As we approach the end of another year, many of us like to take stock. Part of taking stock involves looking back over the past year or over many past years, to assess where we’ve been and where we are now.
When we look back, what do we see? Have we been gifted with good times? Or bad? Have our relationships improved? Or deteriorated? Have we lost or have we gained? Are we making progress or regressing?
Tied in with all of those assessments is this interesting question: How much control do we have over what has happened, anyway?
For many situations, we don’t have a lot of choice—health issues immediately come to mind. While some health issues are related to life choices, there are plenty others that seem to be controlled by genes, age, or just plain luck. We have little or no control.
We also don’t have much control over other people’s situations. Our loved ones may be celebrating wonderful times or struggling with difficulties. All we can do is watch from the sidelines, offering support and encouragement when we can. But we likely don’t have much control in these situations.
Things happen in our own lives, too. We may have had a job loss, an unexpected move, an accident, an illness. Or, we might have acquired a new skill, gotten a bonus, been offered an exciting new opportunity, or received unexpectedly good news about a health concern. These situations, as well, may feel quite out of our control.
While we might not have a great deal of control over these significant events, we do, however, have a remarkable amount of control over what we choose to remember.
One way to keep an event fresh in our memory is to recall it regularly. Which specific events we choose to keep fresh can have a big impact on how we perceive our past. And that can have a big impact on how we perceive our situation today.
So, we have some choices. For example, I can continue to recall those situations where I was wronged. Like when the salesperson insulted me, or at least I think he did. Or when I was belittled by a colleague, at least it seemed like I was. I can keep going over and over those situations in my mind, so they are ever fresh and never go away. And I can feel unhappy.
Or I can choose to remember when the clerk in another store went out of his way to help me out. Or when my colleague went out of his way to compliment my work. And I can feel good.
The past is done. We don’t have control over what has already happened. Some version of our past is going to continue living on in our minds. We may as well exercise our own choice and control what gets to live in there!
If you have a tendency to remember only the bad stuff, here’s a suggestion that costs very little. If it helps you improve your outlook, then it could be priceless!
Buy a little notebook. At the end of the day, record the high points of the day. Were they good, or were they bad? Do you have a choice in how you view them? You could even adopt a little happy face/sad face sticker system if you’re feeling whimsical.
Why do this? Because it is so easy to forget even really important good events but remember even the trivial, insignificant bad events. Making a note n your notebook, going back over it to refresh your memory, could help you remember and keep it all in perspective.
What do you see when you look back?