I recently stumbled on an image that gave me the wake-up call that I have been needing these last few months. It is a Venn diagram (the geek engineer in me loves anything that can be explained mathematically!) depicting two circles: “things that matter” and “things you can control”. The intersection of the two circles represents what you should focus on.
It wasn’t until I really looked at this diagram that I realized that I have been spending a lot of time agonizing over things that matter greatly to me, but over which I have little to no control. And something clicked! I need to shift my focus if I want to find lasting peace and contentment.
My husband and I recently lost a friend to cancer (sadly, she is the second friend that we have lost to this horrible disease). It is heartbreaking. She was truly one of the most kind-hearted, upbeat, lovely people I have ever known. When I least expect it, my mind wanders to her children who lost their mother at far too young an age. Or to her husband who is left to pick up the pieces and figure out a way to fill the gap. I let myself wallow in these thoughts. Does this matter? Of course it does! Nothing matters more than the health and well-being of our family and friends. But, can I do anything about it? Unfortunately, no. As much as I might want to, I cannot eradicate disease. All I can do is take the best possible care of myself and my family and hope and pray that disease does not visit us.
If you read my recent blog on Donald Trump, you know that I am not a fan (to put it mildly). I honestly believe that, as President, he would be harmful to the United States and to the world at large. I let myself get sucked into watching CNN and can feel my blood pressure soar. Does this matter? Yes, in my mind, it matters greatly that a narcissistic, racist, fear-mongering man could sit in the most powerful office in the world. But, can I do anything about it? Not likely… I can share my opinion and hope that it forces people to think, but as a Canadian, there is very little that I can do to impact the outcome of this election.
I also spend a significant amount of time thinking about the lives of my friends and family members. Are they happy? Are they making decisions that will send them down the right path (the right path for them, that is)? Does this matter? Heck, yes! Next to our health, happiness is what matters most in life. But, can I do anything about it? Yes and no. I can certainly offer my opinion and, more importantly, my support. At the end of the day though, it is really up to each individual person to figure out their path to happiness.
I could go on and on. It seems that I have been spending a lot of time lately worrying about things that I can’t control. So here is what I know to be true… I can control:
- my thoughts (my attitude, my emotions and my focus)
- my actions
- my reactions
- the energy that I put out into the world
I cannot control:
- other people’s thoughts
- other people’s actions
- other people’s reactions
- nature (the weather, illness, disease)
This might all seem obvious. And it is. But I know that I am not unique in worrying about things that are, essentially, out of my control. And while it is impossible to stop this worrying altogether, I really want to try to focus my energy on the intersection of the things that matter AND the things that I can control. With this in mind, I am going to try to be the best possible version of myself that I can be for my family and my friends. And hopefully this will be enough!