This Too Shall Pass: A User’s Guide to Impermanence as a Tool For Self-Improvement

We encounter impermanence every day, but we seem to forget it when remembering it would do us the most good.

Mike Sturm
May 22 · 6 min read

Progress in life consists of reducing as much as possible the amount of things that can make you lose your composure.

An Unusual Measure of Progress

I once heard a saying — and if no one can find the source, I’ll assume I made it up: progress in life consists of reducing as much as possible the amount of things that can make you lose your composure. The better you are at taking things in stride — at staying calm under pressure and continuing onward — the better you’re doing. You can make all the money in the world, and have a great job, but if every little hiccup throws you into emotional turmoil — you can’t be doing well.

Mindfulness’s Overlooked Sibling

We hear plenty these days about mindfulness — about being aware of what’s going on in your mind, and being present and grateful, and all of that. And all of that is healthy and helpful. But what we hear less than we should is the corresponding message about impermanence: things — both physical and mental — don’t last; they fade away, so act accordingly.

This Too DOES Pass

You’ve likely heard the saying “this too shall pass”. It’s supposed to help us deal with unpleasant things — and keep us from loosing our minds when we get frustrated, sad, disappointed, or whatever negative feeling takes hold. So we are often tempted to use this mantra in cases like frustrations with our kids or colleagues — repeating it in our head to calm us down. But our minds are no fools. If we don’t have evidence to support this mantra, we can’t trick our minds into believing it. If our mind has not experienced the rising and falling away of things over and over, we’ll never acquiesce to that simple truth. We’ll continue to ride the wave of anger right into destructive outbursts.

Mindful + Reflective = Equanimous

Like I said at the outset, a great metric for progress in life is how few things there are that can knock you off your square. The word for this is equanimity: the state of being consistently calm, cool, and collected — in various situations.

Mike Sturm

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Working tirelessly to help you think like no one else. Author: “Be, Think, Do” Also Subscribe to my newsletter: