I’m preparing to have hip surgery. Half a year ago, the hip specialist told me that the M.R.I. showed I had an impingement, which means the ball of my femur that goes into the socket of my hip is too big. Now, only a few days after Christmas, I must have surgeons shave part of my bone off and hopefully rid this problem for good. As with any major surgery or life-changing event, there are fears and concerns. From past experience, if there is no way to alter the outcome, there is no reason to dwell on these events. It is better to focus instead on the things that you can control.
Dwelling Gets You Nowhere
There are always going to be things that don’t go your way. Your clients don’t pay you, your landlord kicks you out, your girlfriend cheats on you. They all suck. The future can be even worse. If you are going to get kicked out, your boss is going to fire you, or mortgage payments start to pile up.
Too often, myself and others focus most on the things that we cannot control. It’s logical to focus on something as traumatic as losing your home or seeing your stock account hit $0, but will it really get you anywhere?
I’d suggest it is worse for you to worry about the things that you can’t control for a multitude of reasons. Focusing on these things will promote stress when you inevitably ponder the worst-case scenarios. This added stress has a number of physical and tangible effects on your body (such as cortisol production and blood pressure), which will make your mood even worse and put your general well-being further at risk. If you are focusing on the things you can’t control, then you have less time with the things you can control.
I have a theory, which is quite intuitive and obvious, but I call it the “spillover effect.” When you do things right in one part of your life, there is a good chance the positives will start to spillover into the things that you can’t control. For instance, if I maintain the same strict and very healthy diet that I now have, there is a better possibility that I will recover quickly from hip surgery. As I have maintained a fitness and strength routine prior to the surgery, it will be less work to heal than it might otherwise be.
Brain Power is a Luxury Not a Commodity
Perhaps the most important reason to focus on only the things that you can control, is the brain power. The brain can only focus on so many things. We all know brain function consumes a lot of energy too (20-25% of total consumption, actually), so why waste that energy and focus on things that you cannot control?
Instead, make sure that every second of your time is focused on the things that you CAN control. As my “spillover effect” theory indicates, it doesn’t even have to be related. If you are worrying about losing your house in a couple of months, make the decision to go to the gym and lift weights. Make the decision to read a philosophical book and learn something. It does not matter what you do so long as you are focused on what you can control – improving yourself.
At the end of the day, you have no idea how this might change your life. Visiting the gym can introduce you to your future business partner that will make your million-dollar idea come true. The exercise might make you feel better, get a promotion, and avoid having your home taken from you.
Just because you don’t see a correlation between the aspects of life that you improve and problems on the horizon, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Don’t numb your mind to the problem by watching a comedy or your favorite television show. Instead, focus on developing yourself in an area you are weak. If you can’t change the outcome then at least you have done all that you can. As for me, the complications or pain that might result from surgery is irrelevant. I’ll focus on what I can control.