Given all that is going on in the world right now, I think it is important to remember our spheres of control.
There is so much going on in the world right now with the Coronavirus, the government, the environment. And then you can throw in all those personal matters like sick or hurt loved ones, people passing away, personal losses. And given modern media, and social media, we are inundated with information.
So what can we do about any of it?
The answer, in most cases, is nothing.
I was raised on the slogan, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is profound as well as profoundly hard to follow. The last part is often the most difficult. What can I change?
Write down a list of things you have control over right now. I’ll wait…
I have my own version of the above statement that I have been using of late.
ACE your Day.
When it comes right down to it, you really only control your:
You may be thinking that my list is insufficient. Surely you control your body and your actions. And you control your thoughts. And you can influence control over those around you.
Well, if you have ever spent more than 2 minutes meditating, you will know with overwhelming authority that you do not control your thoughts (I want you to not think about the Coronavirus). And of course it is that monkey-mind that controls your body. Just sit perfectly still for five minutes. Oh, and don’t touch your face (remember the Coronavirus).
So I return to Attitude, Concentration, Effort. And given that I work with teenagers, I am not sure we can even control these three all the time, but these are the three within our sphere of control.
As Viktor Frankl pointed our, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Regardless of what is being thrown our way, we can choose how we respond. Wrapped up in this idea of attitude is simply remembering what is in our control. I cannot control the overall spread of the Coronavirus. And if I cannot control it, why should I let it affect my attitude?
If I can’t control it, why should I let it control me?
This leads right into concentration. What is the easiest way to get a toddler to stop crying, if the source of their tantrum is real pain? Distract them. Hand them something colorful or tasty. And of course, in this sense, we are no different than toddlers. If you are upset, go shopping for a nice new pair of shoes. Binge watch a TV show. Change your concentration. Focus on something else.
There are better and worse ways to do this in the long run. Buying a pair of shoes or binge watching or eating will pull away your focus momentarily. But aiming your concentration on the right things will provide a more fundamental solution. Concentrating on positive action that is under your control can give you solutions to the problem, not just band-aids. Concentrating on the here and now can bring us out of our minds, where most of the monsters live.
Finally there is effort. There are times when I am not entirely sure that we have control over our attitude. Sometimes my attitude just sucks. And I have students who are convinced that through their ADD or ADHD, they “don’t control their concentration”. I think these two can be argued.
But I do believe that we always control our effort. When my attitude sucks or I am having trouble with my concentration, I get up and go for a walk. Or I go to the gym. Or I go find someone to help. Or I write in a gratitude journal. Invariably, I feel better after I do these things.
When in doubt, MOVE.
I can’t control the Coronavirus, but I can wash my hands. I can cover my cough and stay away from others who are coughing. I can’t control what the president does, but I can vote. I can’t control whether a loved one gets sick or hurt or dies. But I can live, here and now, remembering what is under my control.