I’ve done it. I think I’ve figured out the key to living a meaningful life. The degree to which we will experience a meaningful, fulfilling, rewarding life is directly proportional to the extent to which we are able to separate what is within our control from what is not and maintain the courageous willingness to act in accordance.
You’re probably thinking, “Duh! This has been known for ages!” And you’d be right. This nugget of wisdom is an ancient shared philosophy endorsed by most, if not all, religious, philosophical, and sociocultural traditions. Check out this 300 year old Mother Goose nursery rhyme:
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
I really like that wording. There is both beauty and hope in the simplicity of this sentiment.
Let’s be real. Life is chaotic. If we do not constantly, and I do mean constantly, do what is within our ability to make room in our lives for mental sorting and orienting to what is within our control, we are almost certainly destined to remain lost or, worse yet, fall into a chaotic darkness. This might show up as anxiety or depression or perhaps it manifests as substance abuse. Worse yet, human abuse. At best it is an aimlessness that will inevitably catch up to you. If it hasn’t yet, watch out, you’ve just been getting lucky.
When I reflect on what I truly do as a therapist and wellness coach, I think the best I can do is:
a) alert people that they do in fact have control (and responsibility) over the direction of their lives,
b) partner with them in setting their bearings,
c) assist them with figuring out what actions to take first, and;
d) encourage them to take bold steps forward out of whatever chaos there may be in their lives.
Hopefully, if all goes well in this process the result will not be happiness, or a”cure,” or any other unattainable outcome, but the emergence of an ongoing process of creating meaning and living out a valued life.
This is certainly no easy task for a human being, but the challenge is what makes it worthwhile.