“ Don’t worry about things you have no control over.” This is a common advise given by the popular self-help literature, the psychologist and the parents. It is a good advise; why worry about something you have no control over. It’s no point in worrying if sun is going to come up tomorrow for example. Save that energy for something useful.
In real life though, it is more common to find situations where we only have partial control over the outcome. What should one do here? Should we worry only half as much or should we not worry at all or do we worry wholeheartedly? What will give us better outcome and at the same time preserve our inner peace and contentment?
I can have some control, for example, over getting 100% in an examination, but there are factors that I have no control over that may not allow me to get 100%; I may not be feeling well from catching the flu the day before, or the examination questions maybe on something we did not study in school. I may also want to win a marathon, but again I have no control over all the variables that will prevent me from achieving this goal. I may want a pay raise but my boss may not give it to me. I want my partner to love me but it’s possible that someone else may make her happier and she cannot love me back as I love her. Should I not care? So I can preserve my own tranquility and avoid becoming upset if I don’t get the desired outcomes?
It seems foolish not to care, just because we only have partial control. Not to care or to give up means I don’t ask my boss for the pay raise, that I continue to let someone else make my partner happier, and to accepted I will not win the marathon and I will not get 100% in the examination even before I tried or made any effort; this may save me from getting upset from not realizing the results I was hoping for. But it will also leave me feeling of a defeat, a low self-esteem and eventual withdrawal from life itself.
It seem the only control we have is over ourselves. So what if we reset our goal internally toward the same outcome? Instead of setting the goal to win the marathon or get 100% in the examination the goal could change; that I am going to try my very to win the marathon and get 100%. This way you will be less anxious about not achieving the goal and this freed up energy can contribute toward being your best. It is possible to do the same for the other two situations. I can reset my goal to be the best employee and then I am more likely to get a pay raise. I can also reset my goal with regards to my partner. I can try to be mindful of my partner’s happiness by being loving and caring person. This is more likely to be helpful than anything else; because that’s the only thing we have control over.
Yes, I may not get the desired outcome but I tried. The things outside my control won out, but I can still be proud of myself even if the outcome was not what I had hoped for because I did not give up on the factor I had control over.
A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine