Things That You Can’t Control Aren’t Problems, They’re Facts of Life

I once sat with a very successful leader of a large organization for dinner and he mentioned to me that, over time, he has trained his mind so that he doesn’t worry about most of the things that consume other people’s time.  He said that when he meets people socially and at family events, he tends to glaze over as they endlessly discuss things like:

  • The cost of car repairs
  • Government inefficiency
  • Bad weather
  • Unchangeable health issues
  • Upsetting behaviours of people they know
  • Taxes
  • The state of the economy
  • Regrets about past decisions

He said that he trained himself to dismiss those sorts of thoughts quickly from his mind. Instead, he mostly focused on making the future, and other people, better.

His memorable quote to me was:

“Things that you can’t control aren’t problems, they’re facts of life.”

How much of your time is spent agonizing over things that are completely out of your control; facts of life?  My friend’s point was that, spending time on these matters has a few effects:

  • Depresses you
  • Builds a default negative outlook on life
  • Makes you unattractive to be around
  • Drains your energy
  • Keeps you from focusing on the things you can control
  • Keeps you from working towards having a brighter future

He would allow himself 1 hour to feel bad, and to process negative thoughts and emotions, and then he’d leave it behind and work on a solution, or work on something else entirely.

How much of your life is spent worrying about things that will never happen?  How much of your time is spent going around and around the mulberry bush, discussing and re-discussing the same issues that will never change?

Why waste time hitting your head against a wall over something that is completely out of your control?  Focus on the things that you can do something about, and train your mind to forget about the rest.

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