Amor Fati: The Courage to LOVE our Failures
You probably haven’t heard of Amor Fati but we have all experienced the antithesis, which is to resist, resent and curse the unexpected surprises that go against our personal preferences for how life should unfold. There are many forms of personal preferences we can become attached to as athletes - whether it’s starting and playing well in an important game, winning the game and/or being selected on the team of your dreams! When our personal preferences aren’t met, we typical meet these circumstances with resistance, fighting and resenting “what is.”
“My coach has no reason for benching me.”
“Why didn’t I make the 1’s team, I deserve to be on the team.”
“I can’t believe we lost and the coach didn’t sub me in.”
These thoughts represent different scenarios where we are craving reality to be different than it is. This non-acceptance of the present moment leads to us creating extra stress, caused by resenting the past and the present moment (what cannot be changed).
The term Amor Fati goes back to 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “My formula for greatness in a human being is Amor Fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”
Nearly two millennia earlier, Epictetus, one of the Stoic leaders, had a similar formula for a smoothly flowing life, “Seek not for events to happen as you wish but rather wish for events to happen as they do and your life will go smoothly.”
Why should we accept what is?
Can we accept the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the mistaken and the wise with strength and an all-embracing gratitude? If we think about it, acceptance is really the only option, the counter is to oppose everything that happens. Like the parable of the second arrow, a well-known Buddhist story teaching how to deal with un-expected events more skillfully. We are the archers of the second arrow, we shoot ourselves with this second arrow, inflicting the most pain, due to our judgment of the initial situation ( the first arrow) and the avalanche of debilitating thoughts and emotions that follow. By complaining, resenting or wishing it weren’t true, we stack on the arrows, not realizing that this is only multiplying unnecessary suffering upon our self.
1st arrow: The coach takes you out of the game.
2nd arrow: "This coach doesn't know what he is talking about." "Why do I even play on this team anyway, they don't appreciate me." "This coach is so biased against me, I am going to change teams."
These emotions are so common because as athletes we are always taking stock in our errors, regretting, resenting and lamenting the unfortunate twists of fate - so quick we are to judge an event as ‘bad’ or ‘good.’
In volleyball, I seldomly find myself lamenting after a reception, set or dig that wasn’t up to my standards. Even though the play may have ended with my team taking the point, I might me caught in thought, frustrated that reception wasn't perfect, ‘wishing’ my part in the last play was better.
Ending the Wishing, thriving with acceptance
Not: I’m okay with this.
Not: I think I feel good about this.
But: I feel great about it. Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I have the control over my perception, attitude and actions and I am going to make the best of it because it has already happened.
Author Robert Greene tells us to “stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.” Often the wishing halts the doing – even though it would seem likely a reasonable decision after a difficult moment, simply visualizing a better state distracts us from taking the necessary steps to addressing our current fate. By replacing the wishing with acceptance only empowers and propels us forward our highest self. By accepting our fate (the present moment) it is up to us to make this situation, experience and or moment something positive and active.
With more focus spent on what we control or the D.O.C. (our perception, attitude, action and our ability to set goals) our enthusiastic acceptance of everything that has happened in one’s life. Rather than wasting our energy on resenting and gossiping we can flip that energy towards learning, recalculating, creating and more importantly, growing.
Which Dog are you? Putting Amor Fait to work.
The Stoics used the “dog leashed to a cart” metaphor to explain how to best embrace the unexpected surprises of life as compared to when we resist and resent what is. The wise man is like a dog leashed to a moving cart, running joyfully alongside and smoothly keeping pace with it, whereas a foolish man is like a dog that stubbornly struggles against the leash but finds himself dragged alongside the cart anyway. The moving cart represents all the unique situations and circumstances outside of our control, while the dog represents us.
We can resist, resent, yell, complain or be dragged by these external circumstances or we can create space to pivot, examine, learn and/or use these challenging situations as catalysts for growth. No matter what we choose, the cart will continue and no matter how hard we try, we won't be able to control it's direction.
Which dog has the better life?
1 dog resists, resents and is dragged through the dirt, through the mud.
1 dog runs along the cart, splashing in the mud, laughing and enjoying the ambiguous turns and direction the cart takes.
Both dogs are being pulled, the second dog just enjoys it much more because he doesn’t fight against "what is" which is the present moment, he finds himself in. The situation isn't ideal but having the clarity, the second dog makes the best of the journey the cart driver (life) chooses for you. Even though you cannot decide how people or coaches perceive you, the scenarios that are presented to you or when your preferences aren't met, you have control how you perceive where you are and the choices and actions of today that will shape the events of your tomorrow. Give yourself the space, clarity and confidence to create the best outcome possible by accepting what is, moment after moment as we “love one’s fate.”