My father said that we "have to take the bitter with the sweet." Others have said something similar like "into every life some rain must fall."

We all know what they mean. Shit happens. BAD SHIT. Whether you have an outlook that "everything happens for a reason" (which usually implies that there is a silver lining and that the "reason" will eventually reveal itself to be beneficial — and I should add that often along with this, that there is a "plan" and some "architect" of that plan who "caused" it and in some way "controls" it) or you believe that everything happens. Period.

Things " happen" because there exists CAUSE AND EFFECT in our reality. That every happening has a predecessor that also had it's predecessor etcetera — ad infinitum. This is a fascinating bit of wrestling with the argument of Free Will and Destiny.

We are restricted from following that but the decision you make about it will color the way you DEAL WITH ADVERSITY. That is what I want to bring to the table here. Not so much WHY things happen, but what's next? What do we DO when they happen? How should we respond to bad shit happening in our lives? Let's look at some ideas that some smart people have posited.

knee injury JM blakley


The picture above is of my left knee the day after I fell down my steps and snapped the quad tendon and tore part of the patella off in an avulsion. This happened on 01-06-2020. So the concept of what we ought to do when life hands us a test of character is very relevant to me at the moment. An athlete I train (JLS) has the remarkable ability to remain positive NO MATTER WHAT. I have been witness to it and she is legendary in her police work for it.

She has shit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and meets everyone for the first time on the WORST DAY of their lives. You don't call the cops when nothing is wrong. I have had many, many positive people around me and I gravitate to them and away from the people who drag me down. So I know the real deal when I see it. If we ask her how she is able to respond so positively to so much negativity she will say, "you can't do anything about what happens to you. But you can totally decide how you will respond to it."

The reason she has been able to persist in her bright outlook when the shit is hitting the fan and the world is collapsing, is her attitude toward what she can and can not control. She accepts the situation AS-IS and then takes the reigns and focuses on how SHE WILL RESPOND and what she will DO.

Epictetus was a proponent of concentrating on our response and not the tragedy. His quotes would echo the JLS strategy. It is not new, but it is rare. People SAY things like that all through history. But a few people LIVE IT OUT IN THEIR LIVES. We can use their example and attempt to be more like they are. So, how does she DO IT?

The first step is in giving up on AVOIDING the situation; ACCEPTING that it has happened and the time to avoid it has long passed. This sounds simple. And although it is simple, it is NOT EASY. Her first step (which is now automatic and driven by habit) is to stop trying to figure out why it happened or sometimes even how it happened. Just give that up to Fate and get busy thinking about what options are in front of you.

Just to see how tough this is to do, recall an event that hit you hard and try to remember how much time you spent (wasted) going over and over in your mind how and why it had to happen to you! Oh, alas and alack! Woe is me! Really, how long did it take you to get off the ANALYZATION and ASSESSMENT of the causes!?

She skips that. She moves right past all that and gets right to the reaction she will embark on. I think this is one reason she is more positive. Spending time languishing over spilt milk doesn't clean it up and the mind gets a big dose of bummer.

By avoiding that negative drag, she is able to be more positive because all the pity, remorse, and depressing perseverating on the shit is eliminated. She's on to the fixing of the problem. She's not stuck in a limbo of BIG SAD.

Think about how powerful that idea is to help you stay positive. You can use discipline at first (before you train yourself to do this), to force yourself NOT to dwell on what happened and why it was you it happened to (or is happening to) and laser in on what you are going to DO ABOUT IT. 

Another way this helps her stay so positive is that she engenders a sense of autonomy. By making an act instead of being paralyzed, she immediately feels SOME control, however small it might be. The feeling that we have some say in our lives has been well researched. It has been shown to be immensely empowering and edifying. In a word, it is crazy positive for your self esteem. When the opposite ensues, we get depressed, despondent, and hopeless.

If we feel that there is nothing, NOTHING AT ALL, that we can do about the situations in our lives, we lose that autonomy and often simply give up! By skipping dwelling on what we can't change about the situation and focusing in on the things we CAN change, we assume some control and autonomy. In our discussions she has constantly pointed the conversation to the "action" end and away from the "how could this happen" zone. That's how she talks. She keeps her mind set on HER ROLE. What SHE can do.

I believe the FREEDOM from the quagmire of analyzation of things she can't control or do anything about, plus the embracing of the AUTONOMY that emerges when she takes an action, she has been able to remain remarkably positive even knee-deep in the blood and guts that permeate the streets of Youngstown, Ohio.

So, to review, how we RESPOND to events in our life is something worth serious contemplation. One point to chew on is that some people can stay positive and relatively disaffected when truly tragic and traumatic experiences happen to them. Having the good fortune to know one of those rare individuals, I asked for some advice.

quote motivation success

One piece of wisdom they gave me was to skip the boo-hooing and pointless replaying of the event and its possible causes over and over and get right to the part where one can take ACTION. To focus on the actual thing to DO next. There will be plenty of time to revisit the event later if that seems useful. But be in the moment and be action-oriented. One can stay positive because one has assumed some autonomy and avoids dwelling on the vicissitude itself.

Bad things happen to good people. Bad things will happen to us all. Some people have a way of responding that is truly inspiring. They can stay "up" when everyone else around them falls apart. They aver that it is not the events that happen TO us which define us, but rather the way we RESPOND to those events that make us who we are. This is an old idea, but it has not really been adopted by most of us.

I got a tip from one who has. It was to stay intent on what ACTIONS you take and by doing so you feel better about even piss-poor situations. I find myself in such a situation now. It is easy to get down. It is easy to keep playing the broken record of how shitty it is to have happened to me. But by a small act of will, I can center my thoughts on what I can DO about it now. I can immerse myself in the actions I want to take next.

In other words, I can leave the bad event behind and live in the positive event of my actions that will take me where I want to go. Ancient wisdom, easily understood and hard to walk as a razors edge! But some do. Then, so can I! And if I can, YOU CAN! What happens to us is not as important as how we respond to it.

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