Quotes have a way of being easy to digest and feel good about but hard to practice and act on in real life.
Nonetheless, you can find some of the most poignant wisdom in them, and if applied can be used to transform your life.
Here’s one I find particularly hard to follow, but useful whenever I’m able to:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Is this guy crazy?
I’m supposed to love what happens to me at all times?
What Nietzsche is trying to get across is the idea that there’s only one variable you’re able to control in your life — even though it often feels like you can’t — your attitude.
I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t special. You’re not the only one of us who has bad days, deals with tough situations or has to endure the collision that human relationships can become.
Not only is your situation common among people living today, but as humans, we’ve been dealing with the same issues since the beginning of human history.
People who lived thousands of years ago were cheated on by their spouses, had money problems, wanted to ascend in life, and felt stuck, lost or frustrated.
The awfulness of life is an inescapable truth that ties together people from all walks of life.
The remedy for what ails us all is the same, too. As best you can learn to find the gems of wisdom buried beneath the trials of life.
Easier said than done though, right?
Whenever we frame our problems as things being done to us, we fall prey to the trap our ego has set for us.
Your ego tells you your life is supposed to be better than it is right now.
It tells you your spouse was wrong and that they should apologize.
It tells you your boss is a jerk and the world is conspiring to keep your salary and your sanity as low as possible.
Your ego doesn’t want you to love what happens to you because when you learn to love what happens to you it’s harder to rationalize your situation.
See, there’s always something you can glean from every situation.
In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, he discusses how he was able to find meaning during a set of circumstances to trying for most to even live through; being in a concentration camp.
If he was able to find meaning in a situation like that, surely we can learn to love the things that happen to us as they likely pale in comparison.
I get it. It’s not easy to do at the moment. When you’re sad, pissed, holding a grudge, frustrated, vengeful, prideful, or any mix of the destructive emotions that tend to come with the everyday grind, it’s hard at your situation and accept that it could be playing a positive role in your life.
But your life can be a teacher, even if you don’t want to learn the lessons it gives you in the moment. Even pain can be a signal to act.
It all depends on the way you see what happens to you.
Each time you face a problem you go through the same familiar cycle of feelings and behaviors.
You don’t want to accept what’s happening. You run through the alternative scenarios of what could’ve or should’ve happened.
At this point, you’re so deep in the woods you can’t see the entire forest. It’s often at this low point where you have the most power. On the other hand, it can also be the final nail in the coffin — leaving your attitude cemented in a bedrock of disappointment.
How to some people rise above circumstances ranging from frustrating to dismal?
I can’t speak to their exact thoughts, but I’m guessing they use the two-punch combination I employ when I’m at my lowest.
First, accept what’s happening fully. You can’t rewrite what has already happened. One of the hardest things to do is start where you are. If you’re able to ground yourself in the present moment, however, you can move to the next step in the process.
After you’ve accepted your situation, you can seek to change your perception of it. In Frankl’s case, he had no escape from his situation, but he chose to perceive his situation using the lens of deeper meaning he could find in it, instead of focusing on the tragic nature of it.
What are you going through right now?
Can you change the way you’re perceiving the situation?
Try shifting your perception “something is being done to me” to “I can do something about this.”
The only mistakes that do true harm are the ones you fail to learn from and repeat again, which will happen from time to time.
If, however, you’re able to reflect long enough to answer this question, you might be able to move forward with an improved perspective.
The question is, what can I learn from this?
Let’s say your employer fires you — a truly down moment in your life. What can you learn from that experience?
Maybe you’ll learn the position didn’t suit you. It didn’t align with your strengths, which made your termination inevitable.
Maybe it was a blessing you got fired because now you can spend time figuring out where your talents lie instead of wasting years of your life doing something you weren’t supposed to do in the first place.
Or let’s say you’ve been in a particularly nasty fight with your significant other.
Maybe you’ll learn to express your feelings before you reach a boiling point.
Maybe you’ll learn to keep your eyes open, be present, and pay attention to your relationship, else something you failed to notice will blindside you.
I know these are only words. In the moment, it will be difficult to think about what you can learn from a situation when you’re seeing red, feel down, and trapped in a prison of circumstance.
That’s the point, though. Love isn’t easy.
Especially when it comes to loving your situation. When it comes to your life, “til death to us part” is a vow you can’t break.
Learning to love your life starts with learning to love yourself.
How do you love yourself? By displaying character in life’s hardest moments.
“When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance revert at once to yourself and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of harmony if you keep going back to it.” — Marcus Aurelius
The roman emperor wasn’t telling us to “shake things off” the second they occur, but rather to fall back on your character and realize you have the power to be good even when life isn’t good to you.
If people mistreat you, you can find peace in being the bigger person.
If life throws you a curveball, you can rest in the knowledge that you don’t have to allow it to change your character.
Some of the world’s most inspiring people faced challenges greater than you and I will ever face. What inspires us most is the character they displayed during those circumstances.
Martin Luther King never let hatred turn his heart into stone when he had every right to have a hardened heart.
Frankl should have become a cynic, but instead developed a core of meaning most of us will never have.
If these great people can keep their values intact during the most trying times, surely we can remain positive people with integrity during our own trials.
Still, everything I’ve mentioned so far pales in comparison to the main reason you should love your life regardless of what happens to you.
You know who doesn’t have a chance to redeem themselves, change, or grow?
Unfortunately, if life ended sourly for them, they wrote the story of their attitude in stone with their passing.
Maybe your life isn’t where you want it to be right now, but I’m sure you’d cherish it more if you knew when the clock would run out.
You wouldn’t treat your loved one poorly if you knew they’d be gone tomorrow. You’d tell them you love them and enjoy what time you had left with each other.
Remember this — we’ll all soon be dead. Dust. Ashes.
Love your life because it’s the only one you have.
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Originally published at medium.com