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When You Can't Optimize, You Can Still Thrive

Updated: Jan 17

The last few weeks I've talked about ways I try to optimize my life to help inspire you to do the same. Hopefully you have also heard the message of grace and compassion with that so we don't feel overwhelmed.

The truth is I think, that we are so obsessed with making things "the best", that it can get in the way of actually being present and enjoying the journey. Remember - it's not about doing or achieving anything. At the end of the day it's about the adventure. It can be hard to do that when every where we look we are flooded with messages of how to do more, do better, make it the best.

Just look through your social media feed. How much is titled in a way that makes you absolutely believe that your life would be "better" if you could just do x...whatever the hell x is. And while we are at it what the hell does better even mean?

It's a daily struggle for me to remember that I have no obligation to make anything "better". I can in fact decide that something is fucking shitty and just sit in it and continue to lament how shitty it is.

But the reason I'm so obsessed with optimizing is because doing that - sitting in the shit - doesn't feel good. I mean who consciously enjoys that?

A powerful way this has shown up in my life? Feeling like if I just put in a little more work or effort that things would be different. It's a delusional sense of control. I can "fix" this if I just keep pushing, trying, working...whatever.

But sadly I'm not that powerful. And I don't have that much control. It doesn't matter how much I put into it, my son will always have autism.

It doesn't matter how much I put into it, this relationship just isn't working.

As much as I hate (I mean fucking detest and avoid like death) I can't make everything better. Sometimes it just is and what is, sucks.

What do we do when we are in that situation? When you are doing all the right things but it's still shitty? Well - here's what I try to do.

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body. - Seneca

Make it work for you

woman making a decision to make pain of workout work for her and be a benefit

If you are actively struggling with something right now I know you don't want to hear this...but struggle actually makes us stronger. That which doesn't kill you, remember?

That doesn't mean it's not painful. It doesn't mean it's fair. It just means that because you have a brain you can DECIDE to make the struggle work for you.

If you want.

Sometimes I don't want. When I was healing this past year I had weeks that would go by and I was totally ok DECIDING that the struggle was worth nothing. But eventually I decided to use it differently. To make it work for me as much as I could. I couldn't make the outcome or the situation matter how big my temper tantrum with the Universe was, but by God I could decide I would get the most of it.

It's like being at the gym, but not wanting to be there. You have two choices; be upset that you are there OR get in a workout (however small) since you have to be there anyway.

There's a trick to have to accept you can't change your situation. That's the hardest part for me. I have to first give up before I can find the potential in the challenge. If you can't do that the chances of you making the situation work for you is unlikely.

There are examples of this everywhere.

  1. Oprah

  2. JK Rowling

  3. Nick Vujicic

  4. David Goggins

  5. Lisa Nichols

I mean the list is endless. But to drive it home think about this in your life. In little ways and big ways. When I was able to accept that I couldn't "cure" my son of autism ways to learn from autism just showed up. And I became a better mom.

When I was able to accept that I can't force two people to be together I was able to see myself more clearly and become more of who I want to be for whoever I am with. I was able to learn how to live more authentically.

How about you?

The tornado is perfect. It's doing exactly what tornados do. - Bev Bockover

It's already perfect

Bev was my first spiritual mentor. She was famous for reminding me of this. She was telling me several things with this statement. First - it's not for me to judge what is happening as good or bad. That is a human control thing. I don't really believe in good and bad anymore in the traditional sense.

Why? Because given enough time, and the right energy things work out.

It's like that Chinese proverb of the farmer (read it here) you can't predict the future. And we already discussed we don't have any real who the hell am I to decide if something is good or bad. Maybe it's exactly the way it's supposed to be.

This is a spiritual practice to be sure. It again requires us to surrender. Surrender to what we think perfect is.

Even though this is an advanced idea I think it helps with realizing that "perfection" isn't possible anyway. I mean shit, this actually might be perfect.

I want to take a moment here and make sure that I validate - this doesn't mean that everything that happens is pleasant, or happy, or even preferred.

It isn't.

If you have been victimized, abused or in any other way treated disrespectfully, you and that experience deserve honoring. Please don't do yourself the disservice of not acknowledging pain. Pain is real and must be taken care of. Instead the message here is, on the other side of the pain might be something you needed or wanted.

If this is a new idea to you I encourage you to just gently sit with it. Ponder it. Consider it. It is not a justification for atrocities or abuses. And as with anything - if doesn't sit well or resonate that is totally fine. I'm not different from anyone else, just cause I said it doesn't make it true for you.

Great things never come from comfort zones. - Anonymous


person with arms open giving up control and surrendering to their situation

Not everything that is inconvenient or painful serves no purpose. We all know this logically, it's remembering it in the moment that is challenging. Just think of a simple example like working out. We know that exercise is good for us...I don't know about you but it doesn't FEEL good to me.

But discipline gets me to do the things I don't prefer so I can enjoy the benefits of them. This is the same mindset that helps us when we can't avoid the thing we don't want to do. When we can't optimize. It helps us remember that there is strength in the struggle.

It's also worth remembering that the energy required to always try to "fix" things can lead to burnout. If you are always try to swim up stream eventually your arms get tired...and your legs. I'd be willing to bet you start getting angry at people you love and feeling resentment. I mean you are putting in all the effort and nothing is different!

That's a good indication that you can't optimize it.

And that leads to the biggest payout here. Remembering that sometimes the best contentment comes in accepting the present moment just as it is.

When you can slow time enough, and pull back far enough, and hold enough compassion in your heart the feelings of bliss that come from there are beyond words. It's truly when you feel the rightness of Life. And you are deeply humbled by it.

To get there it requires daily mindfulness and healthy connections with others to help you see what you are missing. To be present enough to consider your thoughts before you just respond. And reflect with trusted people to hold you accountable.

A few secrets to help you get there?

  • Put it in your calendar. Set reminders to be mindful.

  • Breathe...when you take a deep breath you can think.

  • Schedule time to reflect on your struggles and what you are fighting with. Do this with someone you trust to get outside perspective.

  • Feel your body. Find an experience or memory or idea that can help you tune in and slow down.

There are dozens of ways to get creative with practicing mindfulness and self reflection. You are only limited by your imagination.

I hope this was helpful. I love optimizing and efficiency but I need to remember to temper that with acceptance and surrender. It makes for a richer life...and I'm not as pissed when things don't go my way. LOL

I would love to hear your thoughts and insights with this. How has this shown up in your journey and what strategies have been successful for you? I appreciate your part in this community we are building to find joy, live intentionally, grow and connect with integrity.



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