In love & light,
For an introduction on Stoicism: https://dailystoic.com/
Byron Katie’s The Work (free resources): https://thework.com/