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June 30, 2014

Trusting The Process: 9 Ways Wise People Approach Life

Lately on the JillFit Facebook page, something really interesting has been going on. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that goes something like this: “Jill, thank you for your words and inspiration, they always make me feel like I am not alone.” or “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have found some REAL and SANE advice at JillFit.”

I am always so humbled and honored to field responses like those and here, 4 years after starting JillFit, I still can’t believe anyone reads my rambling posts. I AM SO GRATEFUL!

But. Getting more and more comments like these shows me so clearly that PEOPLE ARE DYING FOR PERMISSION TO BE HUMAN.

Isn’t this the truth? Because it doesn’t feel good to be judged for just being you. It doesn’t feel awesome to feel like you need to be perfect all the time. But you know what does feel awesome? When someone else says, “You have permission to relax, it will all be just fine.”

It got me to thinking: what is that? What’s the insight there? Why are we so starved for relatedness and transparency? Why does it mean so much when someone else cops to not having it all figured out either and says, “I’m not going to stress about it. I’m fine.”

This is perspective. This is wisdom. This is doing your best and letting that be good enough.

And surprisingly, this approach and attitude, I am finding, is just not all that common. We don’t feel like we can “just be.” We feel the anxiety of needing to constantly have goals and “be better” and get leaner and be more successful and be on the up and up. And when life happens, and we inevitably can’t be Superwoman 24/7, we are left feeling defeated, discouraged and helpless.

What no one’s talking about is that it’s all part of being human, and you are perfect, as is. No requirements, no obligations, no expectations, just be for a second. The hustle and bustle will always be there for you, you can always jump back on the high-stress highway.

But, there IS a different way. There’s wisdom. There’s the grandmother who has seen a lot more that you, who knows that even when things feel really, REALLY catastrophic in the moment, that things have a way of figuring themselves out and YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT RIGHT THIS SECOND. You have time. You have self-trust. You have patience and introspection. You have all these amazing untapped tools at your disposal, ones that remain neglected because the lure of being stressed and anxious is irresistible. We often feel like WITHOUT stress, we are not striving. Which is actually BS, considering research into self-compassion has shown that we are MORE, not less, apt to achieve when we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

And so, if you’re wondering how to find that balance, shirk those crazy expectations and get out of your own frigging way once and for all, here are, IMO, ways that wise people see the world and how we can switch our own mindset to generate a sense of inner calm and peace regardless of what’s happening around us:

1) Realize that whatever is happening in this moment, is transient.

This is so, soooooo hard to see in the moment. I can tell you from experience, I am currently dealing with something that feels, at times, like it’s strangling me from the inside. These instances can feel uncomfortable, painful, unbearable and make us feel like things will never get better. And yet. They do. In time and with introspection and going inside. It’s in these moments especially, when it’s so important to lean into the struggle. MAN THAT IS HARD. But when you turn and chase the pain, rather than shying away from it, the magnitude of it shrinks and becomes more handle-able. In the book, ‘The Tools’, one tool called The Reversal of Desire helps us LEAN INTO the struggle and GO TOWARD the pain and discomfort, because on the other side of it is endless possibilities. WOW. This is hard, but when you can do it, transformative:

2) Understand that your past does not determine your future and you always ALWAYS have choices and options.

BUT, your perspective is everything, and when you see obstacles and challenges as opportunities, rather than roadblocks, you come fully into your power. When you play the victim and believe that the world is out to screw you, of course you are going to be helpless and insignificant. What happened last night, last week, last year does not define you. YOU define you, using the choices you make moving forward. Failure is feedback. Learn, grow, get better and create the life you want.

3) Know that nothing is ever irreversible.

I say this a lot when it comes to nutrition. Had a bad weekend of eating? Join the crowd. But using one bad weekend of eating as a way to justify being a victim and giving up because “you blew it” is absurd. And yet, we often feel this way. It’s the What-the-Hell effect: if we can’t be perfect, “What the hell!” I might as well go ALL IN on sweets and treats!” A single slip-up leads to Food Armageddon. No. Nooooooo. Seriously. You never, ever reach a point of no returns. Assuming there’s no recourse is a copout. A crutch. Of course you have options, always.

And this extends into other areas of life too, like relationships. Wise people give others the benefit of the doubt, they offer second chances, they don’t hold grudges because they know that people are HUMAN. And they understand that what people DO is not always who they ARE. And likewise, people with perspective know that hurts, betrayals or breaks in trust in the past can be repaired. They remain optimistic and work hard to find a way forward.

4) See possibilites, not reasons something won’t work.

Ever met someone who always responded with, “That will never work,” whenever a suggestion or solution arises? How depressing is this?? And I’m struggling to see how that response is at all helpful. At all. I believe people use excuses like, “I just want to be realistic,” or “I don’t want you to get their hopes up,” because at their core, they feel threatened by options that feel uncomfortable. Often people will say out of a sense of altruism, “I don’t want them to mess up,” or “I just don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did.” Fine, but still, I have to ask, WHY? Why not mess up? Why not have the full experience?

When we assume that we know what’s best for someone else, we deny them
THE OPPORTUNITY to learn, grow and get better on their own terms.

Are things potentially scary? Of course. Could they get hurt physically or emotionally? Maybe. But how can we deny anyone the opportunity to see something from all angles. People with wisdom encourage others to have their own unique experience, without getting anxious over outcomes. They let others be, even when it’s hard. They are possibility thinkers. It’s an operating system.

5) Resist the urge to try and control outcomes.

My sister-in-law gave me this little tim-bit and it’s always stuck with me: “Be open to outcomes, not attached to them.” I love this. Because, life is really a push-and-pull of control vs. trust, isn’t it? We want to KNOW for CERTAIN exactly WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN so we can plan for it. And just because it’s a cliche doesn’t make it any less true: CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION. We are never in complete control, certainly not of others actions, their words, their choices. And when we interact in a world where what others do and say affects us, we can never really have expectations for them, can we? There are no guarantees, and this feels really, really scary! In fact, the only guarantee we have is that people will always do what they do. And when you understand this, the need to ask, “Why is so-and-so doing that?!” goes away. Because you know the answer: they are doing that because that’s what they do. Would you do it? No. But that doesn’t mean they did anything “wrong” or “bad” or whatever. It’s just them. Different person, different intentions, different motivations, different mindset, different outcomes. AND THAT’S ALL FINE. Isn’t it? Now, with that being said …

6) You can always control your attitude and your effort.

You always have a choice about how you interact with the world. You can CHOOSE to believe that the world is inherently cruel and that you got the short end of the stick, or you can CHOOSE to see that you have options and can improve your circumstances any time. Your effort is always available to you. All it takes is perspective and courage to take action.

7) In relationships, there’s not really a “right” and “wrong,” there’s only how people come together and lines in the sand.

Ready to go deep with me?? :) Ok! Unless you are working from a religious model or we are talking about something like murder, I personally don’t think labels like messy or cheap or stubborn or cruel or unfaithful or unreliable or Type A or lazy or unmotivated (or any number of adjectives) are really useful on a universal level. I just don’t. Because how you perceive another person is not a fact, it’s your personal interpretation and based on that assessment, you decide to have them in your life or not (i.e. you determine your lines in the sand). You don’t have to have a relationship with someone you don’t respect or enjoy. Of course you have choices and opinions that are valid, but this is just to point out that for example, something you might find repellent about someone else, might be the very thing that another person finds endearing. An example would be someone who engages in open relationships. If all parties involved know what’s going on and are okay with it, what’s the big deal? For me, I wouldn’t want that (it’s a deal-breaker for me, my line in the sand) but that’s doesn’t mean there’s really anything wrong with it. Maybe wrong for you, but not factually. My personal agreement with my husband is to stay romantically inside the marriage. And if that doesn’t happen, well, we have choices.

I think it’s important to establish expectations in relationships agreed upon by both partners, not simply work from some arbitrary black-and-white model.

People with perspective see that it’s the way two people come together that is the important thing, not the specific aspects of each of the people. Of course, I am fairly liberal when it comes to acceptance and tolerance, so I’m not sure everyone feels the way I do :) But I suspect that if you are operating from a higher level of consciousness, you don’t worry too much about what other people are doing.

8) People are always just doing the best they can.

This is THE mark, I find, of those who have a sense of wisdom. They understand we are all human and we are doing our best. And they don’t try to impart their best on anyone else, which of course is the hard part! We want people to “reach their potential” or “make something of themselves” (we think this about ourselves, too, BTW–and often it leads to self-judgment and discouragement). We WANT to achieve. Great. But some days we are simply going to lie on the couch and eat bacon, like I did last Sunday. And constantly toting that this is somehow “wrong” and “not good” only makes all of us feel way worse! The constant need to achieve and “be better” makes us miserable. Sometimes, you need to give yourself permission to be human. And when you do, it’s total liberation. And it’s funny because again, I think we believe “the shoulds” keep us in line somehow. “I should be able to eat clean every second.” “I should be better at this by now!” “I should have all my shit together!” “I should have this done!” “I should be thinner!” And on and on. We feel like these statements have utility. Like, if we just “should” ourselves enough, we’ll eventually do everything perfectly and never have another slip-up. But that’s not the case. I don’t know about you, but I have never made positive change from a defeatist mindset.

I’ve never made positive change from a defeatist mindset.

And when it comes to expectations for others, this can really be a trap. Thinking we can be the judge of whether or not someone else is doing their best is shortsighted. We can have ways in which we’d do things differently. But ultimately, the only choice we have is to see what someone else does as their best in the moment. Doesn’t mean it can’t get better and it certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t moves to make, but the reality is what people do is what they do. And thinking it should be any different is wrestling with reality, which only makes us miserable. Your perspective is everything.

9) Prioritize SELF-trust.

When you have wisdom, you truly believe that whatever happens, you will be okay. Will things hurt? Sure. Will there be discomfort? Yep. Will we struggle? You bet. But thinking we can ever avoid any of that is simply insane. Life does what it does, and we have many, many opportunities to learn the lessons if we choose. And the biggest and best lessons happen the hard way.

So what can we rely on? How about ourselves! Trust YOU. Trust that you can handle it–whatever it is. Why not? Aren’t you powerful? Capable? Able to make choices and able to endure pain and hardship? Can’t you be unapologetically you and then let the chips fall? Self-trust is really hard. But once you start cultivating it, it’s guaranteed. It’s there for you. Always. The things that used to feel scary or lonely are no longer because you have YOU.  Eff Jerry McGuire, YOU complete you! :) This is a practice. And it’s worth the effort.

That’s it! What do you think? Are you practiced at perspective or are you getting an emotional hit from some of these insights? Do you get anxious over small issues and worry about other people a lot? Or do you trust that your life is unraveling just as it should be and that no matter what, you can handle it? Do you believe that you can literally create your reality by choosing your perspective? Or do you think someone(s) else holds the reigns? Some questions to think about …

Wisdom is going, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, I can handle it.”

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