Recently, I set off on the trip to France that I had been dreaming about for five years. As luck would have it, my plane left Los Angeles two hours late, and by the time we arrived in New York, after circling for another hour, I had missed my connection. The result was an overnight in an airport hotel and one less day in Paris.
But was this situation a problem? I knew I had a choice.
How We Create Problems
Every day we encounter circumstances that we can turn into problems – if we want to. Do you want more problems in your life? Here is the how-to:
- Tell yourself that what is happening is bad or wrong or shouldn’t be happening.
- Think of all the negative consequences.
- Repeat these negative consequences to yourself over and over.
- Experience a feeling and don’t examine it.
- Create a stressful or depressing story about what is happening based on this feeling.
- Repeat this story to yourself over and over, embellishing it each time.
- Ignore any positive aspects, benefits, or opportunities this experience offers you.
Sound familiar? When I realized I would miss my connection, I could have been irate and disappointed. I could have blamed the airline and thought about what I was missing out on. I could have created a lot of trouble for myself – unnecessary trouble, if you ask me.
Separate Facts From Reactions
But isn’t this what we do all the time? We take the facts of a circumstance, then apply stressful thoughts and feelings to it that launch a problem.
And here’s the truth: the problem isn’t inherently contained in the circumstances – it is added on to the facts. Need evidence? Just look around you. There is a myriad of reactions possible to any event – not just your habitual one.
Facts are facts, but reactions are up for grabs. We cannot change circumstances, but how we respond to them is under our control. And this is very good news.
If you are willing to bring awareness to your thoughts and feelings, you can recognize them, see them as simply experiences that arise, and choose to not get involved in them.
Freedom from Problems
This is the amazing possibility: we don’t have to turn circumstances into problems.
Ready for the how-to? Here goes:
- See the facts of whatever is happening as separate from your thoughts and feelings about these facts. This essential step creates the space to get out the microscope, become a scientist, and intimately study your thoughts and feelings.
- Notice the content of your thoughts. Are they stressful, negative, heavy with emotions? Do they run in an endless loop like a hamster on a wheel? Is this what you want?
- Notice your feelings. See that a feeling actually consists only of thoughts and bodily sensations. Can you allow these experiences just to be present without letting them fuel more thinking?
- Now go back to the facts. What is this circumstance offering you? What are the benefits, blessings, and opportunities for insight and understanding?
As I realized the plane to Paris would be taking off without me, I surrendered. And in that surrender, I saw:
- The kindness of the airline agent who patiently helped me at midnight, well past his quitting time.
- The grace of the hotel reservations clerk dealing with an onslaught of people checking in.
- The good humor of my fellow passengers.
My jet lag wasn’t as bad as it would have been if I had made the connection, and I had the time to work on another blog post. In the end, something happened, but I couldn’t find a problem anywhere.
Are You Willing to Be Free of Problems?
My question – and challenge – to you is this: Are you willing to see how you create problems out of facts? Are you committed enough to your own peace and happiness to make the radical move to eliminate drama from your life?
Since we manufacture problems, we have the power to be free of them. And in this freedom lies the simple, amazing, awe-inspiring, heart-expanding glory of being alive.
Now it’s your turn. Can you see how you create problems? Have you discovered how to be free of them? I’d love to hear…
Note: My friend, Christopher Foster over at The Happy Seeker, is offering a beautiful course on how to keep the light alive as we age. You may want to check it out.