Have you ever had one of those moments when things do not go the way you expected? I don’t know about you, but I often become frustrated and indulge in some pretty negative self-talk. It might go something like this: “Oh, great. Now I’m not going to get X done and this is the only time I could do it. I should have X done by now and I should be doing Y.” Notice that pesky little word, “should.” Is it friend or foe?
Motivation is a good old thing, right? Being planful leads to production. Imagining yourself accomplishing a task results in reaching your goal. Focus!
But, how much control do we actually have over our circumstances? Can we really create incentive where there is none and then call upon it at will? Or… Is there something bigger at work?
I think maybe there is such a thing as trying too hard. Beating myself up over what I should be doing or that thing I should have finished by now can be counterproductive, not to mention downright destructive! What if, instead, we were to have no expectations? Think about the sun. It doesn’t try to shine – It just happens. Like the ocean, perhaps we need to rise and fall like the tide, effortlessly. When things do not go the way we think they should, what would happen if we simply let it be and opened ourselves up to whatever was happening, instead? What if we chose a path of least resistance?
Recently, I attended a scheduled group writing event at a local coffee shop. Before hand, I envisioned three or four of us, sharing space at a table and furiously writing the afternoon away. I was looking forward to getting a piece started that I plan to submit for consideration in a local authors anthology. So focused was I on what I should do, I arrived early, scoped out a comfortable seat and grabbed a cup of tea. The usual players did not show up, but I started writing. About twenty minutes into it, a newcomer arrived. Not understanding the group format, he was not prepared to write. Rather, he produced a manuscript and was seeking feedback. I was a captive audience. Not wanting to be rude, I pretended to peruse his article (what else could I do?), all the while, thinking how I should be writing. I fought an inward urge to flee, seeing the development as a hindrance.
I decided to give this guy the attention he sought. He had driven 45 minutes to get there. His writing was interesting, making a case for the coexistence of science and spirituality. As he spoke, it became obvious that he was a very complex person with intriguing life experiences. There are things I could – and did – learn from him. Then, he returned the favor, inquiring about my own writing and giving me a chance to vent my frustrations about getting published. He offered support and encouragement in a way that only someone who has been there can do. Then, he shared his own experience of getting published.
On the drive home, I lamented over my lack of cohesive writing that afternoon. Mentally, I wrote a new outline for the story I was working on – one that will be far better than what I already had. Later that evening, I received a message from my new friend via the group’s webpage. When I introduced myself, I had not given my last name, which he learned from the website. His mother’s maiden name was Whitman and he offered to share some genealogy information regarding Rhode Island family, joking that we might even be related. My husband recently made an effort to trace some of his roots but quickly became frustrated. Maybe this guy could help!
The following day, still disappointed about my lack of progress, I decided to attend another group writing event, at the Providence Athenaeum. Upon arriving, we were met by a staff member who invited us to attend a free seminar this weekend that features prominent literary agents talking about getting published! There would be a Q & A reception afterward, with wine. Needless to say, I was in!
Now, had I not opened myself to the change in circumstances, I would have a hastily written story, badly in need of revision. I would have missed the opportunity to compare notes with a possible distant relative. I would not have been stimulated by the science-spirituality connection. And, I would never have gone to the Athenaeum to learn about the seminar.
What’s it all mean? The universe gives us what we need. But we have to learn to recognize it. We have to be open to it – and not resist it. What would happen if we saw obstacles as opportunities? Sometimes, we need to take a different path – a longer way around – to get to where we are going: To find the lesson. That’s called life.
The next time you find yourself resisting the moment because it’s not going the way you think it should, open yourself to the possibilities. Go with the flow, as they say. You will be amazed.