The greatest source of stress is in wanting the current moment to be different.
In our always-on world, we have become used to the idea that we can change how we experience our days if we do not like how things are going so far.
If I do not like the song playing on Spotify, I can skip to the next one. If I want to watch a television show, I can easily sign up to Netflix and watch a show to my heart’s content. It’s so easy to change many of the things we do not like.
This has created a lot of convenience for us, and I would argue that being able to change backgrounds easily has been a net benefit to society. If we’re not feeling great, there is likely something we can do to change how we are feeling.
However, this has also created a source of stress. If it is so easy to change backgrounds on a regular day, then when we cannot do so, it makes us feel frustrated.
Naturally, most of what we experience in our lives is outside of our control. This has been made extraordinarily evident by the current circumstances in which we find ourselves. And although it may be easy to change the song we’re listening to, or what we do at work this morning, most things in life cannot be changed as easily.
I cannot control how my family reacts to the news. I cannot control whether my dinner is ready at 5:00 or 5:01 (well, I could, but it would be very difficult). I cannot control whether it will be warm or cold today. These things are externally dictated.
In my life, I have realized that to be happy means to accept what is going on in the current moment, rather than trying to force the moment to change.
I may want it to be warmer today. I may want my dinner ready at a certain time. But these things are largely out of my control, and I understand that. So, when I think “oh, I wish it were warmer”, I should instead be thinking “oh, it’s cold” and move on.
The goal is not to ignore the source of stress, rather to just accept what is happening. Doing so is more productive because if something is not within my control, then no amount of worrying or pressuring others will make a difference. I will be in the same place whether I get stressed or not.
When I feel stressed, my goal is now to sit back and relax; to embrace what is going on right now. Seeing the sun may make me feel better, but if it is cloudy, that is fine. There are cloudy days, and I cannot control the weather. This certainly sounds better than worrying about whether the sun will come out, and placing the fate of my happiness in the outcome of the weather.
Every day, I need to remind myself to accept what is going on. Stress is the result of a deviation between what you want to be happening and what is happening. If I can’t change what is going on, then I need to accept it and move on. It’s the only way to make the best use of my time.