You Are Not What Happens To You, But How You Respond That Matters

You Are Not What Happens To You

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” — Stephen Covey

You are not what happens to you, but it is how you respond that shapes your future. We’ve all had bad things happen, some more than others, yet it doesn’t diminish the events of the past. Perhaps you retreated into yourself to find solace and meaning in why the events took place. Stop! Stop trying to make sense of what happened because we spend unnecessary mental and emotional energy trying to figure out life.

Trying to rationalise life is a battle we seldom win. What makes me certain of this, you ask? Having coached hundreds of people over the past decade and through my own ordeals, I realise that making sense of what happens to us is a futile battle that results in pain and disappointment. The mental and emotional energy is better spent trying to find solutions and learning from our experience, instead of contextualising its meaning.

Life is not what happens to us, it is how we respond and grow from the experiences that shape our destiny. It is what the American Zen Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax refers to in Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet, when she talks about accepting what shows up in our life, including difficult moments: “I have come to see the profound value of taking in the whole landscape of life and not rejecting or denying what we are given. I have also learned that our waywardness, difficulties, and “crises” might not be terminal obstacles. They can actually be gateways to wider, richer internal and external landscapes.”

Does this make sense because it’s worth spending time to understand you are not what happens to you but who you become because of it? The events of the past took place based on your level of awareness. To put it another way, if you want to do large-scale graphic renderings using the latest Adobe Illustrator program on an 80s-built computer, it might not be capable of it. However, if you upgrade the hardware, it can perform the functions easier. Therefore, our troubles and disappointments occur because our level of awareness does not match the experience taking place.

So, if our significant other breaks up with us, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us, only our growth is not a match to maintain the relationship. If we lose our job or our health suffers, it is because our level of consciousness is not at the level to sustain those things. A popular aphorism states: “To grow thyself, know thyself.” As we grow in consciousness, we develop the ability to give more of ourselves and attract circumstances consistent with our level of consciousness.

What We Think We Know About Life

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll

It is why the rich are wealthy. They’ve developed a wealth and prosperity consciousness, because of years of self-improvement and personal growth. It is why those who are fit and healthy maintain healthy lives because they’ve developed a consciousness to sustain that way of being. This is an important principle because if we improve ourselves, we undoubtedly see the results manifest in our lives.

I hope this idea resonates with you because it is worth your time to understand this principle. The message is: nothing happens to us which we don’t allow, irrespective of whether we are conscious or unconscious. The latter is problematic because if we are oblivious to our motives; we make automated decisions not congruent with our greater self. Considering this, I invite you to reflect on your life, particularly the past. Have there been times in your career, health or relationships where you suffered because of what you were certain of?

I recall more than a dozen examples of what I knew with certainty, was incomplete. Often, what we think we know about life can lead us down a trail of self-destruction. It is when we let go of preconceived ideas of how life should be that we experience life becoming itself. Life knows what it needs to become, and if we are attached to how this should unfold, we limit its potential to occur. It is in releasing and renewing old ideas; we discover the essence of our life’s narrative. The lesson here is that your circumstances, whether past or present, do not make up who you are, but add a narrative to who you will become. This, my friends, determines the future you’re destined to live.

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