“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”―Marcus Aurelius
These words of wisdom were written by a Roman emperor, almost two thousand years ago. And people are still reading these words almost two thousand years later because of the truth they contain.
The truth is that we all have a superpower. We have a power over our minds. We have the ability to decide on the meaning we attach to external events. And we have the ability to decide what we are going to focus on.
We might think that external events determine how we experience our lives. But the truth is that we have the power to direct our thoughts. We can direct them to the positive or to the negative. And the direction we choose to direct our thoughts determines how much contentment and happiness we experience in our lives.
Everyone is impacted by external events. We might lose a job that we really needed. We might have a big unexpected expense when something goes wrong. Or someone we care about might say some horrible things about or to us. But regardless of the external events that happen, we have the power to determine how we interpret the event. And we have the power to decide what we are going to focus on.
You decide the meaning you attach to external events. And the meaning you give external events will impact your happiness.
Say you or your partner lose a job that you were depending on. What does that mean to you? You could focus on the negative things it could mean for you. You could focus on all of the things that you’re not going to be able to afford. Maybe you can no longer afford the holiday that you were planning on for next year. Maybe you can no longer afford to take the family out to the cinemas. You could focus on all of the negative things that come out of the external event. And by doing so, you will make yourself miserable.
Or, you could decide to focus on the positive things it could mean for you. Could losing that job free you up to search for a job that you really like? Or maybe now you could look for a job that pays even better? Maybe now you could go on a camping holiday instead? Or maybe you could take a road trip and stay with friends for a few days. Maybe instead of going to the cinema, you could have a family games night. Maybe losing that job means you’ll have more time together as a family and will grow closer as a result?
You could focus on all of the good things that could come out of the external event. And by doing so, you can make yourself happier.
You decide what you focus on. And what you focus on will impact your happiness. The truth is that we are all going to experience external events that we didn’t want to happen. People will say and do things that we don’t like. Unexpected events will happen. And there will be things in our life that don’t go according to plan.
But it is also true that we live incredibly rich lives. Even the poorest of Australians live lives that are richer, freer and more diverse than even the kings did thousands of years ago
Compared to the vast majority of humans that have ever lived, even the poorest Australians live incredibly rich lives. The variety of food in our grocery stores would boggle the minds of most of the humans who lived before us. And that food is available 365 days a year, without fail. And the food is cheaper than it has ever been before. Hunger and starvation are a distant memory, even for the poorest in the country.
Today, even the humblest housing is an unimaginable luxury by historical standards. Our roofs and walls keep out the rain and weather. We have heaters and fans, if not air-conditioning. In the poorest households, we might have 2 or 3 kids sharing a room, but gone are the days when a dozen or more family members huddled together throughout the night in one room. Even the cheapest of furnishings have a level of comfort that was unimaginable to our ancestors. The cheapest mattresses of today are far more comfortable than the straw filled, coarsely covered mattresses of the kings of yore. And we have electric and electronic gadgets and gizmos galore. And we have limitless electricity that runs 24/7 to power those devices!
We decide what we focus on. Are we going to focus on the negative and make ourselves miserable? Or are we going to focus on the positive and make ourselves happier? We can focus on the few things that haven’t gone to plan in our lives, and we can make ourselves miserable. Or we can focus on the incredible lives that we all take for granted. We can focus on the fact that our supply of food is constant and we’ll never have to worry of our children starving. We can focus on the fact that we don’t even really know what the word “hunger” means!
When we take the time to think about it, we realise that the number of things in our lives to be thankful for far outweighs the things we have to be upset about. When we recognise that the good far outweighs the bad, it becomes easier to focus our minds on the good things in our lives.
And when we focus on minds on the good things in our lives, we live happier, more contented lives. So if you find yourself feeling down, overwhelmed or disheartened remember the words of Marcus Aurelius.
Recognise that you have power over your mind. Control the meaning you attach to external events. And focus on the things that you can be grateful for. It will give you strength, improve your contentment and make you happier!
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