USA men’s national team libero Dustin Watten wants to share what he’s learned as an athlete, how he’s inspired and what he’s overcome to get where he is.
Watten has plenty to say about life and volleyball and wants to tell you not only of his successes, but also his failures and setbacks and how he overcame them.
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 life presents us.
As athletes, we are so clear and confident that our personal preferences manifest themselves, that any other results will cause us to suffer unjustly due to our unmet expectation not materializing.
There are many forms of personal preferences we become attached to, whether it’s starting and playing well in an important game, having a person you find attractive reciprocate your admiration, or being valued and promoted to the varsity. When our personal preferences aren’t met, we typical meet these circumstances with resistance. Instead of using our energy to pivot, we resist and resent what is.
We can evolve when we realize that our suffering — no matter what form it appears in fear, frustration, or anger — comes from resenting reality. We suffer because we fight and argue with what has already happened, craving for a reality to be different from what it is, rather than being able to perceive deeper than the initial judgment of “good” or “bad” the mind creates when experiencing different experiences.
“My coach has no reason for benching me.”
“How could she break up with me after all we’ve been through?”
“I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to this company. They can’t do this to me.”
These thoughts are all ways of craving reality to be different than it is. This non-acceptance leads to a lot of stress, caused by arguing with what is (and 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.”
The goal is to accept what is, 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. To fight reality, fight what is, manifesting a life of opposition, hatred, disgust and unhappiness.
Consider the parable of the second arrow, a Buddhist story about dealing with suffering 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 and the avalanche of 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.
These emotions are so common because 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, it is all too common to for an athlete to judge even a side-out as “bad” due to a reception, set or dig that wasn’t up to their standards. Even though the play ended with our team taking the point, we still might carry the burden of resentment with us to the service line or to the next play due to our personal preference of how the play should have gone or ‘wishing’ our part in the last play was better.
Ending the wishing, thriving with acceptance
The goal is:
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.
Replacing the wishing with acceptance only empowers and propels us forward towards 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 (our perception, attitude, action and our ability to set goals) our enthusiastic acceptance of everything that has happened in one’s life, allows us to keep energy that would have been wasted on resenting and gossiping towards learning, recalculating, creating and more importantly, growing.
Which dog are you? Putting Amor Fati 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 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.
Jonas Salzgeber summarizes it perfectly, in noting the moving cart stands for your life and everything that happens. The dog stands for us.
Either we enjoy the ride and make the best of our life’s journey and the opportunities for growth and reflection, or we fight against everything that happens and get dragged along anyway. We can fight as much as we want — the cart moves in whatever direction it wants to — up and down and through mud and dirt.
Things happen in life, “good” or “bad,” and as soon as they have happened, we (1) will be naturally inclined to judge them, and (2) we won’t be able change them.
They are there just like the muddy uphill road. It might be painful. It might suck. But we cannot change the situation itself, we cannot magically flatten and dry the muddy hill. We can only change what you make of it — muddy or not.
Remember the dogs leashed to the carts? Both dogs are in the same situation, one just enjoys it much more because he doesn’t fight against what he can’t beat — fate. Nobody wants to get dragged along, so there is really just one option: make the best of the journey the cart driver chooses for you.
And even though you cannot decide what exact events happen in your life, the outcomes of those events still can be crafted by your actions. It is your actions of today that shape the events of your tomorrow. Give yourself the freedom, joy and confidence to create the best outcome possible by accepting what is, moment after moment as we love one’s fate.
To connect your club or collegiate athletes and work personally with Dustin Watten email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Instagram @dustinwatten and get his 7-Day Passing Course at https://dustinwatten.selz.com/