The Second Arrow

In Buddhist philosophy pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. I have seen, coaching 100’s of people over the years, how this applies.

Something happens – some failure, some event you don’t want and it causes “pain” – I don’t like it, I don’t want it, I wanted to get a different result. In coaching, we will ask you to look neutrally at how this result occurred and then move forward, toward a different result.

Learning is required in order to make change.  But sometimes we get upset about what we have done in the past.  The key to learning is to look “neutrally,” without judgment. This brings us to the Buddhist concept of the “second arrow.” Here is where the suffering comes in. The second arrow is the voice in your head that says, “This happened because you are lazy. You will never succeed. Why are you even trying? You always mess these things up.” Suffering.

Until you move that voice aside, that is where your attention goes. It’s painful to treat yourself that way. Some people say it is motivating. And yet even those people still recognize that it can sap your energy. And there are other ways to get motivated.

To make change, you must look back to what you have done that did not work. That is a courageous act. Even more courageous, I would submit, is not being mean to yourself about it. Be curious. Learn. Change what you are doing. Make new choices. And, be kind.