‘You have power over your mind…not outside events…Realise this & you will find strength’ – Marcus Aurelius.
Right this one here is a cracker!
If you really sat & thought about this one, it could literally change your life. This one here seems so simple but when you read it for the first time you are likely to dismiss it with the response ‘you can’t just decide to be happy’.
Yes you can.
What Marcus is saying here is that everything in life is neutral. Events happen every moment in existence, they will never stop happening, it is the natural order when life is in motion…things happen. In the cold reality of life, there are no good or bad ‘things’…there are just ‘things’ happening that we as humans respond to & project our thoughts, feelings & emotions on too, this is when we decide if it is then good or bad & act accordingly. Sure, everyone has positive & negative experiences, I don’t think he’s expecting us to be 100% perfect in putting this into practice, that’s impossible, but when you take this lesson in & think about how your mood can be pulled in any direction by something outside of your control or how a single event can ruin your life, isn’t is better to take back some control and say ‘No, I will define how this event affects me’ rather than letting it lead you down a path of no return?
If you feel life has dealt you a bad hand, the harsh truth is these are your circumstances whether you like it or not so you can either use it as an excuse throughout your life or you can use it as fuel to defy the odds & make the best of the bad situation. If you choose the latter then you have realised that external factors aren’t the end of the road, they’re just a roadblock & it may take a little longer, but you’re going to the end of the road regardless. If you choose the former, you are surrendering to the world that you’re powerless & you will forever be at the mercy of what happens to you. Don’t be that person that thinks because you had a rough upbringing you have to carry it on & pass that down a generation, look at your alcoholic parents in their yellowing, bloodshot eyes & tell yourself they will not determine how your life pans out, no matter how much they messed you up.
Obviously, some events we just instinctively know are negative experiences, such as a loved one passing away or losing a 15 fold football accumulator in the 93rd minute, however, once it has happened & the initial shock is over, it is surely then on us to decide how this will shape our life from then on, if you resign yourself to misery because of a something that happened a year ago & you can’t let it go, then i hate to break it to you, but you are now the one causing the misery for yourself. It is you that constantly stokes the flames to reveal all the emotions & feelings all over again, you are holding on to something that you cannot change, no matter how angry you are about it, how many tears you’ve shed or how many times it’s ruined your day, you weren’t to blame for the original event, but you are at least half to blame for letting it sour your life NOW. It seems counterintuitive to blame someone for being upset but while it’s fine to be upset, we all have human experiences, but for how long and how much are you prepared to let outside events determine the quality of your life? Anger is an automatic response so you can be angry by all means…but anger doesn’t last too long by itself, if you’re still angry hours & days later over some trivial event, ask yourself;
‘Am I still angry? Or am I just reliving the event in my mind a thousand times & stoking the dying flames of the original anger I felt?’
There’s a small, but important difference between the two, and if you’re replaying it over & over days later, then it’s YOU making yourself feel anger now, not whatever happened all that time ago. Take some responsibility of what you think.
You cannot safeguard yourself & everyone you know from the reality of the world, but what you can do is realise that the majority of reality is inside our own head. We are forever floating down whatever river our mind takes us & we never stop to notice, it’s just background noise that decides how we feel today. If you start to take charge & actually take notice of what you think from time to time, then you will have much more of a say in how you deal with what goes on in your life. You become the decision maker, not the one led by vague thoughts & feelings in the background of your consciousness. It is a power that you develop to say ‘my brain is trying to cause mischief, I recognise it & I ain’t f*cking having it’…Once we get this power we can be more balanced when confronted with life.
We all know somebody who flies off the handle at any little problem, something happens to them & it’s like the entire world has just collapsed, that is someone who isn’t in control of their mind or even aware that they have been taken over by their primal emotions…now ask yourself, do you want to be the kind of person that has little to no control over yourself when an event you can’t control happens to you? If you get a flat tyre one morning & have to shell out £50 for a replacement then I agree it is very annoying, but do you let something like that ruin your day or even your week? Nobody wants to be paying for new tyres, but now you have to, so get over it, pay the money & go enjoy your day, stop screaming at your kids because you’re vexxed. If you are that kind of person then you can never be comfortable or live a nice life because you aren’t in charge of your life, you are hoping that ‘bad’ things don’t show up in front of you from one moment to the next. On the flipside, we all also know someone who is calm under any circumstance, sometimes too calm really, but this is a person that is in control of their emotions & thoughts, and can have ‘bad’ things happen to them yet still remain strong in the face of it, they aren’t pulled from pillar to post on a daily basis by events they have no say over. They just see that bad driver up the road as a minor inconvenience or the boiler packing as just something that needs sorting now…you can get irate & violent as you want with the boiler, it’s still gunna be a broken boiler. But now look at you, your hand is broken & you’ve swore at your partner & called their mother every name under the sun! By not being in control & accepting the event, you’ve let your emotional mind get involved & now you have two further problems to deal with. Good luck by the way.
Think of it this way, when you really take time to analyse the worries, anxieties & fears you think about on a daily basis, how many of those little stories you tell yourself actually come true in the real world? Very few I would imagine. We all get led down the path of ‘what ifs’ & ‘but this might happen’ storylines, and these can actually ruin our day if we aren’t careful, but what you’re doing is letting an imagined story in your head ruin your actual day to day experience in the outside world. Think about that for a second, you are running two side by side realities in your mind, but only one is ‘out there’ in the objective physical world, where the important stuff happens. The other one is running alongside but you have no control over what pops into your mind, so that could take you down any path if you let it go unnoticed, you might convince yourself you’ve had a really tough day, but maybe what’s really happened is you’ve had a perfectly normal day on the outside, but you’ve let all the what-ifs & the storylines in your head determine what your day felt like.
You have to realise that 90% of your worry, fear, anxiety & problems are SOLELY in your head. This means they aren’t happening in reality, it is a movie you are creating in your mind, so if you learn to step back from these storylines you subconsciously create & you are able to catch yourself when you’re mind has taken you down a rabbithole of problems, you can take a second to breathe & realise that as of right now you’re just sitting in a chair, or sat with friends, or talking to your partner…whatever the case may be, you aren’t in immediate danger like your brain is trying to tell you, unless you are in immediate danger & in that case, i’d put the book down if I were you.
If even 50% of what you were anxious & worried about came true in real life, the world would be in chaos, so realise that it doesn’t come true way more often than it does, and learn to tell your mind to relax itself, realise it’s lying to you. If you can get to a point where you can look in the mirror & know whatever comes at you today, you can decide how to respond, you are suddenly way more powerful than before because you’re literally deciding what you will let hurt you & what won’t. The power is now in your hands.
‘All the water in the world can’t sink a single ship unless it gets inside’
Sounds like a Clinton’s card I know but what I get from this is no matter what dire events happen to you during your time on earth, they can’t kill your spirit & take over you unless those same events get inside you & take root. If this happens & you dwell on it then you base your whole reality around it & it shapes the person you become, usually for the negative, but if you accept what has happened, realise it cannot be undone & then think about what the best course of action is from this point, you are in a much better position to recover from it. As much as we would like to, we can never stop bad things happening to us because the world itself is so chaotic, you can cry, be in fear, moan all your life about how tough life is, but it won’t change it one jot. You could even add all the anxieties in the world together & the world would continue to turn on its axis & throw shit at us, so what’s the next best thing you can think to do? Surely it is to come to terms that it is how it is out there & the best solution is to start from that point & work around it, play with the game rather than against it, because you’ll never win trying to go against the grain of life. By playing with the game, when you reach a problem in your life, rather than trying to reverse time with anger & tears…think to yourself ‘OK, what would be the best move to make RIGHT NOW? What’s done is done, I want to get back to the best possible situation again, and in the fastest route…so with that goal in mind, what’s the plan?’ I’m in no way saying you can just be cold & indifferent to situations that involve strong emotions, we can’t get away from that as human beings at all, but we can minimise them when it’s called for. You just have to have the fortitude & willpower to take charge of them. You sometimes have to look at it like you’re playing a computer game, it sounds bizarre to equate losing your job or your partner cheating on you to a computer game, but you sometimes have to condition yourself to ‘step outside’ of your mind & look at it coldly…this will help you make the best decisions & reduce your suffering.