One file 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.
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 our minds begin to churn and spin as it tries to think up a solution … and it burns 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. We might find ourselves, therefore, expending a significant amount of time and energy complaining, worrying, procrastinating, feeling fearful, getting angry, spacing out, avoiding, blaming self or others, judging, gossiping, procrastinating, or getting sick.
These are non-productive methods of trying to control and change the uncontrollable. They are 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
• The aging process – new wrinkles, gray hair, changing athletic ability
• Fluctuations in our mojo and sexual energy, our fertility (infertility)
• 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, the economy, the weather
• Poverty and homelessness
• Local, state, national, and world political events
• 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:
It does seem like absolutely everything is out of our control doesn’t it? Shall we simply throw in the towel and wave the white flag? Side-stepping responsibility is one solution. It is the one that will keep the mind spinning with worry, anxiety, and complaints.
The most POWERFUL thing you can do is to 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.
Here is where we get to take a stand. Because when we get inside of who we are, our values, our mindset, the daily habits and actions, there are plenty of CHOICES and ACTIONS to take. Indeed, they may be small and seemingly insignificant, and yet, choosing to set a boundary for an ex or co-worker, or recycle, or volunteer for an organization you believe in, are all ways to be that first step towards the change we want to see in the world.
8 Key Steps to 100 % Responsibility:
- Notice when you are complaining, worrying, procrastinating, feeling fearful, getting angry, spacing out, avoiding, blaming self or others, judging, gossiping, procrastinating, 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.
- 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.
- Convert your energy from the endless circles of spinning thought to effective action.
- Determine what specific action is within your control or ability to make change. Do this by asking the following questions:
Powerful Questions to Determine What is Within Your Control or Ability to Make Change:
What do I want?
Often, we complain about something or someone instead of stating our feelings or making a direct request.
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 new habit can I instill so I easily consume the 8 glasses of water I need 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?
Stop the spinning and churning in your brain. Take a moment to write down your worries and complaints. Carefully follow the steps above to convert your energy from useless spinning to powerful action. Determine what specific action is within your control. Now, go do that. Be the change you wish to see in the world.