Controlling What We Can
One topic that almost always comes up in my seminars is the problem of worrying about situations that we can’t influence or change. Whether this refers to situations that are clearly out of our hands, such as, traffic, the weather, the stock market, or those that we just find difficult to control, such as, other people, these concerns seem to be constant sources of stress and frustration.
For those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know why this is the case. The middle brain or limbic system is constantly scanning the environment and our thoughts for anything it believes will be a threat to our safety or survival. Unfortunately, this middle brain isn’t very smart, and is operating on old software. Therefore, it tends to see anything negative (such as something we can’t control) as dangerous, and throws us into the part of the brain that is designed to deal with danger (the brainstem).
What is even more unfortunate, however, is that trying to deal with a difficult person or situation from this lower brain is almost always unsuccessful, which has us feeling even more out of control, as well as, increasingly stressed, frustrated, and angry.
This is why one of the steps in the second part of my Life from the Top of the Mind system speaks to the wisdom or value of serenity as a precursor to creating the life that we want. The Wisdom of Serenity (Serenity Prayer) looks at the importance of first accepting what we can’t change or control so that we have the bandwidth and brain power to address all of the aspects of our life that we can.
In this weeks’s quote, this means first determining if the situation is out of our hands, and if the answer is yes, to then put it out of our mind. However, the way to put something out of our mind is not to focus on what we don’t want, but instead, to replace it with what we do. In other words, if worrying about what we can’t control is clearly not something we would recommend to someone that we love, what would we recommend instead? Or, put another way, what can we control, or what do we want to put in our mind (or focus on) that will help us create the life we want?
How about this?
Our beliefs – Our attitude – Our thoughts – Our perspective – How honest we are – Who our friends are – What books we read/media we watch – How often we exercise – The food we eat – How kind we are to others – How we interpret situations – How kind we are to ourselves – How often we say “I love you” – How often we say “thank you” – How we express our feelings – Whether or not we ask for help – How often we practice gratitude – How many times a day we smile – How much effort we put into what’s important – How we spend/invest our money – How much time we spend feeding negative thoughts – Whether or not we judge other people — How often we worry about our past or the future – How we respond to a setback – How much we appreciate the things we have.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
When we focus on those aspects of life that we can influence, and then address them in a way that we would recommend to someone that we love, we will be coming from the purposeful brain (versus the reactive brain) and triggering chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins that help us feel better and think clearer. This more purposeful experience of “putting things in our mind” versus trying to put things out of our mind, will result in more effective choices… and more successful results.
The bottom line is that creating the life we want isn’t about what we are stopping, but what we are starting. How about we make a commitment to taking 100% responsibility for what we start or what we put into our mind in a way that we would teach or recommend to someone that we love?
The truth is that this is in our hands. Now the question is: what part of the mind will we engage to bring it to life?
~ All the best, Dr. Bill