1. Focus only on what you can control
I have no control over night and day, the weather, the stock market or politicians. It’s easy to accept that.
What is not so easy to accept is that I have no control over what other people think of me, whether I get the promotion I’m chasing or whether I beat my boyfriend at bowling (We’re both terrible, no real winner there!).
Epictetus (Roman stoic philosopher) highlighted the dichotomy of control – there are things you can control…your thoughts and your actions, and things you can’t control….everything else. And that’ll all be fine.
I can always control my own thoughts and actions, so I can give myself the best shot at the outcome I want – I can show my boss I have all the skills and the right attitude to get promoted, but I can’t control if they pick me for the job. To be happy, my measure of success is whether I showed them I was capable, not that I’m ultimately chosen.
2. Remember to appreciate what you have.
I’m forever looking at houses for sale online. I dream of living in a big house with a large drive way and an arched window halfway up the stairs. Preferably close to town but with magnificent scenic views.
This dream makes it very easy for me to forget how fortunate I am to live where I do, a lovely house with plenty of space and a nice sunny yard for the dog.
The Stoics recommend negative visualisation to remind yourself how fortunate you are. I could have no choice but to live in a squalid flat in a bad area, or a single room, or have no roof over my head at all – suddenly the home I have is much more appealing!
This can be applied to everything…and everyone in life. I find that keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to make this conscious.
3. Live in this moment.
I find this one piece of advice coming at me from all directions at the moment. Meditation and mindfulness training, dealing with anxiety all focus on being present in the moment.
A well-known quote by Bil Keane sums it up nicely. Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future but today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.
I’m putting my phone down, moving away from personal social media and 24 hour news – I don’t always manage but I’ll keep practicing.