In our personal lives as well as on a global scale, we face challenges that test our emotional mettle: injury, illness, unemployment, grief, divorce, death, or even a new venture with an unknown future.
Turn Toward Reality
So often we turn away from life rather than toward it. We are masters of avoidance! But if we want to be present—to enjoy life and to be more effective in it—we must orient ourselves toward facing reality. When we are guided by the reality principle, we develop a deeper capacity to deal with life more effectively. What once was difficult is now easier. What once frightened us now feels familiar. Life becomes more manageable. And there’s something even deeper that we gain. Because we can see that we have grown stronger, we have greater confidence that we can grow even stronger still. This is the basis of feeling capable, which I think is the wellspring of a satisfying life.
Embrace Your Life as It Is Rather than as you Wish It to Be
The Buddha taught that the secret to life is to want what you have and to not want what you don’t have. Being present means being present to the life that you have right here, right now. There is freedom in taking life as it comes to us—the good with the bad, the wonderful with the tragic, the love with the loss, and the life with the death. When we embrace it all, then we have a real chance to enjoy life, to value our experiences, and to mine the treasures that are there for the taking. When we surrender to the reality of who we are, we give ourselves a chance to do what we can do.
Take Your Time
As the story of the tortoise and the hare tells us, slow and steady wins the race. By being in a hurry, we actually thwart our own success. We get ahead of ourselves. We make more mistakes. We cut corners and pay for them later. We may learn the easy way but not necessarily the best way. The old adage puts it like this: the slower you go, the sooner you get there. Slow, disciplined, incremental growth is the kind of approach that leads to lasting change.
It is easy to count our troubles rather than our blessings, but such an attitude undermines our ability to draw from the good that we have been given and to see our lives fundamentally as a gift. A change in perspective can make all the difference. Recognizing the good and receiving it with gratitude is a recipe for emotional health and well-being. This attitude enlarges the possibility that we can make use of the good we have been given and even use it to cope with the difficulties that we inevitably have inherited.
Copyright 2014 by Jennifer Kunst, PhD
This post is drawn from a magazine article featured in A Woman's Health (Winter 2014).