The cult of optimism - and what’s preventing you from reaching your goals
How the power of perspective changes how we face the obstacle.
Struggling? Feeling stuck? Life is hard, and you are having a difficult time getting back on track? Then a little stoicism might be what you need.
”No one is coming to save you.”
Ryan Holiday states this from the get go in his book ”The Obstacle is the Way.” He’s straight to the point. No fluff. No cuddling. This is it. No one will save you. No one is coming for you. Whatever you’re waiting for, whatever you’re looking for to happen that will finally change your life? Not gonna happen. Yup. I know. It sucks, and life’s a bitch.
What could go wrong? Probably everything.
Let’s face it. Things will never work out as planned and we might at least surrender to the fact that we can’t control any of it.
This is the essence of the stoic philosophy. Preparing for reality. Living with eyes wide open. Seeing life exactly as it is. And preparing for it. When we dare to look at things head on, without any pink glasses, we usually find ourselves feeling more alive. Living more aligned with what is. Being at peace with whatever life throws at us and in a weird and utterly surprising way, much happier. I know, crazy right? But facing reality, with whatever obstacle is in front of us, gives us clarity. And when we have clarity, we can act. We can take action that aligns with our higher values. And that feels kinda good.
Clearly seeing that the obstacles in our way are mirrors to our inner power. Obstacles in our lives, in whatever form they may come, show us who we truly are. They reveal our inner power and brings it to the surface. Obstacles call us to stop and step back. They force us to reevaluate our life and question how we do things. They make us question our beliefs. How we do life. Obstacles drive us to shift our perspective. It forces us to change and pushes us forward, to where we are meant to be. To the path, we should be on.
The obstacle standing in your way, between you and the life you always wanted, is a gift. Here! It says. Figure this one out. Pass this test and welcome to your strength. It challenges you. It makes you stand taller.
Welcome to get to know who you truly are. Who you always were.
Practicing stoicism means practicing thinking negatively. It means practicing for when we face adversity. Living in a bubble of optimism, in a ”positive thinking” hoopla and dreaming of your wishes coming true, only makes you lazy, passive and less able to get where you want to be.
According to research (see the work of Gabriele Oettingen for interesting studies on this subject), negative thinking, on the other hand, works incredibly well. Rehearsing what could go wrong in your mind, over and over again, going through the mental moves, will prepare you for any scenario. You’ll be ready for all potential outcomes so that you won't be caught by surprise. Asking yourself the hard questions, like ”what will go wrong?” and lay out the worst-case scenario brings a sense of peace to your mind and weirdly puts you at ease. It brings you to home base. It’s a way of making peace with reality, of loving what is, as Byron Katie says.
Let’s bring this concept to another level now.
To our inner world. Because in the end, that’s where the battlefield will play out. The obstacle is never outside of us. Ever. Whatever is standing in the way of you and where you want to be….is your brain. It’s your thinking. Say what? Yes. That two-million-year-old computer in your head is your obstacle. Your brain is setting up hurdles and distractions at all times, especially when you try to step outside of your comfort zone.
Sit down, take a moment and imagine where and how everything can go wrong. Now, visualize how you’ll handle the situation. How will you react to it? How will you show up for it? This little simulation exercise is a powerful brain rewiring tool that will help you face your urges. Your compulsions. Your thoughts. Your life.
"The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive."
Let me invite you to anticipate trouble. Anticipate shit to hit the fan. Welcome the mess and whatever lesson it may bring. Embrace whatever is coming your way and expect it with open arms. And when it comes, you’ll stand there, tall, never surprised, with a smile, confident you can handle it, calm and at ease. Because you’ve seen it coming. Because you've rehearsed the situation. And you’ve got this.
You so totally got this.