From Epictetus’s The Book of Life-
“Misery comes from trying to control things that you are powerless to control, and happiness comes from correctly placing your attention on things you can control.”
That sounds like a recipe for avoiding misery to me. It sounds simple, but we all know it is not always easy to do.
So what can we do?
Each day we set out to do our best.
What can we control? Our thoughts- maybe not our first thought, but every one after that. We can control our actions, or inactions for the most part. Under the category of thought we can control our attitude, our opinion- and not much more beyond these. At some point all we are left able to control is what we think about and how we think about it.
It is really very little.
I have encountered many people doing a lot of worrying lately, more than ever.
Who can blame them?
You can almost feel worry in the air. I have written this many times and will share it again. When we begin to worry about something we can ask ourselves, “is it true?” Sometimes it is a clear yes or no and most of the time it is an “I don’t know.” Our human default is set to think of the worst possible outcome. Asking “is it true?” interrupts that and gives you a chance to pause and get clear about what is really happening.The pause allows you to get your thoughts straight and to then take the best action, make the best response- and try thinking about the best possible outcome.
For instance, if you think something is bad, it might or might not be.
Louise Hay says “The future brings only good things.”
Wrap your head around that one for a minute. How is that possible? Again, we don’t know what the future will bring, but what a great way to live, believing in a positive future. It also has me recall this mindset which says everything is good, we just have to look for the good thing, or wait for it to reveal itself. Again, not easy to do, but you’ve read this far, so you might be up for the challenge!
It doesn’t mean we don’t experience what we would call negative emotions (we should), it means that we feel them and we also look for or expect the good to come out of things that don’t look or feel good.
So circling back. Avoiding misery- it is all about your thoughts and you hold the key. As you develop a new way of thinking and being, be gentle with yourself- no judgment, just patience.
That is what November is about for me- my themes- Thanks- always looking for what there is to be thankful for, and Being- being still, pausing, creating the space to really get clear and to think. Or sometimes just to sit and be without doing.
How could you use a pause to help you to begin to get clear around the truth of things?
What have you been trying to control that isn’t possible?
What would happen if you stopped trying to control it or them?
How could you use the idea of spending time being instead of doing?
What are you most thankful for right now?