Rocks in the Brook

By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author

“I once heard it said that the rocks in the brook are what make it sing.

And as I sit here in my yard, gazing at my koi pond with all of its beauty, I suddenly realize how true that is. I’m looking at the many objects that appear to stand in the water’s way – the rocks, ledges, twists and turns along the 15-foot stream. But instead of stopping, the water serenely sings its way over and around the rocks, peaks, and falls.

The water’s movement beyond these apparent obstacles creates beauty and gives life to the wildlife that draws near. I am reminded of the beauty in my own life as a result of moving past obstacles, and I am grateful for every rock that has settled in my brook.”

I recently posted this on Facebook and was surprised at the many comments, instant messages and subsequent phone conversations that ensued.

I realized that if this brief expression of a deep, inner thought resonated with so many people, that perhaps I would spend some time expanding on its genesis.

I am increasingly reminded of how wonderful my life is and cannot help but think of how it came to pass. So very often I talk with someone in the office or speak to a group of professionals, and someone asks the question, “are you always this happy?”

That’s when it hits me, and I think, “if you only knew.”

You see, I am not a naturally happy or optimistic person. In fact, I spent decades struggling with debilitating bouts of depression that started from the time I was 11 years old.

And although there are all kinds of wonderful medical treatments for depression, none of them seemed to be particularly helpful in my case.

I spent years searching for relief from the sadness, heavy-heartedness and negativity. I tried everything from alcoholism to workaholism. Somehow by the true grace of God, eventually, I discovered the most powerful set of tools that changed the trajectory of my life. These tools became the anecdote to what robbed me of any sense of meaning, purpose and joy.

About 10 years ago, I started applying these tools and gradually developed a deep sense of inner peace and fulfillment. But what really caught me by surprise was throughout the process, I stumbled onto an amazing discovery. Not only did I begin to feel an unprecedented inner happiness, but I started to see success in all areas of my life. I began to see new business opportunities, more income, improved physical health, new and deeper personal relationships.

Then I started sharing these tools with my coaching clients. And I started seeing trends in accelerated success for them, too.

Those who developed and practiced what I call, “habits to happiness,” saw crazy success in achieving their goals at resoundingly higher rates than those who did not.

I finally had a close friend ask me last week, “Marianne, how did you do it?”

So, I’m going to share with you each week one of the pivotal keys that lead to my success and happiness, so that you can experience the same kind of success in the areas of your life that matter most.

Habit to Happiness – Acceptance

Many people think of the word, “acceptance” as a synonym for weakness or giving up. But it’s really the starting place for making any change in your life.

Hear me out. Approaching any problem from a place of resistance only creates more resistance. Have you ever heard the phrase “what goes around, comes around?” If you resist, you will get more resistance coming back at you.

In other words, what you resist, persists.

I’ll never forget the time many years ago when my best friend became tangled in ribbon and almost choked. OK, that best friend was a black and white mischievous cat by the name of Maxine. She had the ability to get into the darnedest predicaments.

One day, she decided to snoop into a gift bag that had two handles that were tied together with a long stretch of red ribbon. Her curiosity got the best of her, and before you know it, the ribbon was tangled around her neck. Now, I could have easily slipped the ribbon off from her neck had it not been for the fact that she was in a state of intense resistance. She rolled, and clawed, and chewed and flipped and flopped. But the more she struggled, the more entangled she became. I kept telling her to relax and let me help her, but go figure, she didn’t listen.

Eventually, all was well, and we got out of the mess. But you get the picture.

A tell-tale sign that you are in a place of resistance is if you use the phrase, “I hate it that…” or “I can’t stand it when…” Here’s the thing, when you’re in a place of resistance or negativity, your brain is less capable of problem-solving or thinking creatively.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, is less likely to happen when you’re in a state of resistance. You’re less likely to see opportunities. You’re less likely to come up with the “a-ha” business idea or talk to the right people who can advise you or coach you toward success.

For me, when I would start to feel a heavy-hearted bout of depression coming on, my first thoughts would be “I can’t stand it. I can’t live with this. I can’t go through this again. I hate that I feel this way. Why, me?!” With every “can’t” or “hate” statement, the negativity would grow. So, what do you think happened next? Of course, before I knew it, I was sitting on the bedroom floor in a puddle of tears unable to get myself dressed.

One day, I realized, “OK, this is it. This has been with me for 30 years. Can I accept that it’s here, yet go on with my day?” Every day I began to practice acceptance by saying, “ok, this is how I feel right now. This is how it is for this moment.” I accepted it, and I went on.

Well, that simple acknowledgment and acceptance had an amazing side effect. It was as if I had accidentally discovered gold.

When I hated and resisted, the feelings got worse.

Here’s the paradox: when I accepted it, I stopped thinking about it. Hours or days later, it would dawn on me that the depressive feelings had dissipated into thin air.

I started to notice this with everything that I resisted. When I was frustrated, angry or resentful of someone or something, those emotions would subside shortly after I accepted the situation.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying that you should sit back and let negative circumstances run you over. I’m not suggesting you become a door mat or let people walk over you. I’m absolutely not suggesting that you would say, “ok, I’m broke, I guess that’s it. Now I give up.” That’s NOT what I’m saying.

What I am saying is that the best thing you can do when you feel frustrated, angry or resentful, is to get yourself out of that state of mind. If you can accept where you are for the moment, the feelings will subside. And only then can you get into the frame of mind you need to take the right action that can improve your circumstances.

It’s a paradox for sure. You have to accept what is. And only then, can you be ready to move into what will become.

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