Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.William James
When one looks at today’s world, it’s easy to realize how bombarded with advertisements for the latest products, current events, emerging trends, and politics one can be. It’s as if there is pressure to teach society what to think instead of trying to teach people how to think. If one is always worried about trends and buying the latest gadget to keep up with the Joneses, how can anyone accept or be grateful for what they have? Is modern society meant to live for neverneding consumption for the sake of ego? Is there a better way to shift one’s thinking?
If the coronavirus epidemic and the economic shutdown have taught us anything, it’s that the world can change in an instant. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. The lifestyle you currently have may not be there in the coming weeks. Taoism has discussed the fact that life is very temporary in the Tao Te Ching among other texts. Most were not prepared or willing to change. They did not understand what they already have because their fragile egos told them they required more. They simply needed to be like everyone else even if it meant they all suffered together (which many did).
This was not an accident. The media and society teaches humans to immerse themselves in their egos and never think of tomorrow. It never teaches people to think of things as temporary. The result is more and more people think that the party never ends. They chase comfort over truth. The truth is, for better or worse, human beings were wired to be adaptable to any situation no matter how bad it may be. Acceptance is the ability to be adaptable to situations beyond one’s control. Imagine having the best looking girlfriend and the greatest job that pays the most money. In the first few weeks, it seems great. Unfortunately, human acceptance and adaptabilty gets your mind so used to anything that even the greatest life simply becomes just your life. It is no longer amazing. People also get used to the worst of situations and deal with it all somehow. Human nature allows us to accept what is while we’re dealing with it.
If acceptance requires adaptability, does that not mean that humans should shift their focus on what they have instead of what they desire? The truth is that someone will always have more money, be more physically attractive, date more girls, or be taller than you. One can either cry about their circumstances and let their fragile egos possess them, or they can make what they have work in their favor. What you already have may be the answer to what you seek, therefore gratitude shines. Everyone has an advantage somewhere. One simply has to know where to look and focus on their strengths as opposed to looking at their weaknesses. Too many are focused on being a “jack of all trades”. The problem with the “jack of all trades” is that he is a master of no trade whatsoever. Life is a series of sacrifices and tradeoffs. The trick most people don’t understand is which tradeoffs are worth the risk. Which choice is worth making? What would one be willing to give everything for?
When discussing goals and passions, your ego can be useful as long as it is a healthy ego. A healthy ego requires an understanding that you can’t have it all. A healthy ego does create a sense of self-respect. As long as one can channel the balance between ego, acceptance, and gratitude, they can aspire to accomplish their desired goals. If coronavirus and the failing economy have taught humanity anything, it is that life is very short and one should seek to do what they’ve always wanted here and now. They should not wait for “the right time”. The time is now. There is a sense of gratitude one should have for the fact that time never stands still. The Stoics understood this.
Life is a series of sacrifices and tradeoffs. The trick most people don’t understand is which tradeoffs are worth the risk. Which choice is worth making? What would one be willing to give everything for?
To conclude this topic, one can use the balance of acceptance, gratitude, and ego to benefit themselves when necessary. In this age of pandemic, it is even more important than ever to do so. Accept the fact that no two moments are the same and adapt accordingly. Be grateful for what you have and the opportunity to change the course of your life through your actions. Finally, use that last bit of healthy ego to pursue the goals you desire.