Staying Calm in the Face of Adversity

Hari Kalymnios - The Thought Gym

How do you stay calm when things in life hit you? You get cut up in traffic? Someone doesn’t respond to you email or message promptly enough? Whatever it may be?

Here’s the thing. What does it mean if you send a message and someone doesn’t respond within a day or two? And you’ve seen they’ve ‘read’ it. Well, it means…absolutely nothing!

Yes, nothing. Nothing except the meaning you DECIDE it means. You create a story in your head. That person is ignoring you. They are busy. They don’t know how to respond. They forgot to respond. They are rude. They get so many messages. 

The truth is you don’t know. You don’t even know if they have read it. Just because you have a read receipt you don’t actually know that they have read it. All you know is that you have a read receipt. 

Someone cuts you up in traffic and you get angry. They are so impatient, rude. Bad driver. Just a story. Maybe they are rushing to the hospital because their child was just injured. Maybe they didn’t see you because they are so distracted because they are getting divorced. Until you hire a private investigator to follow them, and track exactly what is going on you don’t actually know. You think you know. You don’t know. And you’re not likely to hire a private investigator for every incident you encounter. 

We make up stories. You might call them something else, but you create the meaning.

Nothing has any meaning, except the meaning you give it. 

Simple to say. Even simpler for people to say they understand the statement. But then stuff happens. Like me for example. The other day I received an email that there was an ‘issue with a workshop’ and someone wanted me to call them. In my head I created the ‘story’ that I had received bad feedback. That I was going to lose the client. And on and on. Over the course of about 10 minutes I stressed myself out – quite a bit. I and know this stuff. When I called them, it turns out that they needed me to fill in for someone who pulled out of a workshop. But in my head I was convinced I was going to lose the job. I’d created the meaning out of that message. Of course, it would have helped if the person had said a little more. Like ‘I have an issue with a workshop’ or ‘sourcing a workshop facilitator’. That didn’t help, with it being so ambiguous. 

Still, I decided what the message meant, and I stressed myself out unnecessarily. What meaning have you created without just cause?  You went on a date and the person didn’t text you back within 3 hours after you texted them. 

What about kids? They are meaning making machines. They are always creating beliefs and meaning out of every experience. 

You have an argument with your spouse, and they create the meaning that they are in the way of you two having happiness. You ‘lose’ them for 2 minutes in the supermarket and they create the meaning that they are not wanted by you. Of course, neither is true. But it becomes unconsciously true for them. They are not aware of this though. They are too young. Even when we’re older, we are not consciously aware of the meanings we are creating. 

That’s why it’s good to reflect on this for a while.

Nothing has any meaning, except the meaning we give it. 

We’ll See Story

Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field. 

One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Oh, what a horrible thing to happen.” The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.” He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse as a gift. 

Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.” And the farmer said, “We’ll see.” 

A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran away. Everyone in the village shook their heads and said, “What a poor fellow!”

The farmer smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

Eventually, the horse found his way home, and everyone again said, “What a fortunate man.” 

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Later in the year, the farmer’s young boy went out riding on the horse and fell and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “What a shame for the poor boy.”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him.

Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.”

The farmer smiled again – and said “We’ll see.”

Nothing has any meaning, except the meaning you give it. 

What do you think? Comment below. 

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