Life is change.
Life is good.
Therefore, change is good.
Most of us enjoy variety in our diet, improvements in technology and the growth and development of our children, but few enjoy the onset of age or unplanned changes in employment or marital status. Yet to a great extent it is the way we handle the changes we perceive as negative that determine our quality of life. Life, in the physical sense, we know is finite, temporal; it is the temporary nature of life that makes it precious, simply by the principle of supply and demand. It serves us to find ways to view change as positive as much as we are capable.
Three tools I find useful for viewing change positively are:
Much negative feeling stems from our being attached to outcomes, people and things. When we allow ourselves to become attached to something, we give that thing power over us to affect the way we feel.
Some people think that detachment means that you love less, or are less involved, but detachment requires just as much love and involvement as attachment does; it just that in detachment, your love and involvement are oriented differently.
Often we get attached to outcomes. Perhaps this is because we were raised on stories that end with, “…and they lived happily ever after”, or we could maybe blame Disney animated features, but no matter how we got to where we are, it seems we often feel badly when things don’t come out the way we plan them.
You could define detachment as maintaining a state of having no expectations.
Receptivity is the readiness to accept changing conditions. Moving forward with all your senses tuned to the present, you look for the next new thing. When it comes, you smile, welcoming the change. Whether it is a compliment or a reprimand, a kiss or a task, or a gain or a loss, you welcome it because it is part of life, and you love life, all of life.
Of the three fundamental skills needed to embrace change, and therefore life, acceptance can be the most difficult. Acceptance is dependant upon trusting the outcome – that is, feeling that life has your best interest at heart. You see acceptance in the heroic efforts of those who recover from catastrophic illness or injury and go on to live relatively happy lives. All of life is acceptable, because you love all of life.
If you are fearful of possible outcomes, you are fearful of a part of life. Fearing life is no way to live.
Detachment, Receptivity and Acceptance in action.
Let’s say you have the expectation, before they are born, that your child will get a college degree. Your child, however, is born with a slight disability. S/he is very bright, but because of their disability cannot motivate or organize themselves well.
Following the path of being attached to the future outcome of a college degree and fearful of other possible outcomes, you might micromanage your child’s schoolwork in order to try to ensure the desired outcome. As a result, your child may fall far behind in the ability to work independently, and despite your efforts, since the child does not own the work, s/he gets lackluster grades. After an extensive search you find an expensive private school in another state that will accept your child with their low grade point average. There, without your micromanagements, their efforts to succeed implode, and in the end they are ejected from the school. Their self esteem and your net worth both take heavy damage.
On the other hand, being detached from the higher education outcome, your focus is not on the future but on the present. Instead of micromanaging academic performance, you are receptive to the child’s talents and ideas. Detached from the future and receptive to now, you celebrate your child’s daily advancements and victories. The child’s confidence grows. You are receptive to feedback from teachers as well as advice from other parents in similar circumstances, and you are ready to accept whatever outcome because you trust you child to do well. As it happens, your child gets pretty good grades and by graduation has an impressive portfolio of extracurricular accomplishments. On the strength of his interview, he gets accepted to a good school close to home where he can get help from you – his helpful and receptive parent – easily.
I hope you found this article helpful. You might ask how you can stop yourself from making negative self-fulfilling prophecies and spending useless hours in regret and worry. If you did, I would suggest you begin a daily practice of meditation to calm your mind, show it who’s boss. Once you establish who’s in charge, you can get on with your happy life of detachment, receptivity and acceptance.