“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there will always be things that we cannot control — and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, frustration and stress.
The simple solution: learn to go with the flow.
What is going with the flow?
It’s rolling with the punches.
It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated.
It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.
Here are 10 steps on How to Go With the Flow:
1. Realize that you can’t control everything.
We all know this at some level, but the way we think and act and feel many times contradicts this basic truth.
We don’t control the universe, and yet we seem to wish we could.
All the wishful thinking won’t make it so.
You can’t even control everything within your own little sphere of influence — you can influence things, but many things are simply out of your control.
There are things that we cannot control that will affect every aspect of our lives, and we must must must accept that, or we will constantly be frustrated.
2. Become aware.
You can’t change things in your head if you’re not aware of them.
You have to become an observer of your thoughts, a self-examiner.
Be aware that you’re becoming upset, so that you can do something about it.
It helps to keep tally marks in a little notebook for a week — every time you get upset, put a little tally.
And soon, because of that little act, you will become more aware of your anger and frustration.
When you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a deep breath.
Take a few.
4. Get perspective.
You know how you’re watching a movie and the camera zooms away and you can see much more of the world on the screen than you could before?
That’s what should happen in your mind’s eye. Zoom away, until you are pretty far away from things.
Then whatever happened doesn’t seem so important.
A week from now, a year from now, this little incident won’t matter a single bit.
No one will care, not even you.
So why get upset about it? Just let it go, and soon it won’t be a big deal.
It’s important to realize that, just like when you learn any skill, you probably won’t be good at this at first.
Skills come with practice.
So when you first learn to go with the flow, you will mess up.
You will stumble and fall. That’s OK — it’s part of the process.
Just keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it.
6. Baby steps.
Take things in small steps.
Don’t try to become a Zen Master overnight.
Don’t try to bite off huge chunks — just bite off something small at first.
So make your first attempts to go with the flow small ones: focus on the tally marks (mentioned above) first.
Then focus on breathing.
Then try to get perspective after you breathe.
See things as funny, rather than frustrating.
Car broke down in the middle of traffic and you have no cell phone or spare tire?
Laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
That requires a certain amount of detachment — you can laugh at the situation if you’re above it, but not within it.
And that detachment is a good thing.
If you can learn to laugh at things, you’ve come a long way.
Try laughing even if you don’t think it’s funny — it will most likely become funny.
Do a daily review in your head.
Do some meditation, or have a bath, or a cup of hot tea, and as you’re de-stressing, go over your day and examine it.
Do some deep breathing, and then go over each situation, trying to see it as a detached observer.
This kind of review will help you improve in the learning process.
9. Realize that you can’t control others.
This is one of the biggest challenges.
We get frustrated with other people, because they don’t act the way we want them to act.
Maybe it’s our kids, maybe it’s our spouse or significant other, maybe it’s our coworker or boss, maybe it’s our mom or best friend.
But we have to realize that they are acting according to their personality, according to what they feel is right, and they are not going to do what we want all of the time.
And we have to accept that.
Accept that we can’t control them, accept them for who they are, accept the things they do.
It’s not easy, but again, it takes practice.
10. Accept change and imperfection.
When we get things the way we like them, we usually don’t want them to change.
But they will change. It’s a fact of life.
We cannot keep things the way we want them to be … instead, it’s better to learn to accept things as they are.
Accept that the world is constantly changing, and we are a part of that change.
Also, instead of wanting things to be “perfect”, we should accept that they will never be perfect, and we must accept good instead.
Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty.
Try to see the world as perfect the way it is.
It’s messy, chaotic, painful, sad, dirty … and completely perfect.
Life is not something static, but a flow of change, never staying the same, always getting messier and more chaotic, always beautiful.
“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.”