Every time something bad happens, even when it’s completely beyond our control, it is very normal to feel like we screwed up. With this feeling comes self-doubt, second-guessing, and hesitation—in all areas of our lives.

When something bad happens, it’s human to look for a reason why. It’s difficult for our minds to accept that there is no reason, so we tend to look for all the things we could have done differently that might have prevented the bad thing from happening.

If you get in a fender bender with another vehicle through no fault of your own, you will be hyper-vigilant while driving for the next little while. You may also ask your husband what he thinks you should do about hosting Christmas dinner this year, hesitate before you correct your teenager’s behavior, and agonize over employee reviews you usually complete without difficulty.

We all walk around thinking we have a contract with life. This contract states that nothing bad will happen as long as we do x, y, and z. Each person’s x, y, and z is different, but we all feel betrayed when something bad happens even though we’ve been doing x, y, and z.

When something bad happens, we feel as if life broke the contract. Then we try to figure out why and what we can do differently to make sure this never happens again!

It is much easier to believe the bad thing happened because “x wasn’t done correctly,” than it is to believe sometimes bad things happen—no matter what we do.

While this anxiety about what we could have done differently is difficult to handle, it’s easier to handle than the truth, which is this: We have no contract with life. No matter what we do, mistakes will be made, accidents will happen, and plans will get disrupted.

So, how do we handle life when bad things happen? How do we not let the bad thing turn us into hesitant, second-guessers who have a hard time getting anything done?

We practice.

We notice that all is well right now. And right now. And right now.

We meditate: On a cushion, on a walk, or even while doing the dishes. We watch our thoughts and we notice a) our thoughts are not us, and b) we can let go of our thoughts, and c) we can choose different thoughts.

We stay present in as many moments of our daily lives as we can.

We notice when we are getting frustrated and check in to see what thoughts we are thinking.

Thoughts like these:

  • He should move faster (and he’s not.)
  • She should have told me herself (and she didn’t.)
  • Why do I have to do everything around here? (There is no good answer to this question, only answers that lead to frustration and anger.)
  • No one cares about me. (In this moment, you are not caring about you.)

While these thoughts are not about really bad things that happen, they are the tiny moments of daily life that give us the opportunity to practice seeing the contract with life for what it is: a fantasy.

We don’t need a contract with life because the miracle of each moment is enough.

If we practice, we notice different thoughts:

  • I’ll get there when I get there.
  • I give her permission to tell me or not tell me whatever she wants.
  • What would be the most fun thing I could do right now?
  • I care about me.

When we practice noticing our thoughts and letting go of them in favor of what is truly real right now, we feel more peaceful. We are building up our reality muscle for when the big, bad things happen. 

Are you practicing?