Out of Our Control
Posted on May 26, 2011
As a teacher who travels to different classrooms throughout the day, I always appreciate the comments I hear while walking past rooms. For example, in my elementary school, I’ve heard such things as, “Maya, don’t climb on the bubbler!” or “Joey, leave the frog alone!” In middle school some winners have been, “Mike, would you stop cracking your knuckles!” and “Don’t you dare stick your finger in the pencil sharpener.” My daily entertainment is supplied by this sort of thing. Sometimes, though, I’ll walk by and catch parts of teacher lectures that make me want to stop in, sit down, and listen.
Today, for example, I was walking past a business and careers class just as the teacher was telling the students to review a list of life situations/circumstances, and then mark down which ones they could control, and which they couldn’t. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop in to hear the rest of the lecture/assignment, but her request got me thinking.
You bet there are some things we can control and others we can’t. While I knew this prior to my eavesdropping, her statement made me consider how this logic gets lost in the stressors of everyday life when we have so many things coming at us at once. Let’s face it, while we’d like to (and often think we can) control everything, we simply can’t. We do know this, as adults who have seen and lived through much. So why do we get so bent out of shape and worried about the things we have no control over?
I thought about this more as I considered a conversation I had with a co-worker who had recently completed her first marathon. As I’ve said in the past, I think the marathon is the ultimate example of something that is both controllable and absolutely out of our control. During that 3-5 hour journey, so many things can go right or wrong, regardless of how well we have prepared. It’s like there are two categories to tackle when “surviving” a marathon- the pre-race training… and then everything else that happens on race day. Take, for example, my friend’s race after mile 8. Up to that point, all systems were go. She was feeling good, running at a stellar pace… when she started to notice her feet weren’t feeling so fine due to the start of a few blisters. It turned out those blisters grew and grew until they achieved super-human status, and eventually BURST around mile 17. Ouch is an understatement. Needless to say, the second half of her first marathon wasn’t what she had planned or hoped for. Yet, she told me, what was she going to do at that point? She had to keep going. She ran through the pain, realizing that neither it nor the remaining 9 miles were going to go away. Her mental toughness saved the day- that, she could control.
The need to adjust our thinking according to the situation happens in runs of all distances. It’s also highly prevalent in our daily lives; we just tend to ignore this logic when we fret over the things we dislike, but have no control over. A worrier by nature, I often talk to a close friend of mine about the six million things that keep me up at night. Her advice is as frank and succinct as the business and career teacher’s lecture. My friend has overcome some mighty huge obstacles by employing (I’m paraphrasing from her Max Lucado book) the philosophy, “Worrying doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t cure cancer, it doesn’t change a test. Your brain is only 1/2 there when you are worrying.”
I think that last notion hit home the most. You can’t do much of anything, or enjoy much of anything, with only half your brain working for you. So, from now on, I intend to do my best to focus more on the things in my life I can control and worry less about the things I can’t. And hopefully, by doing so, I’ll be fully present, and notice more of the scenery as I run through this thing called life. Maybe then, it’ll be almost as entertaining as walking down the halls of school on any given day.
Keep on running, folks, and always keep your eyes and ears open to learn new things along the way.
by abbey algiers