Last week, I gave myself hell anticipating a social event I didn’t want to go to.
In the days leading up to it, I worried, I complained, and I agonised. I ran films in my mind of the anxiety and discomfort I’d feel around new people.
I considered canceling. But that too worried me because I didn’t want to offend the host. I didn’t want to do the ‘weak’ thing. I didn’t want to be lame.
At the last minute, I succumbed. I decided to do it and get the anguish over with.
The event turned out to be a lot of fun. Not the huge deal I had created in my mind.
I met some fascinating people. I came home tired but lifted by the warm buzz of accomplishment.
As I muse about the comparatively large amount of strife a couple of hours of my life caused me, I saw that it wasn’t the event itself that was hard work.
Rather, my resistance to it made the experience feel like a serious challenge.
Resistance was envisioning the worst scenarios.
Resistance was taking it all so seriously.
Resistance was reacting emotionally to the mere thought of the event.
Resistance was tightening up and getting anxious before going.
And it was all completely unnecessary.
It’s not the event that was hard, but my resistance to it.
Fighting myself took a lot of wasted energy.
And this applies to most other things in life.
Your next essay.
A visit to meet your mother-in-law.
The painting you need to finish.
Your next trip to the post office.
The marketing work you need to do for your new product.
The breakup you just suffered.
None of it is hard. It is only your resistance to it that is — and feels — hard.
Some things in life are genuinely hard, yes, like being eaten by a bear. But most things are much less tough than we make them out to be.
When we can truly grasp this, we are a leap closer to freedom.
How do we stop resisting, and start living again?
1. See the thing for what it is, not for what your mind is telling you it is.
Fear is born out of uncertainty. We feel resistance, therefore, when we overcomplicate and over-exaggerate.
Is the outline under the bed really a monster, or is it a pile of clothes?
Ask yourself questions about the thing. Is it that bad?
How might this instead be good for me?
How can the thing be broken down into tiny steps, and what does the first one look like?
How is this thing NOT a big deal?
Meditate some more on the thing. Allow some insights to reveal themselves to you about it, without forcing them.
These are the truths you are looking for, and the truth is better than emotional guesswork.
The raw truth will also show you what is worth doing. What matters to you; what will help you grow by doing it; what is not worth your time.
If something doesn’t contribute to your growth and your long-term happiness, it is not worth doing.
2. Catch yourself reacting, and use it as an opportunity to win.
Reacting, and stirring up the energy of emotion and thought is the source of 95% of your problems.
I guarantee this because I have been an avid spectator of my journey and those of others, and this is almost always the reason for spiraling downwards, instead of building positive momentum.
When I say win, I mean to breathe rather than to react, and to allow the emotion or the boredom or the thought to fizzle out by itself.
Not to entertain ‘the issue.’ Not to get attached. Not to ruminate.
Learn to let go. We hear this a million times a day, but it is so crucial, so life-changing, that it needs to be drilled into us.
Become a ninja at letting go — guiding yourself again and again to the path of least resistance, which is to accept and move on.
Being non-reactive does not mean passive. It does not mean to deny reality. It isn’t being without emotion.
It means that you understand darkness, pain, and frustration will always be there. But rather than feeding it, you let it fall aside.
This practice will improve your life more than any other change you can make.
I still suck at this. It is a work in progress.
With fewer stress chemicals swirling around, you are free to do and experience what you want to do; what matters to you. Crucially, you redirect the energy you previously reserved for resisting, to being engaged with joy.
Life isn’t so hard when you stop resisting it.