by Axel Gjertsen
“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” ~Unknown
I was in a motorbike accident in 1987. Believe it or not, it was on September the 11th. The physician in the emergency room delivered the bad news and told me the right knee cap had cracked. That day changed my life forever.
How could I accept that I wouldn’t ever be able to run again?
The physical injury took years to heal, and a lot of time passed before I slowly started to accept my new situation. In the meantime, I got depressed.
Life Can Be Beautiful
That might seem like an ironic heading coming after the preceding line, but hear me out. Life is beautiful every time you’re able to accept something that has gone wrong. When you can feel good on the whole even though things aren’t going your way you know emotional freedom. What more could you ask for?
The opposite would be the guy who shouts in despair, “Not again, for God’s sake!” when his sports car breaks down in the middle of nowhere or needs thousands of dollars of work on that car. Neither is a fun situation to be in. But what about people that don’t even have food to eat?
It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Are you looking at life through Ray Bans or from a refugee camp? We must learn to see and appreciate what we have and shift our attention from what we’ve lost.
So, let me point out three steps that can make your life truly beautiful. While it’s true that people who have experienced trauma are often more likely to see things differently, you don’t need to go through some life-shattering experience to become more accepting and peaceful. You can start out from where you’re at now.
1. Find Solutions Instead of Complaining
It is completely meaningless to complain about things. Negative people drain everyone around them—and complaining won’t change your situation for the better either. You may think it makes you feel better, but it actually just keeps you down—and it’s fruitless.
Don’t waste your energy complaining. Use it more wisely.
You could complain for a lifetime about the leaking roof on your house but as long as you don’t do anything about it, you’re stuck in the situation.
Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do to solve the problem?” And if you can’t solve it, where can you focus your energy more productively? What things can you control?
2. Practice Letting Go
How can you accept a devastating loss or change, for example that you won’t ever be able to run again?
From my way of looking at it, you have two choices.
One is to hold on to the way things were. Personally, I loved jogging which made it harder to accept the physical impairment. But if you can’t accept life the way it is, you have a big problem–because we cannot change what already has happened. Resisting the flow of life will only make you unhappy.
The other choice is to bite the bullet and accept life the way it is. That takes courage but the process will empower you enormously. The ability to let go of things in everyday life makes for happiness and ease. You can even laugh when you miss a bus that’s departed five minutes early.
Start out by accepting small things, such as stepping on a chewing gum or losing some change. You’ll be surprised–bit by bit you’ll be able to let go of most mishaps that come your way.
3. Let Beauty In
When you’re focused on everything that’s lacking, it’s hard to fully notice, appreciate and enjoy what’s there.
Look around you, there’s beauty all around—what an amazing planet! Beaches and mountains, colorful fish in the ocean, birds flying across the sky, music and culture, blueberry ice cream, kissing in the sunset and lifelong friendships. There is so much to live for; this could potentially be paradise.
Learn to see and appreciate what you have as opposed to giving too much attention to what you’ve lost.
Open up to what is truly beautiful and important in life. For example, look at a flower and enjoy its fragile beauty; take your mom on a surprise picnic or give yourself a day to relax.
Most of us keep the blinds shut, closing off to life. Some of us even repeat the mantra, “Been there, done that.” The truth is every experience is new, and it’s up to you how complete or lacking it seems.
Take on the curiosity of a child. Open up and explore life as if it were your first day here, regardless of what you’ve had or lost. You can choose to focus on either. What’s your choice?
Axel Gjertsen lives in Thailand and is a former Buddhist monk. He runs axel g which is a personal development site with a focus on meditation.