Spend your time and energy on what you can control rather than what you cannot control. Far too much effort is spent on elements beyond a person’s control. It may be unproductive to spend time and energy on the weather, world politics or your mother-in-law unless you can actually control or influence these. It is futile to spend energy trying to change the past. Life can be divided into three categories:
- That which you can control
- That which you can influence
- That which you cannot control
In the quest for a better life, the above serves well as a priority list.
Category 1 should include your own thoughts and emotions, your own actions and how you treat others. These are elements you can gain control over. Category 0.5 would include your family and friends, your workplace and your teammates in any sport you engage in. These are elements you can half-control or influence to a greater or lesser degree. Although Category 0 often steals attention, it deserves none. It serves best as an energy void. You should not spend attention on what you cannot control. It is valuable to learn from past incidents, but being stuck in past incidents is essentially an effort to change the past and results in energy wasted. It is good advice to first gain sufficient control of category 1 before too much energy is spent on category 0.5 all the while no energy is spent on category 0. Top athletes spend most of their energy on category 1. Politicians spend most of their energy on category 0.5. Some politicians, like in Northern Ireland, spend too much time on category 0. You cannot change the past. And you can only influence the future. But you can control what you think, feel and do right now. A great soccer player like Lionel Messi of Barcelona FC has achieved an amazing control of his own actions on the field. He has awesome skills and abilities as a soccer player. He also manages to positively influence his team mates, he “lifts” the whole team whenever he plays. And unlike most players, he doesn’t spend much energy on what he cannot control, like protesting a referee decision. If you never spent energy on category 0, you would be more in control of your life and influencing your environment more. In the start of a relationship there are two people hopefully in good control of themselves and without any control or much influence over the other. As the dating commences, they gradually influence the other person. If the influence is good and agreeable, they may end up as a couple. If one of them doesn’t settle for influencing his partner, but instead tries to control her, you end up with an abusive relationship. The attempt to “mold” or “over-influence” you partner is an effort to move your partner in under your control. Category 1 should be reserved for yourself. You should never try to control another person. You should instead try to influence others in a good way. You can be fully in control of your own performance at work. This includes the limiting of bad influences from others, and the acceptance of good influences and help. You can positively influence your colleagues and customers by focusing on category 0.5. You can “hit the wall” by drooling and complaining over stuff beyond your control. If all of your job resides in category 1, you probably don’t have colleagues or customers and the job would be boring unless you don’t like company. If your focus is mostly on complaining about factors in category 0, you should quit your job now. Category 0 is always huge. What matters is how much you can be in control of yourself and how much you can positively influence others.
A path to a better life can be:
- Achieve control of you – your thoughts, emotions and actions – especially those actions in the fields that matters the most to you
- Increase your positive influence where it matters the most
- Spend little to no energy on matters outside of your control
It may sound simple to say and hard to practice. True. Practice may not make you perfect, but it will make you steadily better.