Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness. The Lojong text
As long as you’re focusing on fulfilling your desires, you’re going to end up being miserable. Obsessing over getting what you want and complaining when things don’t go your way is a little absurd after all. So, why do we do this to ourselves?
Your happiness is not limited to what chance happens to send your way. You can reframe your perception at any time and focus on what you can control. Try to create internal strengths like establishing positive thoughts, sound reason and look for wisdom rather than knowledge. It’s one thing to know that you have a problem. It’s an entirely different reality to understand how that problem came to be and what you can do to resolve it.
At any given moment, your actions and choices will be limited by a thousand obstacles beyond your control—wealth, law, strength, time, location, genetics. These are just a few of the obstacles you will face. Your thoughts, however, can be limitless if you train your mind to accept what cannot be changed and to overcome what is possible.
We don’t do that though. We tend to practice escapism rather than mindfulness in our culture. We just can’t seem to enjoy living in the unpleasant moments. We’re strangely more motivated to snap the perfect selfie–to share with strangers on the internet–than we are to risk experiencing the uncomfortableness of reflecting on the quality of our lives.
I think therein lies the crux of the problem. Living in the moment requires you to experience and accept the disappointments and unpleasantness that surround you within any given breath. You experience the passing of time and the consequences of the choices you make. You must experience something in order to appreciate it. So, if we fail to reflect on our decisions and disappointments, is it really a surprise we fail to appreciate life? If we lack the capacity to appreciate living, then where do we expect to find happiness? In death?
“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.” – Epictetus
I find it strange to remember that my perception of the world has more influence on my opinions than the actual events I experience. After all, how I choose to react to my day is entirely within my power. It’s only when I sacrifice that control that I suffer needlessly.
Stuff happens. No matter how you try and frame it, at any given moment, there’s a chance something will go wrong. That doesn’t mean I have to become angry or upset. Maybe my alarm didn’t go off. I could be late for an appointment. At some point, something will go wrong, and I will have to accept and adapt to that reality.
What happens if I choose to accept that sometimes things won’t go according to my plans? What if I simply move on to the task at hand—changing my plans to accommodate the situation? Do I have to allow external events to create internal stress? Of course not. In the end, all I really control is how I respond to the world. The key is that I get to choose how I respond.
Every time a disaster lands on your lap, you could work on fixing the situation rather than complaining about it. I like to say I never have a bad day. That’s because no matter how messed up my day’s been, I’m in control of how I react. I get to choose how I frame my day.
There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. – Epictetus, Enchiridion
When we think about Nature, we tend to immediately recognize that some things are simply outside of our control. The weather can change unexpectedly and an earthquake can strike without warning. We may be upset at the outcome of such events, but we would never be upset with ourselves for failing to prevent Nature from disrupting our lives. Nature is just being Nature.
How strange it is that we are not nearly as kind with chance in our daily lives. I think that’s unfortunate. There are many things in our lives that we cannot control, and it would do us well to remember to treat ourselves and others kindly when we experience these setbacks.
Traffic, power blackouts and internet outages are just a few examples of modern inconveniences which remain outside of our control, and still we often allow these interruptions to our convenience disrupt our peace of mind.
What good does it do to stress and complain about the things you cannot change? Just as you cannot change the flow of traffic, you also can’t change the mindset of others. So, why bother being upset about these things?
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the best plans possible in our lives, but it does mean we shouldn’t be upset when things don’t go according to our plans. Nature is unpredictable, and our lives are clearly subject to change without notice.
So, try and remind yourself to be kind and patient. Make it a goal to endure wisely the situations you cannot change. Don’t become another angry voice. What can you do to be the voice of Reason instead?