There’s so much going on nowadays. As we try to prioritize things, it’s really easy to lose time and resources focusing on things we can’t really change or don’t really matter. I was having just such a conversation with a co-worker on Friday. He was feeling overwhelmed. It was stressing him out. I shared with him the following graphic (I first saw this at The Happiness Project):
I’m not a graphic artist, but I think this gets the point across. Two circles:
- What I can control
- What matters (to me)
There are things I can control that aren’t important. Why waste time on those things? If I have time to get to them then maybe I attack them. But as it stands, I have more than enough to do without worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter.
There are things that matter over which I have no control. It doesn’t matter how much I worry, stress, etc. over those things, I can’t change them. To spend any more time on them would also be a waste of time.
It’s only at the intersection of the two that we can make a real difference in our lives. We should focus on things that we can control that matter to us. Even this subset of things is probably a list a mile long. Those are the things we prioritize, though. And when something pops up outside of this intersection, we don’t waste cycles on it. Maybe one of those things drifts eventually into the intersection. Then we give it a priority and we deal with it when we get to it, in its proper order.
I know this is the ideal and that I focus time and effort on things that don’t matter or worry and fret about things over which I have no control. The key is to realize when I am behaving this way so I can minimize the amount of time wasted. For instance, my hair is naturally going gray and it’s going gray at a pretty good clip. Yes, I have control over what my hair color is if I want to resort to dyeing it but does it matter? No. So I don’t think about it. In fact, the only time I ever think about what color my hair is occurs when someone mentions it. And then it doesn’t linger. I’m at peace with my hair color. It is the other things that I haven’t come to terms with that I have to watch out for.
And, by the way, I do consider prayer being included in what I can control. So if something matters to me, then I do include prayer as an option. Some people may laugh at this, but it’s part of my faith. I believe prayer works. I realize that some don’t. If you don’t, don’t include it in your options of what you control.