This is a short quote, but it contains a lot of meaning. Jon Kabat Zinn is the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It’s safe to say, then, that he knows a thing or two about dealing with challenges in life in a peaceful way.
So how can we take this quote and apply it to our lives?
Go with the Flow
What can we do when life’s problems threaten to sweep us away?
We can learn to go with the flow.
We can’t stop problems from coming – they will come. Even the most detailed and thorough ten-year plan can be waylaid. There are so many things you can’t fully control: health and relationships being two big ones, but also things like redundancies or unexpected job changes.
What can you do when a wave is coming your way and threatens to knock you over?
You can choose to stop, and breathe, and go with it. It doesn’t lessen the pain of the wave when it hits, but it might just lead you into something better in the end.
Try to be patient and see where a situation might take you – life is full of surprises, and the thing that seems terrible right now might bring you some kind of joy or peace in the end.
Focus on the Solution
When problems come, it can be tempting to focus on that and nothing else. I know this from personal experience.
I have a chronic pain condition that makes it difficult to work certain jobs. I spent years focusing on this problem, worrying that it would get worse, thinking about all the ways my health limits my choices.
Then I switched my mindset. Instead of being angry about my health, I decided to go with it and see where the wave took me. Then, instead of worrying about working a normal job, I created a solution. I decided to pursue a job that I love, that allows me to work flexibly from home.
It’s not easy, but my new life situation gives me the determination to make it work. That is me learning to swim in the wave of my health condition, accepting my new reality and taking the benefits from it where I can.
Let Go of Control (and Take It Back, Too)
There are some things that you cannot control.
What happens if you have a perfect plan for your career and then they relocate you across the country? Or if you suddenly need to take care of a sick loved one? It can be very hard to let go of control in your life, especially when you have a lot of responsibilities.
I couldn’t control my ‘wave’ – maybe you can’t control yours, either. But you can control other things.
You can control your response to the situation. You can control the decisions you make. You can decide to get up in the morning and keep going, to work hard in whatever way you can, and to be a good person.
In the small acts that make up every day, you have control – and that matters. Even in the face of the biggest wave, you can, as Zinn says, decide to learn to swim.