One of the recurring themes of my learning this week (quite accidentally) has been about focusing your energy on what you have control of. You can put in effort to be the best at something and still never be considered number one, because there are other things that influence that beyond talent/skill/effort etc. Maybe politics, maybe poor taste, maybe just pure luck and good timing. You can choose to get bitter and angry about this, or you can acknowledge it, move on and focus on the things within your sphere of influence. But you can’t change it.
The key learning for me is that you put your effort into bettering yourself, not competing with others. Someone whose primary focus is creating a version of themselves that will enable them to achieve extrinsic affirmation of their value doesn’t end the day feeling fulfilled and grateful about their life. Rather, they’re always looking for something else. What they don’t have yet, where they need to get to. That doesn’t sound like the way to live to me. That sounds like anxiety, or a heart attack waiting to happen.
Saul Bellow wrote “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything”. Working in PICU and palliative care taught me in a very real and confronting way that life is for living now. Fulfilment isn’t something to put off until you’ve obtained a certain job title or retired. It’s something to work on today. Fulfilment comes from gratitude and continued growth/learning. That can happen now. It takes practice and effort, sure. But it’s worth the mental discipline.
Control your mind or let others control it for you.