In an effort to refocus, recommit, and generally avoid doing anything she may regret, a colleague and friend of mine wrote a “Things I Can Control” list, which she discreetly placed in her office for future reference. The list includes:
What I say.
How I react.
How I spend my free time.
Stay focused on what I value.
My expectations of others.
Being out on a ledge.
I asked her what “being out on a ledge” meant. She said it meant being paralyzed by frustration. “These are my little reminders to help me get through the day.” My friend’s reminders remind me of the quote by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, “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.”
Her list reflects the knowledge that life is subject to events that are set in motion by outside actors and circumstances, the best laid strategic plans will not prevent place and time, and that consequence is not a dirty word to be singularly associated with a poor choice. Her list also reflects the knowledge that our time outside of our obligations can all too easily be consumed with fixating on the things we want to change but can’t versus the things we can change.
By accepting that life is full of outside influences we cannot control, we take ownership. We can choose to control our reactions, understanding that they are the greatest demonstration of our grace and maturity. And we can choose to control our time by committing to build a life of fulfillment. We can choose to start by making a simple list of the things it can be so easy to forget.