I don’t tend to get myself too worked up about things over which I have no control. The 2016 American Presidential Election would qualify as one of those things over which I have absolutely no control. And yet somehow, I found myself feeling completely let down by this particular outcome. I felt disappointed by humanity. I felt let down as a woman. I felt let down as a human being. And I felt let down by human beings.
Often in situations where things do not go how we had hoped, we start to have ideas about how the situation would be better if outside circumstances would change. In the case of the election, I may have even hoped for a mistake in counting to have been discovered.
As I pondered my disappointment, and more specifically, my futile attempts to alter the outside world to help me feel better, I realized that my reaction to this specific event is the same as the reaction that many people experience when life does not go their way. We commonly look outside of ourselves to find a fix for our problem. Even though it is easy to recognize this pattern of behaviour in other people, and to notice that it is not a particularly effective strategy, it is much more difficult to convince ourselves that looking outside our own lives to solve an inward problem is futile.
Over the past few days as I have been driving, I’ve been listening to a recording of “Don’t Bite The Hook” by Pema Chodron. She tells a great little story that really illustrates this idea. Here is my translation:
A man was walking barefoot through the world. He found that his feet were getting pricked by thorns, burned by hot asphalt, cut by stones, and made wet by puddles. As this was very uncomfortable, he looked for ways to stop the pain. The solution that he arrived at was that his journey would be made infinitely more pleasant if leather could simply be stretched over all of the thorns, the asphalt, the stones and the puddles. He complained about his problem and told his tale of woe to anyone who would listen. Although people responded sympathetically, no one was too eager to help him cover all of the earth with leather to solve his problem. In fact no one could really imagine that there could even be enough leather available to cover the earth. Finally, a wise person suggested that instead of covering all of the possible hazards that were obstacles in his journey, that perhaps he could simply take two small pieces of leather and cover his own feet.
This simple story holds the key to managing many of our disappointments. In the case of the election, it is not reasonable for me to think that world will, or should, change to help me cope. The election was fair, democratic, and reflected the voices of the electorate. In fact, the election was not the problem at all. My reaction to the election was the problem for me. The result of the election made me scared. It has opened up a new kind of leadership that I am not comfortable with. I struggle with change and I really struggle with loss of control. I was looking for the world to step in and help me to feel more comfortable – to cover up my fear with leather. The truth is that I do not need the world to protect me from my feelings. It is up to me to choose how I will walk through my disappointment. I get to choose my reaction. I get to choose my behaviour. I get to choose which shoes I need to put on to make my journey the most comfortable for me.
The shoes I am choosing to put on will be made of sturdy and yet soft leather; sturdy so that I will be confident that I can handle any rough roads that might come my way, soft so that I can remind myself that I know how to deal with change and so that I can accept and be open to new ideas. They will also be made of a beautiful colour so that I can wear them with the confidence I will need to find my voice and to stand up for others who may feel they do not have a voice. As with all of my new shoes, I may experience some discomfort as I wear them in.
I have absolutely no control over the president of the United States. I do however, have full control over what shoes I choose to wear. It is possible that I just might need a new pair of shoes every once in a while to help me out on this journey!
Perhaps you are in need of a new pair of shoes in your life. Contact me today to learn more about how we can work together to facilitate the change you want.