This Is Water: how a horrible 2 weeks have made me more aware

written by  Ryan Seamons

I’ve had a trying past couple of weeks. But challenges are where we learn. Here’s how becoming aware is helping me accept some recent challenges.

Our bodies are incredible tools

I was making the bed and injured my finger. It was odd, then annoying and worrisome, and then out-right frustrating. In the end, my doctor told me that I needed to wear a splint, full-time, for 8 weeks.

I’ve now found that I use my left middle finger for all sorts of things: opening jars, washing dishes, typing, showing affection to my wife and children, getting things out of my pocket, etc.

I am grateful to gain empathy and respect for those with long term injuries and handicaps. And I am reminded that our minds and bodies, even if limited in some ways, can adjust and overcome barriers. Now I know just a little bit better that one of the grand purposes of life is to serve and be served.

Without hardship, we wouldn’t have as much opportunity to serve. If no one allowed others to serve them, no one would be able to serve.

I highly recommend Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Church Service written by my friend and director of HR at Door Dash, Nathan Tanner about the benefits of service.

Becoming Aware of our Choices

This is Water is an epic speech that I return to again and again.

It explores one of my deepest held beliefs—that life centers around choice. His proposition is that real education is about awareness of our default setting. Learning how to become aware, make meaning, and take action gives us the power to change from that default.

If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness

High-Quality Problems

I once attended a cheesy marriage seminar that kind of changed my life. Even as I eye-rolled at some of the delivery, many concepts stuck with me. One was this:

You will always have problems. But the quality of those problems changes over time. When you’re doing things like figuring out how to navigate spending money or dealing with relationships in your life you have to remember that you have money to spend and you have relationships to fight over. Many people have neither of those.

You want to create a life full of high-quality problems.

Even as I’ve faced challenges at work and at home, I am grateful for the times I can become aware and choose to reframe what’s happening as I recognize that I have high-quality problems:

  • I hurt my finger and we’ve had sickness going around our family. But I’m grateful that we can afford the medical help we need and I’m still able to work.
  • My son spilled a full cup of soda in the middle of our cart at Costco in the craze of Costco-Saturday. But I’m grateful we have a Costco nearby, I have children, and I have money to shop.
  • LA traffic can be miserable. But I’m grateful I have a car and work remotely much of the time.
  • My kids incessantly ask me to play games with them. But I’m grateful for children who want to spend time with me.

We can complain about blessings if we aren’t aware. And even trying challenges can bring gratitude if we choose to focus on the good.

The world will be a better place when more people choose to be open about challenges, both at work and at home. Things get tough and that’s ok. I’m grateful to experience my small bit of challenge and discouragement. I know that it helps me be better prepared and more empathetic so I can help others in the future.

About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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