We’re doing a lot of slipping these days in Vermont. Our driveway, backyard, the parking area, the trails that go into the surrounding woods – they all have a surface like an air hockey game. And anyone who tries to walk is like the puck. You just can’t get a grip . . . literally.
The other kind of slipping that some of you may be experiencing is less related to ice and more related to resolutions or goals. Maybe you made resolutions (or set some goals) about losing weight, about exercising, about writing your book or meditating or anything else that you hope would launch your life into a slightly better place than it was last year. And you were doing pretty well until ………
You Slipped. (Ouch!)
What happened? Perhaps you had a moment of self-disciplinary weakness and were seduced by a chocolate tart. Or you got the flu and could hardly function for five days. Or your Mom fell and you had to fly to St. Louis to give her a hand after her release from the hospital. So now you feel frustrated and demoralized. You were making progress, but now you’ve fallen down.
This is where we can learn something from ice. Unless you’re severely injured from slipping on the ice, one of the things most people do is:
You may get up slowly. You may have a twisted ankle or even a broken wrist. You may look around to see who saw you fall. But eventually you have to get up.
And here’s where we can learn something from Japanese Psychology:
Falling is inevitable. So learn to get up quickly.
In other words, spend less time on the ground. There is a Japanese Maxim that we teach in our courses:
Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up
The maxim could have been 422 Times Down, 423 Times Up. Because you’ll probably slip, over a lifetime, more than seven times. But the basic idea is that you expect to fall, and you learn the art, actually the skill, of getting up quickly.
Most of us don’t do what we really want to do because we get distracted – we lose focus and our energy shifts away from what we believed was important. And sometimes that can’t be helped. But you have to learn how to shift that energy and focus back to where it needs to be. This is what we call persistence. Or resilience. Or perseverance.
And let me offer you a hint. Once you’ve slipped you won’t feel like getting back up and devoting yourself to what you thought yesterday was a worthwhile goal. Don’t count on even an ounce of motivation or enthusiasm. Instead expect disappointment and frustration. And the challenge is not to transform those feelings, but to take them with you as you move forward. Don’t put your energy into fixing your feeling state, because you want that energy available for doing the things that are important to do.
That’s Japanese Psychology (actually Morita Therapy) and if you want to learn more you can join our Taking Action distance learning course that starts March 1st. You’ll learn how to find your purpose, how to fall, how to get up, and how to persist at doing things when you don’t feel like it.
Those are things worth learning.
Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......