Sometimes, You Just Can’t

Shattered GlassLife doesn’t exactly cater to our desires. No matter what the self-help industry tells us, we can’t get everything we want out of Life. We can’t will things into existence.

Most of the time we can only react to what has already happened. If we are lucky, we could learn to avoid pitfalls in the future or improve our next guess. But still, there’s no guarantee to life. This unpredictability is what creates fear… and also excitement.

Most self-help books and articles that I come across these days, tend to imply in one form or another that you can somehow get what you want. Whether it’s through blatant delusional thinking masquerading as science, like The Secret, or some obnoxious 6-six pack abs in six weeks schemes. There’s always a promise of bigger, better, sexier something, in the end. Or these articles are always geared towards making a life that is more productive, more successful, more efficient and less painful. However, these promises rarely hold up.

I wonder if I am in the cohorts with these people, blowing the same rusty horn just like everyone in the self-help industry. I’d like to think I am not.

Deep down, I know things don’t always go as we planned. My articles and teachings don’t reflect the unsound and unhealthy positivity that has become the norm these days. My experience informs me that you can’t always have it your way in life.

If you are tired of self-help gurus telling you that you can achieve anything you want in life through positive thinking, productivity hacks or even through sheer back-breaking hard work, then I’m here to tell you that it’s not that simple.

There’s so much pressure for us to better ourselves these days. When we don’t end up achieving what we want, we take full responsibility for our “failure”. This creates more pain.

Sometimes, you just can’t and that’s just how it is… and that’s just alright. You will end up failing and there will be nothing to learn. These failures will not be a stepping stone to any success. These won’t even be failures, but rather events that just happened. To us, they may look like failures, but in reality, these are the events that took place in our life.

Through sheer arrogance and courage, you may take on the odds against yourself and get what you want. That’s just fantastic. When that happens, the whole of humanity salutes you and sings your praises but more often, you just don’t get to achieve what you set out to do.

That’s the reason why close to 90% of the startups fail or a staggering percentage of relationships and marriages don’t work out. Real life doesn’t always reflect our ideals and expectations.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever take a shot at anything because it may not go as expected. G.B. Shaw once said that all human progress depends on the “unreasonable man” because it is him who persists in trying to change the world[1].

By all means, keep moving and work towards whatever you set out to accomplish. I’m not trying to paint a somber mood here, but many times we plan to achieve success and then easily get bummed out because what we expected to happen didn’t happen.

Worried

A few days ago I woke up with a realization that sometimes you just can’t. No matter how much you try, the results that you seek will always tease you.

Sometimes in life, you just can’t lose those last 10 pounds.

Sometimes in life, you just won’t feel motivated to go the gym.

Sometimes in life, no one will respond to your online dating messages.

Sometimes in life, your joke will fall flat, face down and there will be no way to redeem yourself but to walk awkwardly off the stage.

Sometimes in life, you will feel miserable and all your aims to understand why will not make the pain go away.

Sometimes in life, you will drop your new phone for no reason and have to put up with a shattered screen.

Sometimes your artwork won’t sell or no one will buy your music or ‘Like’ what you have written.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to escape another panic attack. It will have you and leave you exhausted.

Sometimes in life, you can’t have your four hour workweek.

Sometimes in life, you will just give up.

Sometimes, you may be all stoked and propose to your partner on a well-planned vacation, but instead, will have to stomach a surprising ‘Sorry’ and endure a long silent ride back home.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to get out of bed for a good period of time because you lost your will.

Sometimes, no matter how good your work, it might not see the light of the day.

Sometimes, you just can’t fix your problems.

Sometimes, in life, nothing goes as planned.

The real question is, what are we going to do about it when things don’t work out our way?

I wish I knew a clear answer, but I think all one can do is to accept things as they are, accept that it didn’t happen as we expected. When we fight with “what is” we immediately lose. We can get mad, throw tantrums, repeat the experiment with a different set of values, and sometimes it might work. Nothing’s more joyful when things go our way, but sometimes, they just won’t. It won’t necessarily go the wrong way, it just might just go in a direction of its own choosing, not ours.

Most of our anxiety results in trying to control the way life flows. We have to understand that once we’re on this roller coaster, we have very little control. We may end up having the time of our lives or throw up on ourselves. Most of us will have an experience somewhere in the middle. We have to understand it’s all still part of the ride.

Footnotes

[1] – Original G. B. Shaw quote is “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I think present time Shaw would definitely agree that an unreasonable woman is equally capable of  bringing progress.

Credits

  1. Shattered glass picture – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenduong/4081192022
  2. Talking on phone – https://www.flickr.com/photos/photoloni/6321527653/
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I write about personal topics like anxiety, depersonalization, depression, discovering one's inner strength and reflections on the good life. Subscribe and get notified when new articles like this one are published.
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