Focus on What You Can Control

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Steve Jobs

There’s a lot of things in life that are out of our control. I can dance all day, but my actions are not not going to make it rain today. But there are a lot of things that are in our control too. It’s when we dwell on things out of our control and ignore / dismiss things in our control, where we can cause the most unhappiness and friction in our lives.

Things in our control are easier to dismiss because they usually come in small and non-obvious packages.

Off the top of my head, here’s seven things we are in control of:

  1. How we think.
  2. How we act and react.
  3. What / who we surround ourselves with.
  4. What we prioritize in our lives.
  5. Our breath.
  6. What we say no to.
  7. Where we live.

How we think

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Buddha

What does negativity do for us? Not a whole lot except make us miserable. Just like anything else, complaining, negativity, worry and fear are habits. Everything we do is leading us…. somewhere. The question is, where are our thoughts taking us? How we think is subtle yet pervasive. We never go a day without thinking, we’re always surrounded by our thoughts (internally and externally). But if we are constantly self-criticizing ourselves and telling ourselves we hate who we are, how is that effecting our lives? Does our daily self-criticism making us less confident and capable? I would argue yes. It’s a cliché phrase, but change your thoughts and you can change your life. Every negative thought has an optimistic counterpart. The goal is to train ourselves to think optimistically and see the possibilities of the life we’ve given (and driven), so that we can build a meaningful life instead of a negative one.

How we act and react.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.”

Pablo Picasso

Our actions are more potent than we think. When faced with fear, doubt and uncertainty, most people don’t make a move (or act with inaction). But we can be different. While everyone is standing idly by, we are out there trying and giving it our all. There might be a chance we will fail, but there’s 100% chance we’ll fail if we do nothing.

What / who we surround ourselves with.

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

Oprah Winfrey

Our input equals our output. If we have a sucky relationship, harmful / untrustworthy friends, or surround ourselves with media and entertainment that isn’t making us better, then of course we’ll feel stuck and out of control. Ask yourself, “what has influence over my life?”

What we prioritize in our lives.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

What’s the first thing you do every morning? How often are you working on your creative passions that make you feel ALIVE? Our time may be finite, our schedules may be full, but we have to power to prioritize what we love over everything else that distracts us from that. The goal is to get our daily lives to match our priorities. Is your side passion your priority? Then why are you spending all of your time drinking? Is your family your priority? Then why are you working 24/7.

Our breath.

“Stay calm and aggressive.”

Gabrielle Reece

Breathing is free. To quote Wim Hof, “breathe motherf🙈cker!”. It only takes a handful of of deep breaths to calm yourself and switch from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state.(1) Staying calm and focused on what’s in front of us can have massive impact on our lives!

What we say no to.

“All the mistakes I ever made were when I wanted to say ‘No’ and said ‘Yes’.”

Moss Hart

There’s a lot of circumstances, setbacks and responsibilities we have to say yes to. Your’s might be completely different from mine, but they’re still each of ours to bare. But that doesn’t mean we are helpless. We still have the power to say no. Our circumstances might limit us, our responsibilities might narrow our current capabilities, but we can still can say no to anything that doesn’t enable us to be better versions of ourselves. We can say no to a lot of things, really. We can say no to anything that doesn’t align with our goals and values. We can say no to non priorities. We can say no to people that don’t support us, or people who are actively holding us back. We can say no to unhealthy habits. What we say no to is just as important, if not more so, than what we say yes to.

Where we live.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

I’ve only been to a handful of places in my life (so far), but each place I visit has a distinct voice and prioritizes specific values. If you don’t like where you are, travel. Find a place that matches your values and the values you want to grow in. Work and creative expression drives New York. Technology and innovation drives San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Different speeds for different needs. Do you need to move to SF to start a tech company? No. Not with the internet. There are plenty of needs and ideas where you are. But if you are looking to grow in particular areas, then surrounding yourself (either where you are or somewhere else) with people that can make you better is key.

But recognize that liking where you are and liking yourself is two different things. It’s easy to get lost in the romance and newness of travel and moving, while at the same time, you’re still bring yourself and all your problems with you.

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Even one change in one of these seven (or other things in our control) can have a massive impact in all areas of our lives (directly and indirectly). When you find yourself at a place where you are cultivating none of these things, start with one. Pick the one that stands out or is the easiest for you to do. If you’re doing one, try changing another. If you’re working on them all, keep doing it. The variable that makes these (and everything really) more complex is time — our life isn’t static. Change is continuously happening. Imagine what cultivating all seven of these over five, ten, twenty years could do for us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #689


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