There are so, so many things we can’t control in life.

And believe it or not…that’s the good news.

It’s because we only control a small subset of things— usually restricted to our attitudes and behavior— that we don’t have to worry about the huge, huge array of things that we can’t control…and we can direct our energy toward the things we can influence.

Every time we attempt to direct energy toward a thing we can’t control, we sacrifice that energy from something we can control.

It’s like bleeding energy and focus for no productive purpose.

For example: we can’t control our genetics.

Lots of us have genetic predispositions toward certain conditions. It’s very easy for me, for example, to fall into addictive and compulsive behaviors, because those tendencies are strongly encoded in my genetics.

Insofar as we cannot chose our biological parents, we can’t control our genes.

Another thing we can’t control, at least with precision and consistency, is other peoples’ behavior.

As we’ve explored on this blog in recent weeks, we can certainly INFLUENCE other peoples’ behavior. It’s silly to say we don’t have an effect on other people with how we behave and react.

But it’s also the case that we can’t CONTROL their behavior.

Even if we threw every last ounce of energy and focus we had at ATTEMPTING to control their behavior— as some people do— we’d only be able to achieve a degree of influence that is imprecise at best and wildly unpredictable more often than not.

We cannot control, in large measure, the events unfolding on the world stage.

It’s certainly the case that many of us can play a PART in influence the events on the world stage, by voting, participating in political action and protests, and educating our children and the people around us about the issues we care about.

But the fact is, by and large, the events that play out on the national political scene and the international diplomatic scene are beyond our immediate circle of influence.

We can’t control the triggers to which we’ll be exposed in a day.

We can’t control the weather.

We can’t control, to a large degree, the extent to which our bodies deteriorate with age. Yes, we can exercise and pay attention to nutrition and supplement and learn everything we can about health and wellness…but the fact is that we all inhabit human bodies, that break down at the rate they break down.

All these things, we can’t control.

And yet…I still maintain this is the good news.

Can you imagine the kinds of massive shifts that might happen if we took all the energy and focus we spent trying to futilely control things we have NO POSSIBLE CHANCE of controlling…and instead directed it toward influencing things we CAN control?

All that time and energy we spend trying to control what others think, feel, and do…what if we devoted it to tolerating living in the moment?

Sitting with anxiety long enough to make good decisions?

Sitting with addictive cravings long enough to ride them out?

What if we took all the time and energy we take living in denial that our bodies will break down and eventually die…and instead put that toward looking closer, taking our time, slowing down and savoring the moments we’re given to LIVE?

It is the reality that there are all these things we can’t control.

We can’t deny that reality, we can’t disown it. We have to deeply and thoroughly accept it.

(Which, remember, isn’t the same as LIKING it.)

Thank goodness we can’t control everything.

That frees us up to only concentrate on those things we CAN control.


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One thought on “The bad news: there are things we can’t control. The good news? There are things we can’t control.

  1. It’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to be God!
    Seriously, that is almost the way I was thinking at one time: that I was responsible for everything and everyone, everywhere. That’s insane, and worse, it’s a waste of good energy. I don’t like waste. Knowing the limits of my own personal abilities and responsibilities makes it much easier to use my resources wisely and to enjoy being alive.


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