When All Else Fails...
Life isn't always going to go our way. Here are 4 techniques that might help when life has won the grand prize of being the world's biggest shit-show
Sometimes, life is just shit. It's bleak. It's boring. It's repetitive, predictable, petty and small. It's going nowhere. And it's worse when we can't find any reprieve from it.
We can find umpteen motivational videos telling us that "We can be or do anything we desire!". We tell ourselves that we just lack confidence and are "afraid of our own power". We are told (by therapists, life coaches, gurus, self-styled experts) that we just have to believe in ourselves, repeat mantras and visualise success (and nothing happens).
"Surround yourself with people you admire!", we are frequently advised. "Find a mentor, then get better than them!".
But what if there aren't any?
What if we are stuck in some godforsaken shit-hole in the middle of nowhere with zero opportunities to meet incredibly inspiring people who will take us on a magical journey to Wonderland?
What, if we are neighbours with bin collectors, shop assistants and coffee shop baristas (not Tony Robbins or Richard Branson).
When The Advice Doesn't Work
After a while, all of these promises and pieces of advice can begin to ring a little hollow.
And then, as a last act of desperation, all we can do is try to kick ourselves into a state of positivity, telling ourselves, "Stop being so defeatist", "Anything is possible, right?"
But frequently, it feels like all evidence points to the contrary.
That no matter how hard we work, how much money we spend on therapy, life coaching and self-improvement programs, nothing changes.
How do we deal, then, when life has turned into one long shit-show and (to rub the salt in), the advice we are being given either doesn't fit our circumstances - or doesn't seem to work?
There are 4 approaches that run counter to the typical self-help mantras that might help shift things a bit.
They work regardless of income, geography or social networks - not all will appeal but all have their place. And what connects them all is this: none of them are designed to drastically change your life - and that's kind of the point:
1. Amor Fati
This is the hardest one to swallow, so best to get this out of the way first.
It requires a pretty sizeable amount of magnanimity which, when life is really tricky, is quite hard to say the least.
"Amor Fati" is a stoic practice that basically translates as "love your fate".
It requires not only developing the ability to take misfortune on the chin but to actually become grateful for it, recognizing that hidden gems can lie in life's unpleasant moments. Robert Greene & Ryan Holiday explain all in the video below.
2. Radical Acceptance
If you are unable to get to that point, you could consider Marsha Linehan's technique of Radical Acceptance, where you actually fact facts.
You don't sugar coat it, you don't pretend something shit is actually secretly a brilliant gift, but you just accept what has happened - and what is happening. As Linehan says in the video below:
"You have to radically accept you want something you don't have and it's not a catastrophe."
Anything less is living in denial and stretching out the misery you have found yourself rolling around in.
3. Intense Realism
In a similar vein, Intense Realism (as described in Chapter 1 of The 50th Law by Robert Greene) is the ability to accept reality as it is (and not as how we wish it was).
And as Greene argues, it allows us to finetune skills we might not otherwise have learned.
We have to be sharper, for example. We have to be better at spotting opportunities.
The real danger, he says, is not necessarily in the situation itself - it's in denial:
"When things get tough and you grow tired of the grind, your mind tends to drift into fantasies... Reality has its own power—you can turn your back on it, but it will find you in the end, and your inability to cope with it will be your ruin."
4. "F**k It"
If all this seems a bit too much in the given moment, the last technique is quick, painless and simple. It requires saying F**k It (and meaning it).
Author John Parkin, highly recommends it as way of "giving in to a situation" and accepting it, warts and all, as it actually is.
He advises it when faced with intractable situations, his idea being it helps us let go, release stress, stop worrying and wanting something so badly.
It requires "giving up of our normal rational approach to dealing with things", and the need for everything to be exactly the way we want it to be.
Instead, it allows us to breathe again, to gain a bit of perspective and to feel a bit freer in difficult moments.
So the next time we are looking at our lives and it feels like a crushing disappointment, these techniques might help, the key always being to remember that the pain lies in the desire for it to be different - and the liberation comes from squarely facing up to it exactly as it is.