I did it. I stopped worrying. I made a decision. I took action.
The result: A $7,000 check was written. (Actually, over 70 checks were written.)
The difference: Porchlight, an organization in Madison, providing shelter and jobs for the homeless, will be able to serve in a bigger way.
What happened was this: Approximately 90 some women came together Monday night ready to make an impact. We listened to 3 area charities tell their story of who they serve, what they accomplish, and detail an immediate need. We voted; chose one organization; and we wrote checks, either as individuals or as teams, for a total of $100 per group or individual. Cumulatively, we donated $7,000.
What happened for me was this: I employed a Happiness Habit called “Sorting the Files”. Beyond the surge of delight which came from knowing I had made a difference in the lives of homeless men and women, the biggest impact came in knowing I had moved from the place where worry spins in my brain to taking action. I had taken a step to de-clutter my brain.
I stopped and took time to sort through the disorganized, chaotic stack of thoughts in my brain generally titled “it is cold outside and I am worried about the homeless”, and correctly filed the random post-its, the torn scraps of hurried notes, and organized them into “Things I Absolutely Can Control and Change” file folder. I did this by joining and participating in an organization determined to make a positive difference locally.
The peace of mind generated by this little bit of action is seriously priceless.
Sorting the Files
Imagine there are two file folders in your mind.
One of the files is called “Things I Absolutely Can Change or Control.”
The other file is labeled “Things I Absolutely Cannot Change or Control.”
Happiness comes from filing events and people in our lives into the correct file. Our greatest source of unhappiness comes from the amount of misfiling we tend to do. Trust me, I am no saint. I’ve spent many an hour misfiling. However, once I discovered what I was doing, I was able to conduct a massive spring cleaning in my brain.
Our brains are problem solving machines. Give the brain a problem and it will get busy trying to think up a solution. However, when we set our brains to thinking about something which belongs in the “Things I Absolutely Cannot Change or Control” category, it is as if you set your Roomba vacuum down in a room filled with floor-length curtains, crumpled papers, strings of yarn, electrical cords, and rug tassels; of course, it is going to get stuck, proceed in circles, or end up in a corner of which it can’t get out.
When we focus our thoughts on the things we absolutely cannot change or control, our brains try to offer us ways to FEEL like we are taking control, and therefore, we expend a significant amount of time and energy complaining, worrying, procrastinating, feeling fearful, getting angry, spacing out, avoiding, blaming self or others, judging, gossiping, procrastinating, getting sick; all non-productive methods of trying to control and change the uncontrollable, which ultimately, become the source of our exhaustion, depression, stress, and overwhelming sense of feeling stuck.
The Things I Absolutely Cannot Control or Change:
Common items about which we get confused, and attempt to control or change using the ineffective methods of worry, complaints, procrastination, etc., are:
- What other people think of us
- Other people’s feelings
- Our fertility (or infertility)
- The aging process – new wrinkles, gray hair, changing athletic ability
- Fluctuations in our mojo and sexual energy
- Our ex-spouse, lover, partner
- The people we work with: Bosses, employees or colleagues
- The past
- The future
- What hasn’t happened yet
- The environment
- Poverty and homelessness
- Local, state, national, and world political events
- The economy
- The weather
- Other people’s accomplishments
- Our weight and body type
- The behaviors and choices of our children
- Whether or not our partner is sexually attracted to someone else
Things I Absolutely Can Change or Control:
Now, before you think I am advocating throwing in the towel and waving the white flag, and side-stepping any sort of responsibility, because everything belongs in the “Things I Absolutely Cannot Change or Control” file, I’m not. Nope.
However, I am advocating these EIGHT steps:
- Begin to notice when you are complaining, worrying, procrastinating, feeling fearful, getting angry, spacing out, avoiding, blaming self or others, judging, gossiping, procrastinating, getting sick, etc.
- Stop yourself mid-thought, mid-complaint.
- Take a deep breath (or three or ten).
- Allow yourself to acknowledge you are expending unnecessary energy trying to control or change something which is uncontrollable.
- Breathe. Allow yourself to recognize what is in your control: the quality of your character, your actions, your thoughts, your behaviors, and ultimately, your contribution to the world.
- Decide which item of worry, complaint, procrastination, anxiety, etc. you are willing to move into the “Things I Can Control and Change” file.
- Now, begin to convert your energy from endless circles of thought-clutter, and direct it towards determining what specific action is within your control or ability to make change.
- Ask the following questions to help you sort your files:
What do I want? For example: Instead of acknowledging what or how we would like things to be different, and stepping up to state our feelings or making a direct request, we complain about something or someone or make them wrong or gossip about them to others.
What about ________ do I have control over that might influence _______? For example: What about the aging process do I have control over (proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, and attitude) that might influence my vitality in years to come?
Am I willing to see myself as empowered in this situation? For example: What is one small step can I take to ensure the homeless men and women in Madison are warm and receive care?
What action step am I willing to take now, which will contribute to the future, or heal something in the past? For example: What can I do to let go of the grudge I am holding against my ex? What needs to be expressed, what needs to be forgiven?
What mindsets or beliefs am I willing to let go of? For example: The environment is doomed; Politicians are all jerks; nothing I do will make any difference to how government works.
What new mindset or belief am I willing to use to guide my choices? For example: I believe every voice is a contribution to our political system; I will call or email my legislator, twice a month, encouraging the funding of alternative sources of fuel.
What behaviors can I change that will influence _____? For example: What changes can I make to install a positive habit, enabling me to easily consume the 8 glasses of water I want to drink daily to stay healthy and hydrated?
The lifelong pattern I am noticing is…? For example: What areas of my life generate the most complaints and worry?
Happy Spring Cleaning!