Sometimes it feels like life is just one giant test.  If you studied, you’re ready to pass with flying colours.  But if you haven’t, everything feels harder than it actually is.

Last week, I started to have some problems with a relatively new computer.  After several hours on the phone with tech support, I eventually had to go to an Apple store nearly an hour away.

With our level of dependency on technology, not having a functioning computer can really set you back.

I had planned on doing some final planning for 2019 and had clients to serve — with no main computer.  I ended up losing almost two whole days of business time.

We all have situations like this.  We plan and often have a very fixed idea of how our day is going to go, but then life intervenes and we have to quickly react to a new situation.

And then the thoughts creep in. They’re always there, thoughts. We have literally thousands and thousands each day.  Sometimes, when under perceived pressure, they can turn people into a schizophrenic chimpanzee.

This situation had woken up my chimp, and he was ready to party!

Some of the things I was ‘thinking’ (and that’s all they were, just thoughts) were crazy.

I was judging the people trying to help me for being inept (in my mind), moaning about how crap life is because of my business interruptions (in my mind).

I was creating dramas about the very real impact this downtime would have on my business for 2019 (yep, that’s right, in my mind). And so on and so forth.

You’ve probably guessed I was frustrated that I couldn’t do what I had planned to do.

My chimp was having one hell of a tea party.

Then I slowed down.  Took a few breaths.  Got some perspective on the actual situation.

I asked myself, ‘What are the benefits here?’

One of the answers that came up is that this was a little test to see how I cope with challenges.  To see if I can walk my talk as a coach.

Suddenly, I was able to approach the malfunctioning technology with calmness and acceptance.  I realised that getting angry, impatient and lashing out at those who helped me wasn’t making the situation any better.  In fact, they could have made it much worse.

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.”
— Paramahansa Yogananda

And that’s not who I want to be in the world.

I chose to ruin my chimp’s party.

There’s no magic to this. It’s patient, consistent work over a long period of time.  My practices in meditation and mindfulness help me get through situations like this. I do the homework, so that when the test appears, I know I’m ready.

This is true for all people classified as high performers.  They have a level of commitment that brings with it the discipline to practice consistently at a certain skill or set of skills.  Think about someone like David Beckham, or Jonny Wilkinson, or Michael Jordan. They all had one main thing in common — they practiced day in, day out. When everyone else had gone home for the day, they were still there working on their game so when the time came to take that pressured free kick, conversion, or three pointer at the end of the game, they were ready.

They had their chimp under control.

I’m sharing this because you could do this too.  You could choose to take 10, 15, 20 minutes out of each day first thing and do some mindfulness practice.  I’m really no expert in this, but I’ve found a lot of value in apps such as Oak (Apple only) and Headspace (Apple and Android).  They’re really easy to use.  Functionality, or which app to choose, isn’t the issue with meditation — it’s about commitment.

Commitment to doing the practice to help you slow things down and get in touch with reality when things don’t pan out as you hoped.  Commitment is often the problem when it comes to growth.

How many times have you joined a gym and then never made the most of the membership?

Things happen every day in life that test us.  That’s what life presents. Challenge and support.  Two sides of the same coin.

Life really is just one big test of how you’ve developed yourself, how you approach life.  One big opportunity to grow and learn. One way of seeing what your practice is like.

That’s the game of life, for me anyway.

Or you can play the role of victim and curse the fates that put you in a frustrating situation.  You can always find someone to blame. I often do, when I let the chimp out.

But does that approach get you anywhere?  Getting angry doesn’t solve the problem. Blaming others doesn’t solve the problem.  Judging people and situations doesn’t solve anything.

It merely adds more caffeine and sugar to the chimps’ party going on in your mind.

We can all agree to this in theory.  No one wants to get mad when things don’t go to plan.  Of course we want to be calm and measured in our approach.  But theory doesn’t mean much if you don’t practice.  You can’t read one book about mindfulness and expect a magical transformation.

You have to work on being calm and mindful consistently.  Slow your reaction times so that you can approach a challenge with the aim of getting it resolved — not getting angry at everyone around you.

Working on your inside — your approach to life, how you deal with challenges — always benefits your outside.  At work, at home, in relationships, in parenting.

When you’re with a fussy child, use your calm approach to help settle them.  If you get angry and ruffled, it will only add emotional fuel to the child’s inner fire.  It will give their chimp even more energy.

When you have a frustrating team member, be mindful of what they are experiencing so you can help them.  Be the change you want to see in them. If you judge, blame, and get angry, their chimp will join your chimp and bring extra cakes laden with sugar.

Don’t choose to have a tea party. Choose mindfulness and being present.

It’s not always easy.  It takes hard work: small, consistent actions every day to build your resilience.

Once you’ve learned that skill, you can approach your whole life with more acceptance and gratitude.

See it as one big growth game.  When you do that, it becomes far more fun.  And, chances are, you’ll be ready to take the winning opportunity when it presents itself.

The computer is fixed and I’m back on track.  I even got an upgrade that’s made my tech setup far better.  Every cloud, eh?

And I’m still doing my homework consistently.  My chimp is taking a nap … for now.

What do you need to work on, on your inner game, in order to create a better year for yourself in 2019?

With love and wellness,

David.

Note: Image courtesy of The Daily Mail