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conflicts and disappointments without making a situation worse--by making all of that messiness very
gently turn in a more positive direction-by being
able to manage conflict without inflaming a contentious situation.
2. Recognize that having valuable relationships
has to take precedence over being right, forcing
your will, and getting your way. Most of all, keep at
the forefront the knowledge of the importance of
valuable relationships to your happy, successful life.
3. It's not an oversimplification to say that when
dealing with relationships in general there is never a
good substitute for kindness. When you make decisions grounded in kindness you most often make
If we've now accepted that life is
the right decisions.
4. Don't be afraid to do or try something you like
messy and to be more successful
that you aren't perfect at; whether it's art, music,
we have to learn to live in " messy " sports, or horseback riding. If you enjoy it, even if
you aren't good at it, allow yourself the pleasure of
better...just how do we do that?
doing something that you do imperfectly.
5. Remember, you don't have to be defined by any
Many of the elderly participants in our study deterof your missteps or failures or faults; you are who
mined that when they accepted the concept that
you are today-the person who has learned from a
life is messy, not perfect, their expectations became
vast life with both messiness and successes.
more reasonable and their disappointments less
6. When in the midst of a disappointment or con " disappointing. " Most of us only wish we could have
mastered, sooner and better, how to live in an imper- flict, stop, breathe a bit, relax your body and think of
things you are grateful for or notice things you love
fect world that sometimes has disappointments and
or find beauty around you.
7. Take a walk...it helps clear the mind and often
brings you back to a sense of equilibrium.
Here is some of what we found
For those of us who have reached that elderly stage
about living in " messy " better:
of life, we may not be able to change how we reacted
1. Those of us who live in " messy " better are those to disappointments or conflicts of the past, but we
who have discovered ways to walk through life's
can surely make a brand-new future. Most of us are
When we fully accept that all lives are a bit
" messy, " we change our expectations from one of
perfection to one that recognizes that bad things
and disappointments are for sure going to happen.
Sometimes we have disagreements with our adult
children, sometimes our grandchildren don't call us
enough, sometimes our spouse/partner just can't
seem to see our point of view, and sometimes we
don't play well enough to win that pickleball game.
Those who live more successfully in " messy " understand these curveballs are not an aberration of life,
but instead, a very natural part of it...yep, life is
pretty good at dealing with life and relationships
when everything is going smoothly, but extraordinary
people are often defined by how they walk through
the difficult and " messy " times of their lives. Those of
us who can learn how to continue to be kind, thoughtful, creative, and trustworthy during " messy " get to
live the most tranquil, successful, and joy-filled lives.
So, the next time you find yourself in one of life's
disappointments, remember the way you handle the
disappointment of imperfection is the difference
between success and
failure, it separates the
average from the extraordinary, it separates the
happy from the unhappy.
And...know that it
is possible to learn to
manage conflict and disappointments better; give
it a try.
Yep, let's be one of
those...one of those who
live in " messy " better!
Linda Stroh, Ph.D., Northwestern University has published
more than one hundred articles and nine books related
to domestic and international organizations and human
behavior. She has consulted with senior executives in
more than forty Fortune 500 corporations.
Linda and her husband of 53 years, Greg, have two
awesome grandchildren, Brayden (16) and Brooke
Linda's current book, Getting Real About Getting Older
is available here
GRAND Magazine- Winter 2021
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