Everything in Life Is Temporary, Except for One Thing

Copyright Warner Bros.

Life is temporary, as are all things in it.

“Enter the Dragon” was a critically and commercially successful film released in 1973. Notably, this martial arts film was backed by Warner Brothers, a first and a big win for the genre. These films were popular in China since the 1920s, but it took someone special to popularize them in the United States. Warner Brothers took a chance on “Enter the Dragon” because it starred Bruce Lee.

Lee is of the most recognized martial artists in history, and also had great success as an actor. His acting career, however, did not detract from his training. Many of his movie scenes had to be reshot because his punches and kicks were too fast for the cameras to capture. He was a martial arts machine!

Bruce Lee developed otherworldly skill and strength. He could do 50 one-handed chin ups in a row; he could throw a punch in five one hundredths of a second. But Lee, like every other person, was mortal. He died shortly after Enter the Dragon finished filming at only 32 years old.

Everything’s Changing All the Time

Bruce Lee died at 32. How bizarre for someone who seemed superhuman! Life is temporary, and we don’t know how long we have. A person’s lifespan mirrors the nature of its components.

Just for fun, let’s imagine that someone finds the key to immortality next year after asking ChatGPT. Even if we lived forever, consider that nearly all of our life experiences would still be temporary.

  • Career: It’s exceedingly rare to have one career your entire life. Even when people do, they almost all retire, making it temporary all the same.
  • Emotions: Human emotion fluctuates constantly by moment. Sad, happy, angry, anxious, excited, afraid. The highest emotions can be crushed by bad news. The lowest emotions can be conquered by time, a good friend, or ice cream (temporarily of course).
  • Relationships: People move. People change. Even the closest relationships can be temporary. Marriage is “til’ death do us part,” and it’s so special when it lasts that long because that’s more rare than common.
  • Health: Even someone in perfect health can experience surprise illness or injury. If the person then recovers, it makes their perfect health and setback both temporary experiences.

Life is a temporary experience full of temporary experiences.

It can feel disheartening to think that exerting effort for any result is just going to be temporary. It recently happened to me…

In 2022, I put all of my knowledge and experience about building habits and momentum together to create the best personal run of my life. I was exercising once or even twice a day. My diet was impeccable. I didn’t drink or gamble. I was a machine for several months in a row. I felt unstoppable. I was wrong.

My mom called me, and she told me that my dad was having back pain. I didn’t know it then, but that pain was from his lung cancer, which had progressed. The next two months were a whirlwind of pain, stress, and trauma for our family. My dad died. I felt emotionally crushed. I don’t believe anything can prepare you for losing a parent.

Losing my dad made me lose my purpose (temporarily), and my good and bad habits suddenly reversed. Without purpose, people generally turn to life’s cheapest and most basic pleasures (bad habits). My great run turned into a bad run. My invincible run turned out to be somewhat fragile.

In my struggle, which probably looked like Gandalf spiralling down the chasm as he fought with Balrog, I finally understood the surprising-yet-true path to strength…

If everything is temporary, everything is reversible, for worse and for better.

Balrogs are temporary, too!

One Thing in Life That Is NOT Temporary

Real power is intermittent. Think of the most powerful person in the world, and consider that they need to lie unconscious for hours every day (sleep) to regain energy. Or look at the picture above: Gandalf is a very powerful wizard in the LOTR universe, and yet, here he is fleeing! This doesn’t mean Gandalf is weak, it’s just the reality of living in a world with surprise Balrog attacks. Later, Gandalf conquers Balrog and comes out stronger than before (Grey to White!).

A figurative Balrog can knock you down at any time, no matter how strong you feel. Real power is knowing that you can recover from it. And you can recover from it by using the only thing that you will always have. Choice.

You can always choose. Even in cases in which you have no control over your situation, you can choose how you respond emotionally, what you say, how you act within the scenario. For the vast majority of people, thankfully, their power to choose goes well beyond that. You can choose to start a business, to apply for your dream job, to treat yourself to a day off, or whatever else you need to advance your life.

After my dad died, my emotional spiral took my behavior down with it. But in the midst of this turmoil, which lasted months, I noticed something interesting. I still had choice. The whole time. I had the power to choose a new direction in any moment. And at times, I did choose that! Now, don’t get me wrong. I was spiralling in general, but I would sometimes decide to work out or eat a healthy meal. I would occasionally decide to invest in my future.

These were the same choices that built my great winning streak to start the year, I just wasn’t making them often enough.

The power of choice is the one aspect of the human experience that isn’t temporary. We can always choose our next move.

When a traumatic event or unexpected setback strikes you down, you might not bounce back up right away. That’s okay. Even if it’s not okay, it’s still reality. Balrogs are everywhere. It may take longer than you want to heal and adjust, as I’ve recently experienced.

As your world crumbles, remind yourself that you can choose what to do next. It sounds obvious, I know. But when your emotions and behavior begin to spiral, life starts to feel like you’re on rails. You may feel like you’re doomed to repeat behaviors that continue the cycle. It’s easy to forget that you have choice, so remind yourself that you can choose a new direction at any time.

And, this is important… continue to remind yourself of your power to choose even if you don’t take action on it. Plant the seed. Water the seed daily. It will grow when you’re ready! You will rise again! The more you practice, the faster and stronger you’ll bounce back from hardship next time.

We’re talking about two sources of power. First, the power TO choose your direction gives you a way out and a way forward. Second, the power OF choosing your direction is what transforms lives. Every success, every comeback, every great story is the result of someone choosing to make a change, take a chance, or bet on themselves.

Everyone can and will be bruised, beaten, and knocked down by life. Everyone can also recover from it.

Take ownership of your greatest power. What will you choose to do today?

Be sure to watch the video of Gandalf vs. Balrog. Look at how he chooses to respond after being taken into the abyss!

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