I recently received an inspiring e-mail from a young acquaintance of mine, Jay. I had not seen Jay for more than thirty years, and really only came to know him when he contacted me to inform me that his father, Jack, had passed away. Jack was a genuinely good human being, so I was saddened not only by the news of his death but by how he was beset by financial and health issues during his final years.
Life is an infinite matrix of twists, turns, and surprises that never cease to amaze me. What follows is the major portion of Jay’s e-mail, which so touched me that I wanted to share it with you.
I have had many setbacks in my life, and many people have asked how I maintain such a great attitude after losing an eye, missing a clavicle since birth, dyslexia, and now diabetes. Many people tell me that if they were me, they would be so depressed they would not be able to function. I simply tell them that worrying about my issues won’t solve anything.
Steven Covey introduced me to the concept of “circle of influence.” The idea is to mentally place all the things you have the power to influence inside the circle and everything else outside the circle. Then, concentrate on those things that are inside the circle, things that you have the power to change.
Included within my circle of influence:
Dyslexia. By continually reading and practicing, I can compensate for my deficit and become wiser and more knowledgeable.
Diabetes. By exercising and watching my weight, my doctor tells me that the problem will virtually disappear and I won’t need to take insulin.
Outside of my circle of influence:
Bad eye. It can’t be fixed, so don’t worry about it.
Missing clavicle. I can’t grow a new one, and it doesn’t affect my life negatively, so forget about it.
I am fortunate because I was taught at a very young age not to worry about the things I cannot change and to concentrate on those things that I can change. I’m happy that I learned this early in life, and I am teaching it to my son. I want him to understand that the most worthwhile lessons in life are the ones we learn through adversity.
Whenever you fail at something, examine the reason why you think you failed, learn from it, and try again. You may fail a hundred times, but when you finally win, it will be a hundred times sweeter. If life throws you a curve, lean into it, learn from it, and understand how you feel about it. Then, turn it into a positive.
Even if you don’t think there is a positive aspect to it, some day you may be in a situation that will require you to draw on that experience, perhaps to help someone dear to you through a similar issue.
When you read something like this, it’s easy to think to yourself, “It’s just another inspirational piece that doesn’t say anything I didn’t already know.” Speaking for myself, I’m not that jaded. I never tire of hearing inspirational stories, especially when they are personal and from the heart.
Jay is much younger than I am, but that matters not. I try to learn from everyone. His e-mail got me thinking again about the things over which I have some degree of control and those over which I have no control at all. If you seek to have peace of mind, it’s absolutely essential that you not stew and fret over the things you cannot control.
That’s why Dr. Andrew Weil, the superstar health guru, advises not to watch or read the news every day. He believes that the nonstop bad news has a negative impact on your health.
I believe Dr. Weil is right, and I further believe that what causes all the bad news to affect our health is knowing that we cannot do anything about it. Which, in turn, results in stress, a breakdown of healthy cellular tissue, and a disruption of the body’s natural rhythms.
Realistically, few people are willing to cut off the news entirely. But we would all do well to make a conscious effort to ignore the bad stuff over which we have no control. As a bonus, that leaves more time to think about all the good things in your life. And the more you concentrate on the good things in your life, the more good things you are likely to have.