We often don’t get to decide the things that happen to us.
As many of you reading this blog are aware, our lives are often interrupted and punctuated by unexpected events. Accidents; deaths; setbacks. Events which, even if they seem predictable in retrospect, totally catch us by surprise at the time.
Even occurrences most of us consider positive sometimes hit us out of the blue. A lucky break; a fortunate near miss; an unexpected leg up.
Being human, of course, we do everything we can to make life adhere to our schedule. We humans are nothing if not control freaks. However, despite our best attempts, life frequently seems to have other plans for us. It specializes in throwing curve balls.
Here’s the thing, though: while it’s true we often don’t get to decide the things that happen to us, we DO get to decide how important those events are to our lives.
We DO get a say in whether something that happens to us is a bump in the road, or a crippling setback.
We DO get to decide whether something is a lesson to be learned from, or a meaningless calamity.
In fact, when it comes down to it? We’re the ONLY ones who get to decide how important an event is to us. What an event MEANS to us, in the grand scheme of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly willing to try to tell you how important an event SHOULD be in your life, how you SHOULD feel about it, what an event SHOULD mean to you. In fact, that’s a lot of what comprises the Internet: people not just informing you of things that are happening in the world, but trying to tell you how important those things SHOULD be to your life, what you SHOULD do in response.
But the reality is, while others can influence how important we perceive events to be in our lives, in the end they don’t get a vote.
In the end, it is completely up to us to decide how important WE consider certain events to be, what their meaning is going to be for US.
It’s absolutely the case that the likelihood of some negative events happening in our lives is pretty high. Our lives are probably not going to unfold perfectly (I know, I know, spoiler alert).
We’e going to stumble. We’re going to lose people and things. Situations that had been idyllic are going to collapse. Lucky streaks tend to end.
Reality, as it turns out, is not perfect, and neither are we.
But the facts that roadblocks appear, that hot streaks cool, that relapses occur…doesn’t need to be particularly important to you.
You can decide that the fact that these things inevitably occur is, in fact, a relatively unimportant fact to you.
An inconvenience. An annoyance. A blip on the radar screen of your continued success.
Relapse doesn’t have to signal the end of a recovery.
An argument doesn’t have to signal the end of a relationship.
The end of a relationship doesn’t need to signal that one is unloveable and destined to be forever alone.
A bad mood doesn’t have to signal the beginning of a spiral into depression.
Of course, some events are easier to pull this trick with than others. Certain occurrences are objectively a big deal, and it’s silly to suggest that some simple mental gymnastics can turn them from life changing or interrupting events to mere inconveniences.
However, even with the big stuff— and I encourage you here to think of the biggest life-interrupting event you can possibly imagine— it still comes down to you, and only you, to determine what that event means to you, how it’s going to fit into your overall life story. How important it is to who you are, what you do, how you exist in the world.
Life doesn’t respect our schedule. But it has to bend to our decisions about how important any one thing is to us.
Those decisions, always and only, are on us.