We all experience challenging, painful times, even heartbreaking moments. They’ve been part of life’s journey since, well, forever.
Cut to these days, and we’re all increasingly connected through our smart devices. Indeed, besides whatever complexities we may be managing, troubling news and even horrific developments can come at us 24 and 7. And at times, they do.
It’s a constant onslaught to process. To feel our way through, in ways that can drain us energetically.
So consider this potential energy conservation method: In the midst of everything we can’t control, the ancient discipline of non-judgment can aid us. It can soothe us. Then we can pass some peace forward.
First, limit the onslaught. Really.
My dear friend Kim, an amazing attorney and child advocate, doesn’t “do the news.” She’s disciplined about it. Her determination to live and work in a radically calm zone allows her to stay healthy for her own intense work in the world. For her unique contribution.
And of course Kim’s approach works for her. For her life and work.
The truth is, we each have to find our own threshold for taking in tragic, terrible—even terrifying—news. If we stick with default mode in these wired times, any and all troubling developments immediately arrive as notifications in our lives.
The good news is that there’s middle ground between disconnected and hyper-connected. These days, choosing our place along that continuum requires conscious decision-making, and discipline.
We can take time and give ourselves permission to craft our own approach, our own boundaries, toward relative peace of mind and productivity. Because the world needs the unique contribution we’re each here to make.
Yes, we’re each part of the continuing evolution of our species at a critical juncture. Pause for a moment here. Take that in.
Now limit the judgments you form. Really.
Coaches know that non-judgment is an essential tool in our work. We practice it to avoid laying the templates of our personal values and opinions on the unique humans we’re privileged to serve. Those templates, our particular filters for living our own lives, could keep us from actually hearing and seeing and getting who others are.
So the truth is that we can also practice non-judgment when the news is especially tough. And let me be clear: The point of non-judgment isn’t saintliness. Non-judgment isn’t about letting perpetrators off the hook.
The point is our own mental and emotional health and productivity during gut-wrenching times. As we keep our own energy flowing, as we stay focused on our missions and goals, we help keep everyone moving forward. It’s in fact a critical contribution.
And of course some of us contribute by being on the front lines of tragic or terrifying situations in utterly necessary ways. Thank you. Bless you.
Also, honestly, there are people in our lives, or looming large on our smart devices, whose choices and actions don’t work for us. We may not be able to relate to where they’re coming from. To what they do, or with whom they sympathize.
Of course the truth is also that we only know what we know. What we think and feel. The truth is, it takes real time, patience, and due diligence to understand the motivations—conscious and unconscious—of another.
Forces beyond your control can
take away everything you possess
except one thing, your freedom to
choose how you will respond
to the situation. — Victor Frankl
Reflect in “empty” space, with compassion.
As observers of current events from local to global, how can we grapple with what’s terrible in empty space, rather than filling it with all our assumptions, or our fears? This is space for our fellow humans to be the complex central characters in their own poignant, perhaps tragic life stories.
Can we avoid judgments that fill in the blanks with our beliefs, interests, and values? Can we accept the fact that we can’t really know the reasons for the struggles or failures or darkness of others?
In fact, I believe we can compassionately witness troubling, even catastrophic events with as much heart and soul as we can muster. And further, we can benefit from the sense of control this particular form of self-discipline gives us. Because the reality is that non-judgment is freeing.
Seek and find whatever meaning sustains you.
Is anyone else thinking of Viktor Frankl in this moment? A 20th century psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, he made major contributions to our understanding of the human spirit through writing about our fundamental human freedom to find our own meaning in anything.
Because he learned and then shared that we can choose—even in the most dire circumstance, a Nazi death camp—to motivate ourselves. To find meaning in pain. And to carry on. Bottom line, Frankl’s most creative contribution to humankind came directly from his own most intense period of suffering.
Repeat as needed.
In your own approach to painful times, try non-judgment. Feel it all, and protect your personal boundaries. Guard your energy and your goals. And more, practice extraordinary self-care. Yes, put on your own oxygen mask, and keep doing so as needed, toward everything you intend to accomplish.
And as you feel it all, if you feel derailed by what you’re feeling, reach out for support. You deserve it. After all, the world needs the unique something that you’re here to contribute.