I tweeted and facebooked this Japanese phrase the other day and I’m sure many people wondered what on earth was going on. I started learning a bit of Japanese a few years ago and even though I’ve never managed to get very far with it because life gets in the way (a poor excuse) I’ve learnt the odd thing which has stuck.
Shouganai (しょうがない), or shitaka ga nai (しかたがない), is best translated as “it can’t be helped”, “nothing can be done” or as Rachel and Jun put it “shit happens”. Put these phrases into Google and you’ll get a huge list of articles and blogs on an interpretation which I paraphrase here: growing up in a western culture we’re always taught that you can make a difference to things, you shouldn’t stand by and let unjust or unfair things just happen. For most parts of my life I take on this wholeheartedly – I’ve been to many demonstrations and marches in my time (Protest the Pope, London Cycling Campaign, Stop Killing Cyclists etc). But shouganai is not necessarily to show restraint (this would more accurately be said as gaman) but perhaps as just letting the small things go. But not in a Frozen way. Because I hate that song.
I’m not going to add to all the blogs out there by discussing the nuances of the translation for shouganai. It is what it is (very meta). I want to spark a thought in your head as to how you can use shouganai yourself because I feel it’s given me a lot of peace and calm, and a less stressed way of living day to day.
The annoying colleague at work is doing their best to wind you up? Shouganai.
You spend 10 minutes trying to find your car in the car park? Ha, shouganai. Silly.
Stuck in a traffic jam on your way home? Shouganai (you can solve that by getting on a bike though. Still, shouganai).
Pigeon pooped on you? Shouganai.
You get the idea.
All of these scenarios have the potential to really ramp up your blood pressure and get you thoroughly peed off but if you learn to shrug, take a deep breath and say shouganai hopefully you’ll soon be on your way to living a reduced stress life. Try it, it’s helped me. It’s certainly improved my mental health. Had a crap day? Shouganai. Tomorrow is a new day.