Too often, people overestimate the importance of a big crucial moment and underestimate the value of making good decisions and small steps of progress every day.
You probably know the so-called serenity prayer. So so:
God, give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.
There is an important lesson here – one that is very often glossed over …
When a chaotic reality swirls around us, we often try to alleviate our fear by exercising our will over external things that we cannot control.
It helps us to ward off one of the most feared feelings: total impotence.
With that in mind, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that almost everything is in general out of your control. What other people do, whether it will rain tomorrow, whether your efforts will be appreciated, or not – all of these results depend on factors that are NOT YOU.
But that’s also the good news.
The friction and frustration that comes from trying to change things you can’t change is the crucible in which a lot of misfortune is born. If you accept that most things are beyond your control, you will be given express permission to let them unfold at will.
The stoic philosopher Epictetus put it this way:
“We have some things under control, others not. Things we control are opinion, aspiration, desire, aversion, and in a word, whatever our own actions are. Things that we cannot control are body, property, reputation, command, and in a word, whatever our actions are. “
Overcoming the “three big Un” that so many of us struggle with every day –U.NLuck, U.Nconvinced that things will ever change U.NSure what to do next starts with understanding what you can and can’t control.
The mental shift here is not easy. Most of us have spent a lifetime thinking about things that we cannot control. Society promotes this practically. For most, it’s a real habit – one that should be replaced with a healthy understanding of how much we can actually change. Again, it is difficult to get involved in all of this if you keep listening …
“Why don’t you just get over it?” or “Just let it go.”
We have all heard of this advice before. And there is a sniffing test to a certain extent.
I mean, “time heals all wounds,” right? Well … somehow. But wounds heal differently depending on how they are treated.
Left alone, a cut leaves a large scar in your skin and is again prone to injury in the future. This is why we get stitches – it helps the wound heal in a way that limits the likelihood of another injury on the road.
Emotional wounds work the same way. If enough time is available, most emotional pain will subside – that’s right. But…
Only “getting over it” leaves scars
In an emotional sense, scars are luggage – luggage that we take with us into every aspect of our lives. These scars grow and accumulate until one day you wake up and suffer from one or more of the “three Un” (misfortune, unconvinced things will ever change, unsure of what to do next).
So don’t get over it. Go through it step by step.
To be honest, I understand the desire to “overcome” difficult experiences or situations instead of facing them. It is really, really difficult to rethink painful memories or face our present demons. And we humans are hard-wired so as not to cause us pain.
However, as our parents taught us, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.
And in addition to the scars, there is a risk of infection, both emotionally and physically, if you ignore or downplay a wound.
Unsolved problems in your life sit in your head and influence your decisions, your relationships and your attitudes. They rob you of your luck and potential.
Of course, doing the hard but necessary things to solve your problems and heal your wounds may feel impossible. This is how Angel and I felt a decade ago when we were knocked down and stuck in a rut after losing two loved ones – including Angel’s dear brother – through suicide and illness. It was almost impossible to move anywhere where it was important if we didn’t feel we had the strength to push forward.
If you now feel like it is impossible to make significant progress today, you are not wrong in feeling what you feel. In many cases, you are right: with time and consistency, considerable progress can be made. It is about taking a small positive step and keeping the course …
The power of tiny changes
Remember the fact that only a one degree change in temperature is required to convert water to steam or ice to water. It’s a tiny change – just a step in a different direction – and yet the results are dramatic. A tiny change can make all the difference in the world.
Now consider another example where a tiny change is amplified by time and distance. Maybe you are trying to travel to a specific place, however They just went off course by a tiny degree …
- After a mile, you would be more than 92 feet off course.
- If you were trying to travel from San Francisco to Washington, DC, you would land near Baltimore, Maryland, more than 68 km from your desired destination.
- If you travel around the world from Washington DC back to Washington DC, you will miss 435 miles and end up near Boston instead.
- In a spaceship going to the moon, a one degree error would cause you to miss the moon by more than 4,100 miles.
You have the idea – over time and distance, a change in course of just one degree makes a significant difference …
The same philosophy applies to different aspects of our lives. The smallest things we do every day – both positive and negative – can make all the difference. They either bring us closer or further away from where we ultimately want to be. And yet we largely ignore this reality. By default, we behave as if our daily actions were never significant enough. Or we try again to exercise control over the larger things over which we have no control.
Think about it…
- How many people have unhealthy and unproductive habits?
- How many people hesitate to take the next positive step?
- How many people live every day of their life and move a degree from where they ultimately want to be?
Don’t be one of them anymore!
To be honest, everyone travels 24 hours a day, whether they’re moving in the right direction or not.
How much richer your life would be if you committed to do it justice a degree the effort to improve your situation every day?
And although it will certainly be more difficult than doing nothing, it doesn’t even have to be that difficult. You just have to have the courage to free yourself from the status quo and take a tiny step forward today and then do it again tomorrow.
Pick something tiny and productive to improve, then make it a daily habit.
This will make all the difference in the world just a few weeks later.
(Note: Angel and I develop tiny, life-changing everyday habits like this with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the “Back to Happy Course” course.)
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