Stop Obsessing Over What You Can't Change, and Start Focusing on What You Can

There are some things in life that you can’t change no matter how hard you try. This is a hard lesson for many people.

Sometimes we have people in our lives who don’t do what we want or what we think they should do. Other times situations spiral out of our control, leaving us feeling helpless and vulnerable. There are also times when we think about things in our past that we wish we could do differently: words not spoken, love not expressed, pain we’ve inflicted on others, the list goes on and on.

In a society where we have technology that gives us a great deal of power over so much, it still fails us in areas that hurt the most. It can’t make someone love you, or do the right thing. It can’t take you back in time to right a wrong. There are just some things beyond our control; things we can’t change. So how do we get to a place of acceptance?

1. Figure out what is driving the obsession.

Regret is often tied to obsession over what you can’t change, and a need to control comes in a close second. Many times, the two go hand in hand. Do some soul searching to figure out why you are obsessing. It is also worth noting that a need to control typically has a fear component at its root, so don’t discount that possibility. Understanding where the feelings are coming from can go a long way in helping you overcome them.

2. Look for what you can learn.

There are things that you can never change, but you can still find value in them. There are lessons in everything you experience so look for the lessons in your situation. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” This serves two purposes. First, it allows you to take some degree of control over the situation. Second, it enriches you, deepening your life experiences and making your life more meaningful.

3. Decide it isn’t worth the stress.

Ruminating on the things you can’t change or control is extremely stressful. The frustration keeps building until you reach a boiling point and that can lead to irrational, even destructive, behavior. At some point you have to make the conscious decision that it isn’t worth the stress. Learning to just let go can be a game changer. Life has enough stress without you creating more. Sometimes you just have to tell yourself to stop.

4. Accept that there are things you can’t change.

Acceptance can be hard. It means letting go of certain perceptions and beliefs. Often those perceptions and beliefs are the very things that define us or make up our identity. This can be disconcerting for many because it challenges who they think they are. The truth is, every event in your life makes up who you are. So, by taking the steps to accept what you can’t change, you are taking an active role in shaping yourself.

5. Find the things you can control in the situation.

Ask the question, “Can I control what is happening right now (or what has happened)?” If the answer is no, then ask, “What can I change about this situation?” Then take action in that direction. Note that sometimes there is nothing you can do but control your own reaction. That includes accepting what you can’t change and deciding to let it go so you can live a fuller life.