In moments of great stress and situations that seem overwhelming – we often beg for understanding and the ability to overcome such situations. During these moments, nothing seems to truly go the way you want it to – and despite trying to be positive and optimistic, we find ourselves struggling to progress and… think positively. We want to learn how to deal with failure.
The fact is, no matter how thick our skin, there are certain situations and stresses that we just cannot overcome in the moment. It is actually only after time has passed and we reflect do we really figure out what has happened and how we have come out of the situation.
So how do we deal with such stresses and overbearing problems? What could we possibly do during times of anxiety that could relieve us of pain and allow us to reflect – but in the moment itself?
13th Century theologian and poet, Rumi, had this very problem figured out. He simply stated that we must:
“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.”
This is the key. Let me break it down.
Imagine you are the main character of a film
(Now although there are better examples to use, I thought this would be an interesting one to explore – spoilers for La la land ahead). When recently watching the extremely hyped about film ‘La la land’, I found myself having tremendous fun and was utterly engrossed in the happiness that was conveyed in the first half of the film. Despite the small ‘downs’ such as Ryan Gosling’s character (Sebastian) losing his job at the restaurant, or Emma Stone’s character (Mia) struggling to land any auditions; when the two of them learn to love, discover things for together and allow ambition and dreams to lead their pursuits – the film’s first half was ultimately on it’s own high!
Funny enough, despite knowing how a film structure ultimately works, I was so engrossed that I forgot that something bad had to happen – this is how stories work. So as it turned out, Sebastian was just following a career that didn’t really align with his dreams and Mia was failing at launching her own production – all whilst the spark of their relationship was fading. However, we all know that this is a film, and regardless of the lows that we are put through, the ultimate payoff is that we see Sebastian and Mia’s dreams turn into a reality. (This is where I should have really chosen a better example, as the film does have a spin and a beautiful ending that explores what it means to be fulfilled and happy – but as this film has been well regarded, I went ahead and assumed that most of you have watched it, making spoilers not too bad.)
You must also live your life in this way. You are the main character of a film. Although the stark contrast of living at such highs and then being brought down into such lows may hurt and be overwhelming; you must learnt to accept that this is simply part of the process of life… much like it is for a film. This understanding and mindset will relieve you of the stresses of being consumed and overwhelmed by certain situations that seem so inescapable. Just knowing that you will later be free and that you are going to learn from it is enough to enable you the complex (yet obtainable) art of being stress free.
Everything that happened, had to happen for your benefit
‘This stress I am experiencing… it has to happen and it is for my benefit’.
You must be able to tell yourself this in moments of (what seems like) failure. Going back to Rumi’s quote – “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour”, we understand that everything that is happening to you is… for you. But what does this mean? How could something so stressful possibly be… for us?
Someone very close to me has had to deal with racism – one of the world’s worst ways of offending and hurting an individual. When that individual was experiencing this racism, they understood that there was an option to take the situation up to someone of senior authority for them to deal with it from the ‘top down’. However, the complexities of the culture that the individual was in meant that they could not escape the stress, regardless of whether someone of authority had ‘dealt with it’ or not. Also, by handing the responsibility of dealing with the situation to someone else, anything could really happen (for good or for the worst).
So although the option was there, the individual chose to deal with building up their own confidence and not allowing the oppression and racism to overbear them. The individual then went on to do just that, they built up confidence and understanding.
But what did this enable to them to do? It gave them something extremely valuable. They now had the ability help those who were dealing with a similar situation and are unable to fight the stresses that come of it. The individual had learnt so much from the situation, if anything, they now understand that the situation was for their benefit as it gave them great strength and something more powerful than their own self-interest of being slightly happier – it gave them the ability to help others and to have a mission bigger than their own desires.
What we can take from this, is that no matter how grave the stress or pain, we are always going to be able to learn ways in which we benefitted from it – by understanding this early on, it gives us the answers to the question of ‘how will failure this help me?’ whilst still being deep in the moment.
Life is extremely peculiar: it presents us with scenarios that are so overwhelming we assume that we will never make it out, despite knowing deep down that… we will be out of it and we will learn so much in reflection. Rumi’s way of thinking, when fully adapted, gives us the ability to let go of stresses and strategically plan our next moves whilst thinking clearly.