Rethink your thinking.
Have you ever had a day, where everything starts going wrong? Usually one after the other, but seemingly all at once? Sound familiar? I’m a huge believer in karma and fate. When Morpheus asked Neo if he believed in fate in The Matrix, he said no, “I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my own life”.
The reality is that we’re not. Epictetus said it best,
The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…
99% of the experiences that happen to us are outside of our control. It’s this philosophy you must embody if you are to ever break the cycle of letting a few bad moments ruin your whole day.
It was a sunny Sunday morning and I’d taken the dog for a walk at our favourite spot — everything was great. She went into the river (which is now drying up and is mostly mud) and came out with her usual muddy socks on. We got back to the car and set off back to home. Everything is fine, right?
Except it wasn’t, I had been arguing with my partner all morning, things weren't going so well today. I’d been up all last night with my eldest daughter, she’s autistic and has difficulties sleeping sometimes. I try to put the sleep deprivation to the back of my mind. There was no breakfast in the house this morning, I hadn’t eaten yet. I was hungry. We needed milk for the kids and the car needed diesel. I didn’t have any money, work isn’t going too well right now. I message my sister and ask her for a loan until midweek, she’s all too happy to help out.
5 minutes on the road, I feel a rumble through the steering wheel, like I’d hit started driving over the little cats eye reflectors in the middle of the road. Weird. Next, an all too familiar sign pops up on my dash.
The drivers side rear tyre that I’d had repaired a few weeks prior had unrepaired itself and fully deflated. I continued to drive for a while, until I found a safe spot to pull over. Not ideal, outside somebody’s house.
That’s when the familiar feeling comes washing over me. “Why me?”, I was already having a bad day, why is this happening now? I check my phone, the battery is on 3%. I message my mechanic to see if he can pick me up, or at least bring the space saver and swap it out whilst he repairs the puncture (again). No luck, he’s out of town for the day.
It’s a 12KM walk back to home, the sun is beaming down, I’ve got my dog in the boot and no water for the journey. I feel defeated. Life sometimes has a way of beating you until you’re down, then beating you some more, and it’s times like these where I find strength in thinking about that.
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
– Rocky Balboa
I get Margo out the boot and put her harness on. I try to find a pen and paper to leave a note with my phone number, apologising to the house owner whose house I’m parked in front of — no such luck.
“I really hope they don’t mind, I’m going to have to leave it here.”
I charge my phone for 5 minutes with the engine on, my 20 miles of diesel slowly running down, converted into percentages on my phone for the journey ahead. I check Maps one last time to make sure I’ve got the route planned out, it’s 12/13KM and should take a couple of hours.
This is a busy coastal road going between two busy towns, there’s barely any sidewalk or pathways off the road. It is not walker-friendly — especially with a dog. The odds are stacked against me today.
We set off.
Setting off, I’m still in what I call victim mode. The “Why the fuck is this happening to me today”, “Why have I done to deserve this?”, “I bought that guys meal for him at McDonalds yesterday, my karma should be up, WTF?” 🤣
A while I learned that if you stay in that mentality for longer than 5 mins, you really will fuck your day up. So fucking what, my life is fucking difficult right now. Everybody’s is. Sometimes we’re up in life, sometimes we’re down. It really is a rollercoaster, and similar to what Epictetus said above — all you can do is hold on.
But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
– Rocky Balboa
5 minutes into the walk back home, I say, “Fuck it”. I’m out here in 24 degree heat, 80% of the walk is next to a beach, it’s sunny, I’m alive, I have an awesome dog. Life is alright. So I start enjoying the journey. I make a conscious decision to make good with what I have. I start thinking about what I’m grateful for and I stop dwelling on everything that fucking sucks. And it’s my ability to do this — to shut off from the bad thoughts, the depression, the downtrodden feeling that life has it out for me right now––that made sure I walked those 12/13KM happily.
Instead of, “I have to walk 12/13KM on this hot ass day next to dangerous traffic”, I turned it into, “I get to walk 12/13KM with my dog enjoying this nice day.” I barely ever have 5 minutes to myself to enjoy life at peace without being bothered by someone for something, once I realised this, it became a lot easier.
It’s a fucking superpower.
So the next time you’re having a shitty day, just pause for a second. Take stock of what you’re grateful for, and remember that every thing we have in life is temporary (including you) and can be taken at any moment.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Build happiness within yourself, happiness for others, for your animals. Not for material things, or the trappings of society. We often overcomplicate life with trivial things that seem large at the time, but in the face of death and reality, those trivial problems simply cease to matter.
I hope this article helps at least one person out there, in the same way that this thinking helped me on that Sunday.