Change Your Circumstances or Your Mindset

California Poppies

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

– Maya Angelou

The last of the three lists I asked you to make is of things you have now but wish you didn’t. Take a look at that list now. You’re going to figure out what you can change now, what you can plan to change, and what you can’t change.

I’ll bet some of the problems you listed will go away on their own as you simplify your life. For instance, our two blind corner kitchen cabinets drive me crazy. We’re not remodeling or moving any time soon, so we’re stuck with them for at least a couple of years.

If we’ve got to keep these cabinets, how will the problem go away? Easy – as we declutter, we have less stuff. Soon, we’ll have gotten rid of enough that we no longer need to keep anything in those dark recesses.

Since my minimalist living plans already address this and other problems, like my mind racing at night, and I don’t have unlimited time, I’m not going to spend much time focusing on them. I recommend that you do the same, secure in the knowledge you’re already working to improve those areas.

“If there is some aspect of your life that’s bothering you, know this: you cannot expect it to improve if you keep doing the same things you’ve always been doing.”

Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar

What can you change that your current goals and plans don’t already address? First, find those that you can easily change now.

I have an irrational hatred of unloading the dishwasher, but I actually kind of like hand-washing dishes. For some reason, probably because there aren’t very many at any one time, I don’t even mind putting the hand-washed dishes away. So my simple solution to my dishwasher problem is that I’m going to hand-wash more dishes.

You might also find that delegating or trading chores is a solution. Since we’re not moving for a while, I’m stuck with the fact that our kitchen is upstairs and therefore, groceries have to be carried up. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be me doing the carrying, does it?

There are other things on my don’t-like list that can’t be solved so quickly, unfortunately. I wish I weren’t sometimes too quick to judge myself and others. While it would be great if I could just wake up tomorrow and not do it anymore, it takes time to change the way we think. I’ve been getting better, but I still need to create a plan for continued improvement.

I haven’t had much success getting anyone else to take over breakfast duty, but I have options. If it’s a big deal to me, I could “go on strike” and not make anyone else’s breakfast. I could make enough breakfast on the weekends to last the week, or I could just decide that it’s only 10 minutes, and I should learn to deal with it. I can choose to change how I do things or how I feel about them.

“You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

There are things you can choose to accept or change, but there are others you can’t control, and the only real option is acceptance. As Elaine St. James says in Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul, “You can rant and rave and curse and indulge in remorse or guilt or self-pity. Or you can go with the hand you were dealt and play the game the best you can.”

No matter what I do, my 13-year old is going to talk back sometimes – he’s 13. Although at first it may not seem like there’s anything I can do about this, I can change how I feel so that I’m less likely to become angry and frustrated by his behavior.

While I’m using an annoyance as an example, from time to time, we all have serious misfortunes. The death of loved ones, health problems, bankruptcy and divorce unquestionably stand in the way of our contentment, but there may be nothing we can do other than learn to accept what happens.

How do you do that when you’re bereaved, angry or despondent?

In his post on letting go, Marc Chernoff reminds us we should “realize that every experience has value.” Sometimes it’s helpful to find the silver lining in the cloud, to think of the good things that we’ve gained through a bad experience.

Leo Babauta advises “learn to go with the flow.” Jon Kabat-Zinn points out in his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” To him, surfing means mindfulness meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, check out Michele O’Connor‘s post on a simple meditation for beginners.

You don’t have to become a Buddhist or Hindu to meditate. Many religions, including most Christian denominations, have some form of contemplative practice (e.g., praying the rosary or Protestant prayer beads). It’s also possible to meditate in a nonreligious way.

If you are religious, you may want to talk to your priest, minister, rabbi or other religious advisor for guidance accepting the things you can’t change.

What About You?

Please share some of the items from your list, as well as the ways you’ve learned to accept what you can’t change, in the comments.


P.S.  Thanks to Raymund Tamayo for sharing his list.  His conclusion?   “By listing down the things that make me happy now, things that would make me happier, and things that I have now that doesn’t make me happy, I can be deliberate on which activities do I continue to be involved in, and which ones do I stop.”  I hope all of you will take the time to make and review your lists so you have the same opportunity.