Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Control the controllable

“I kept myself calm by making sure I didn't concentrate on anything I couldn't control."
--B.J. Bedford, Olympic swimmer

BJ Bedford barely made the U.S. Olympic swim team in 1996 and then went on to win the gold at Sydney just four years later. If this mantra worked for her, I believe it can work for all of us. A lot of our anxiety as a society, and as individuals, is driven off the unknown fed by a focus on things we cannot control.

I worry a lot, as I have written about several times on this site. I worry about the economy, our environment, terrorism, about the states of education and healthcare. I worry that George Bush has damaged our nation so badly on so many levels that it may take all of the effort of the next administration, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, four years just to get us back to where we were at the end of Bill Clinton’s Presidency. What do I control in these situations? What can I actually do to contribute?

The economy: I am an ardent saver. I live within my means, and most often below them. I do my best to make smart investments. I show up every day at my desk at work and do the very best I can in every moment. I look to buy products that make a difference, be that they are more environmentally friendly, healthier, or provide a benefit to those who manufacture them such as fair trade farmers. I watch the market, and I educate myself on the actions of the Fed and policy makers that can move the needle.

I try to propagate peace and tolerance in the environments I make my life in, hoping that I can inspire other people to do the same. I recycle, and I make every effort to always use less, whether it’s energy, paper, water, or any other natural resource.

And as far as George Bush – I do my best. I voted for the other candidates both times, mostly because I refuse to vote for anyone who is incapable of stringing five correctly pronounced words together to make a coherent sentence. Plus, I fundamentally disagree with his stance on nearly every issue. I control what I can control.

My politics aside, there is a lesson for all of us in BJ Bedford’s quote. What I do to maintain control is nothing extraordinary. They are choices I simply make by being aware of the world around me. It may be worth it to make a list of what’s in our control and what’s not in any given situation in which we feel stressed. The list can serve as a visual cue to help us refocus our energies and efforts so that we can generate a sense of calm both within ourselves and for those around us.

The photo above can be found at:

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