What To Do If Things Aren't Going Your Way

stressed man with too much going on in his head.jpg

A large source of anxiety and stress in our current world is the idea that we are fully responsible for the course of our lives. The amount of pressure this puts on us to succeed (and the sense of personal failure it creates when we don’t) is immense. It’s not that we don’t have power over ourselves or our lives – it’s just that our power is limited.

To a certain extent, we can control our efforts, but not always the outcomes of situations. Even our behaviour isn’t always fully in our control. Who hasn’t made poor choices, or reacted in the heat of the moment, at one point or other?

Society at large, while influenced by individuals, is slow to change. We can learn to interact skilfully with it, and use its rules and opportunities to the best of our ability. But it will sometimes stand in our way or actively lash out at us.

Coping with external factors

An example is the financial recession that hit in 2007. Some people were affected because they were taking irresponsible risks. But others were unaware that they were exposed, and the impact came as a complete shock. Regardless of whether someone chose to put themselves at risk, people found themselves forced to deal with the consequences of a global phenomenon that was outside of their control.

Other factors, like demographics, are also out of our control – where you were born, who raised you, what school you went to, your height, and your genetic material is pre-determined. We can work with what we have, and certainly improve or change it in the direction that feels right for us. But, to assume you can completely change what you were born with is to set yourself up for disappointment.

It’s generally more effective to take stock of what you have to work with; what is within your control and what is outside of it? We are always able to take small steps in the direction of the things we care about, but certain specific goals will be out of reach.

Relating back to our values

Therefore, it’s more beneficial to look at our values, rather than goals, in life. If you value education, how can you gain more knowledge or understanding? If you value family, how can you best connect with those close to you and improve the relationships there? If you value the environment, what can you do to give it a helping hand?

Making small movements where you are able means making a meaningful difference, rather than being left powerless and paralysed by what you can’t control.

So if you want to start, ask yourself:

  1. What do I value in life? What is it about this that I value?

  2. What can I do to honour this, or show my commitment to it – today, this week, this month, this year?

Commit to a few simple actions, and keep track of when you complete them.

And allow yourself not to be “there” yet. It’s better to work out once or twice a week and become a little fitter, rather than sitting at home feeling bad about not exercising every day/having the exact right percentage of body fat.

It’s better to enrol in an online certificate course and give it your best effort than to give out to yourself about not getting a masters’ degree. And it’s better to meet up with your forgetful aunt for coffee and tolerate the slight irritation you may feel in her company, than to feel guilty about letting yet another month pass by without contact.

Don’t wait for the right time, but do what you can right now, and opportunities will become visible as you go along.

Julie Farrar