Have you ever spent a boatload of time and money on something that turned out to be a complete disappointment? Maybe you decided to travel to a remote, secluded beach in South East Asia, only to discover it has been visited by hordes before you, evident from the presence of plastic bottles and bags everywhere you look. Or perhaps you packed up your car and headed into the mountains in anticipation of a leisurely hike, only to be confronted with a never-ending flow of torrential rain?
You entered the situation with high expectations, and when things didn’t turn out as planned, you became disappointed, or even angry at yourself, for making such a dumb decision in the first place.
But, it’s precisely your expectations that can quickly turn a simple unfortunate event into a decision you regret ever having made. Your expectations tarnish the whole experience with the potential for disappointment before you even begin. You don’t even notice or appreciate all the good stuff that happens along the way. Why let things like water pollution and the weather, things that are out of your control, affect how you feel?
When you identify and accept what is out of your control, it’s unlikely you’ll ever become disappointed again.
30 Days of Rain in Spain
In October 2017, I learned to paraglide while on a trip to the mountains of Indonesia. Hungry for more flying action, when I arrived back in the UK I immediately started searching for more potential sites to indulge my new-found passion. The only place that looked flyable in winter was a quiet little village called Algodonales, in the south of Spain.
Although the weather wasn’t looking promising, I was holding out hope that the sun would prevail and offer up a plethora of flyable weather windows. I went ahead and booked a spacious townhouse for the duration of my 30-day visit. Furthermore, to help me travel to the launch sites and assist with improving my flying skills, I hired a local paragliding company, at no small expense.
Upon my arrival at the village, the heavens opened. My paragliding team and I drove around for hours that first day, visiting all the launches and landings, but ultimately the rain forced us into the confines of the nearest restaurant. Even when the rain stopped, the wind wasn’t blowing in the right direction for a safe takeoff, so we reluctantly decided to call it a day, praying to the weather gods for some sunshine the next day.
The rain persisted for three more days before we finally got a promising weather window. We made our way up to the launch site and assessed the wind. It was all systems go and I quickly launched off the mountain to follow the vultures who conveniently located all the areas of thermal lift, a pilot’s best friend. By the time the sun was setting I had managed to get in two flights and over three hours of satisfying airtime!
Unfortunately, this was one of only a handful of weather windows during the whole 30 days I was in the area. As a result, I only made one additional flight, which lasted less than 10 minutes. Not exactly what I was expecting.
Did I Get Disappointed?
It would have been easy for me to complain about the rain and overwhelm my brain with regret, considering this to be a wasted trip. After all, I had spent a bunch of cash and a whole month of my time in a sleepy village in the Spanish mountains, with the main goal of flying as much as possible.
What I realized was that I had to let go of my attachment to this goal, and instead, appreciate the beautiful landscapes that surrounded me and all the free time I had to work on my business and explore the mountains. While I didn’t get to fly as much as I expected to, or anything close to as much as I would have wanted, I did, in fact, fly as much as possible, given the weather.
There is no need to moan, complain or feel disappointed when you get shot down by the weather, or anything outside of your control, that forces you to change your plans. It just takes a change of perspective to find fun and happiness, no matter what happens.
Change the Things You Control, Starting With Your Attitude
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, once said, “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
This is the exact mindset I adopted when the Spanish weather twisted my arm, forcing me into submission to events outside my control, and making me focus on other activities that were available to me. It’s also a key component of Stoicism that is best illustrated by a Buddhist story I found on Pocket Stoic.
“The antagonist in the story is Mara, an enemy of the Buddha. Mara heard of the Buddha’s powers and sought to destroy him so he sent a powerful army.
Mara instructed the soldiers to throw flaming rocks at the Buddha, but when they got near him they turned to flowers and fell. Buddha’s adversary then instructed the army to shoot arrows at the Buddha, but again the arrows became flowers once they got close to the Buddha’s sphere.
There was nothing Mara could do to injure the Buddha because the Buddha had mastered the ability to shelter his happiness from outside events.
I draw parallel the rocks and arrows to negative thoughts about external circumstances. You can’t change these events; you can only change your attitude towards them. Through this realization our mind can become impenetrable. So long as we can control our attitudes and reactions, we can very well never be negatively influenced by outside events.”
This is precisely how never to become disappointed, ever again. It’s all about how you perceive, and respond to, the events in your life and if, in fact, there is anything you can actually do to change them. Things like the weather and other people’s opinions are clearly out of your control and you should not let them affect your state of mind.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where negative thoughts are starting to bubble up, just ask yourself the following three questions:
1 – Is this inside, or outside, of my control right now?
2 – If it is inside of my control, what specific actions can I take to improve the situation?
3 – What can I be grateful for?