Musings

Shikata ga na

I recently came across a Japanese phrase, Shikata ga na (仕方が無い) translating as “it cannot be helped” or as we say in English “it is what it is”. After the Covid years and other events in my life, this principle really resonates with me. Rather than being a purely passive process, shikata ga na encourages us to accept the reality of a situation, recognise that we are not always in control of our circumstances, accept what we cannot change and appreciate that our only option is to move forward with resilience and grace.

To me shikata ga nai is also about perspective and adaptation. Perspective because, often when in the midst of a difficult situation we can’t see the wood for the trees, but by stepping away, by taking ourselves out of the situation, we get a new vantage point, a new perspective and can see the entire landscape. And adaptation because it is not always the strongest and smartest who succeed but it is often those who can adapt. Rather than fighting against a difficult situation we cannot control, we can learn to adapt to our new course.
In this way, shikata ga na requires a certain humility, a willingness to let go of our need for control and appreciating that sometimes, despite our best efforts, things will not always go to plan. It is about letting go rather than battling against things over which we have no control. By accepting the situation for what it is, we can free ourselves from the burden of trying to control the uncontrollable. When we let go of something not meant for us, we find a sense of relief, of inner peace.

Shikata ga nai can also help us to develop greater compassion and understanding towards others. When we acknowledge that everyone is dealing with their own unique circumstances and challenges, we can approach them with more empathy and kindness.

Practicing shikata ga nai is not easy as is an ongoing process, something that we need to work on continuously. New challenges will arise over which we have no control and that is okay.
Shikata ga nai is about letting go.
Accepting the reality of what you cannot change.
Moving forward with resilience and grace.
So just let go and focus on what you can change.
We may not be able to direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.