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The Randomness of Life: 3 Steps to Take Back Control

The Randomness of Life: 3 Steps to Take Back Control

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    My wife and I had a wonderful lunch on Saturday, just the two of us, at an outdoor Mexican cafe. The sun was bright but not hot. The wind was a soft, cool breeze. Our lunch was one of the most peaceful and relaxing times I can remember, it was perfect.

    And then out of the blue, a small car comes roaring off the highway and right in front of the restaurant side swipes another driver then slams on the brakes, makes a sharp turn to the right, and drives off even faster.

    A brief, loud, dangerous, completely random moment.

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    It is not the accident itself that has me thinking, it’s the randomness of it. The driver that was hit, where were they going? What were they hoping to achieve that day? How was their life altered by that single random moment? Most importantly, will this knock them off course? Will it change them and alter the direction in which their lives were headed?

    The answer is actually pretty simple: Only if they let it.

    A single car accident may not have a great impact on our lives, but what about a random event at work? You have been working day in and day out on your career, you have a goal, you can see it, and then a random event happens that could through you far off course.

    The truth is that random events happen in our lives everyday. Some are small, others are huge. There is no way to predict or anticipate them. The only control we have is how we react to them. We cannot control events but we can control our reaction. We are in complete control of what comes next, and therein lies one of the greatest freedoms we will ever know.

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    “Why is the human need to be in control relevant to a discussion of random patterns? Because if events are random, we are not in control, and if we are in control of events, they are not random, there is therefore a fundamental clash between our need to feel we are in control and our ability to recognize randomness.” – Leonard Mlodinow

    Mlodinow is right. We cannot control random events, but with hard work and a whole lot of patience we can control our reaction to the randomness of the world we live in. Try these three steps to take back your control:

    1. Slow Everything Down

    slow-down

      Nothing can be gained from reacting quickly and impulsively to an event, whether it is a car accident, a breakup, or burning your toast in the morning. Our first in the moment reaction will usually just make the situation worse. Humans are generally not very rational, at least not at first. Think about what your first reaction would be if someone hit your car or you burnt your morning toast. Two very different events. One large, one small. But our first reaction is what? Anger? Depression? How will either of these two help you?

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      They won’t. Slow everything down, get past the anger and the depression and ask yourself “How can I gain from this?” or at least remind yourself that this is a random event and it will not deter you from your goal.

      2. Remind Yourself of Your Goal

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        When these challenges come you way, and they will, the idea is not to run from them. Do not let them have power over you. Remind yourself of exactly what it is you are looking for in life. Thinking about your goal will help you to recenter your thoughts. Get your thoughts away from the negative emotion of the event and toward the positive action that you can take.

        3. Take Action!

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        action-changes-things

          When life pushes you sometimes the best thing to do…..is to push back!

          After you have taken a pause and let go of any anger or resentment you may have, and after you have reminded yourself of your goal and just what it is you are hoping to achieve, then it becomes time to act.

          In this life we can choose to define our goals. We can choose to be slowed by randomness or to not let it stop us. This choice is a willful action, the greatest power we can claim, and the fuel that successful people use to achieve their dreams. Act! Fight back! Or simply put one foot in front of the other. Choose to keep moving and to keep pushing to achieve more.

          We cannot control what life throws our way. Man has never had that gift. But what we do have is the unique ability to choose our reaction. Once you give yourself this freedom, you will never look back.

          More by this author

          Glenn Killey

          Author, Motivational Speaker, Mindset Coach

          What Is Your Defining Mental Picture? What My Teenage Daughter Taught Me About Simplicity What An 86 Year Old Man Can Teach Us About Procrastination The Randomness of Life: 3 Steps to Take Back Control The Law of Reversed Effort

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          Last Updated on September 10, 2018

          Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

          Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

          We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

          Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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          Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

          Looking at images of loved ones

          While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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          In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

          Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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          Exercise

          Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

          Meditation

          Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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          In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

          When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

          With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

          Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

          Reference

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