Setbacks are manageable. Bad things happen, and most of the time, we deal with them in a calm and rational manner. Disappointments slide off our back. We talk things out, first internally, then with someone else, and usually by then, we can accept whatever is happening a little better.
But every so often, when we’re faced with an adverse situation, when things go sideways — we take things to heart. Our feelings get hurt. We get upset, angry, or feel defeated.
Things that people do and say can get to you. Sometimes it feels like you were treated unfairly in a particular situation. Sometimes you don’t have much control over these events. But if you don’t address these feelings, they can fester inside your psyche, affecting your mood, and even the way you look at the world.
If you’re not careful — those slights, those hurts, these grievances — can become bitterness. And while you’re busy being bitter toward unfair situations, and being bitter towards people, those people that hurt you don’t even know that you’re mad or upset. And if they are aware, they might not care. They’re still going about their daily life completely oblivious to what you’re thinking and feeling. It doesn’t affect them, it only affects you.
But harboring bitterness in your heart is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies from it. It doesn’t hurt the person you’re upset with, it only hurts you.
Perhaps you try to talk out the situation with the other party, and it comes to a point where there’s nothing more you can do. You realize that you can’t control them or anyone else in this world. Not your boss, not your co-workers, not your siblings — definitely not your parents. Nope, not even your friends, spouse, baby daddy, baby mama, ex, or even your significant other.
You can’t make any of these people change their behavior or change their beliefs about the world. You can’t control what they will say or do. And you’re certainly not going to change the mindset of total strangers out in the street or on social media.
Yes, you have very little control in this world. Well — except for one person.
You can still control yourself.
If a personal situation you’re in is not a good fit, don’t agonize over it. Just walk away. No one has power over you unless you give it to them. Don’t bother arguing with people if you’re not going to be able to change their mind. It’s not worth it. It just tears you down.
These are examples on a personal level, but on a larger scale, outrage is flourishing as an industry. Aside from the real outrage in the world, you have daytime TV, the nightly news, tabloids, and talk radio — all built on outrage. Some of it is very real, and the gravity of the situations important — but a lot of it is manufactured to make you spin your wheels and waste your energy.
You only have so much energy. You have to decide what things are important, and which ones are trivial. Trivial matters shouldn’t be given the same weight as important matters in your mind, in your heart, in your world. You have to decide what situations you can affect, and which ones you can’t. You must decide what things you want to take a stand for, and which ones you don’t.
But if you want to affect something out in the world, you have to take the steps that are within your power. Use the power that you do have. Do something positive to invoke change.
But seething and complaining about things you see on TV or Twitter is pointless. When you complain without taking action, you put the power to affect your situation in someone else’s hands.
When you talk about your own life, and you say “It’s all this politician’s fault” or “It’s all my boss’ fault” or even when you blame the economy, religion, bankers, things happening overseas — this makes it very difficult to have any power over your own happiness. Because with your own words, you have given that power to someone else!
We cannot affect what other people decide to do. We only have power over what we decide to do.
Civilization is essentially the same in ancient times as it is today, and as it will be in the distant future. The technology, the fashion, the language — it all changes, but the same archetypes are still there.
Every generation thinks the world is changing around them, and that things aren’t the same as they were in “the good old days”. But why does every single generation that ever lived believe this? The world doesn’t change, our perception of it does.
The ancient philosopher Heraclites said “You can never step in the same river twice”. What he was saying is every moment in every person’s life has a unique set of conditions. Their perception of the Universe is determined by their experiences, their circumstances, and everything around them at that moment in time.
I’m 43 now, and I’ve only recently figured out that my own personal philosophies and my mindset change on a five year cycle, as I move toward whatever I put into my mind and my own belief system prior to that. Day by day, I change just a little bit.
This is why it is impossible to change another person’s belief system with just a conversation, argument, or debate. Even if your logic is sound within your own belief system, everyone else’s logic is correct to them as well.
It is difficult for people to shift their worldview because it is based on their experiences, and no matter how much you communicate to them about your experiences, it doesn’t erase what they have lived through and what they have felt as an individual.
When you challenge their viewpoints, you are challenging a part of their identity. You’re telling them that what they’ve felt isn’t real. This makes them dig in even harder on the belief system of theirs that you’re trying to influence.
You cannot control what anyone else will do or say, so any change that you bring into the world has to be done by changing yourself. Expending your energy on changing yourself goes a lot farther than worrying about how you’re going to transform other people.
The people that upset you are more than likely going to do what they intended to do originally. And no matter what you say or do, regardless of how you feel, they’re still going to follow through with their plans. You have to be OK with that. If you’re close to someone, you can try to talk to them. But when it all comes down to reality, the only person you can truly influence is you. Letting go of all your anxiety and worry about the rest will make your life at least a little easier to bear.
In any situation, you should ask, what can I do to make this better? When you come up against another person whose mind is made up — begging, threatening, pleading, debating or arguing with them isn’t going to work.
You can’t control your family members or your friends, you can only give them your input and let them decide for themselves. People you barely know and complete strangers? Yeah, good luck there. It’s not worth the energy in most cases to even get upset or argue.
You have complete control over yourself. You don’t have to control anyone else except for you.
You don’t have to worry about what other people are going to do. You only have to worry about deciding what you’re going to do.