If Your Life Sucked Yesterday; It Will Again Today Unless …
“Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own …” — Epictetus.
No one ethically knows the outcome of a game. We cannot make someone love us. We cannot dictate the weather.
The only control any of us has is around 3 things:
- Whether you let yesterday influence today
- How you let your environment influence your beliefs and
- The choices you make.
When Is A Fence Not A Fence?
“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”― Henry Cloud
Alfred Bone retired in 1972. A 65-year-old European living on the semi-rural edge of suburban Sydney. He looked forward to a new way of living: away from daily commutes to city drudgery; away from rules and routines; and hopefully away from memories of repression that dominated his nights.
It was to be his time. Giving space to his creative loves: art and gardening. All in his quarter acre block — his home-made haven.
For the first 7 months he scratched at his canvases and into the dirt. His sun-soaked skin shone, fading the grey of a once cramped life.
His younger upwardly mobile neighbour leaned over the broken-down boundary between the two properties and said, “Time for a new fence, don’t you think Al?”
The fence tilted in places, was patched in others. But Alfred, a man of straight-backed dignity didn’t want his hard-earned savings replacing a perfectly ‘good-enough’ boundary.
Two years later, Alfred was back commuting from his once semi-suburban bliss to the drone of a city. His heart crusted in vengeance.
Retirement funds donated to lawyers siding with the neighbour.
#1. The Choice To Choose You
“The only real conflict you will ever have in your life won’t be with others, but with yourself.” ― Shannon L. Alder
>> One event can change your life — if you let it.
>> A childhood of neglect can scar deeply — if you let it.
>> Infidelity can destroy trust — if you let it.
>> Shyness can keep you isolated — if you let it.
>> A business failure can stop you from trying again — if you let it.
The past is just that. Past. A time capsule sealed. Set in time, past.
Yet the future is still to be written. It starts in this moment. A chance to do with it what you will. A literal blank slate.
- If you had 7 seconds to do the one thing that would make a difference in your life — what would you do?
And here’s the problem. The blank slate can be a scary place.
#2: What Fearing The ‘Blank Slate’ Says About You
“I like geography best, he said, because your mountains & rivers know the secret. Pay no attention to boundaries.” — Brian Andreas
For many artists and writers — the blank slate can be fearsome to face.
Why? Because it means leaving a mark, one that may determine the as-yet uncharted vision. Worse: it may be impossible to erase. To go back. Regret is expensive.
In creating a mark, our mind plays tricks on us. Linking our mark-making to memories best left alone. Of a failed venture. A lost love. A not-forgotten pain. A regrettable recurring pattern that feels trap-like.
If one commits. To making the mark.
And so tick … tick … tick … another 7 seconds slips away. Another opportunity missed.
A subconscious marker with the power to hold us in suspended animation. If we let it.
It can feel as if caught between two opposing and powerful forces. A magnetised field attracting, compelling us with its allure. Yet when close — we reject the union. Self sabotage. It’s the resistance. The fear of failing. The fear of falling. And not being caught.
And its inscription may already be shadowing you. Unless you choose to make your mark. And stand by it.
#3: You’re Creating Your Mark — Even When You Don’t
“When the world becomes a massive mess with nobody at the helm, it’s time for artists to make their mark.” — Joni Mitchell
Each word, gesture or expression you do today leaves your ‘mark’. The literal canvas is merely a representation of it.
Whether you choose to do anything (or not) — you’ve already left your mark.
Hesitation and doubt are noticeable calling cards. The tentative touch transmits fear. Denies your inner boldness. And there’s that 7 second pause of momentum stalling again. Tick … tick … tick ...
Renee Magritte’s famous painting titled: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) shows that a representation of a thing is not the thing. A postcard is not the place described. A fence is not a fence.
What Alfred failed to see was the boundary he fought so personally was fixed within. Inflexibility has a price. And some boundaries need updating — to defend them becomes folly.
#4. The Struggle of Perception — “One Day Is As All Days”
“If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.” — Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic.
Epictetus describes one power we each have to create our future: ‘reasoned choice’. Challenges faced today are no different to yesterday. “One day is as all days.”
They simply come in different guises. Different tests measuring the same issue. Of how we turn up. Of which roundabout we choose to stay on. Of which idea you won’t let go of.
The boundaries one sets in life define one’s flexibility. Boundaries change as body shapes do, as weather fronts shift, as hair turns grey. Keeping one’s boundaries inflexible means holding old perceptions of the way things ‘should’ be.
Things are as they are — not as they ‘should’ be. Choosing to battle immovable boundaries is a struggle with perception. Acceptance of what ‘is’ means directing energy towards those things you can control. And releasing control of what ‘is’.
#5. The Power Of The Present Moment: “Get Back To Breath”
Amy Winehouse sang of ‘back to black’. A dark place to retreat after lost love … lost anything. A place to lick wounds. And perhaps keep them alive.
The antithesis? ‘Back to breath’ — a soul sensing presence of the place you’ve found yourself in. Because this is your power to influence. How you turn up. Aware of sensory experiences. Curious of emotions emerging in full expression. Aware that your next action may dictate whether your history repeats itself or whether you flex with the moment. Accepting love lost. Accepting that which you cannot control.
Sheldon Kopp, psychotherapist, in his book, Back To One, describes it as breathing with slow suredness: the re-counting breath.
Choosing to choose ‘you’. Choosing to choose ‘now’. Choosing to live in this present moment.
7 seconds before it’s too late.
Tick … tick … tick … time to choose ‘back to breath’.
#6: What Can You Change?
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The greatest thing you have power over is your perception. Of the moment. And your interpretation of it.
It’s a choice to dredge up memories that only offer a cramped pseudo-support to your ego.
Perception based on a faulty lens causes most problems. From wars to relationship breakdowns, the perception of loss and its negative interpretation can be a smoking gun. If you choose it to be.
A fence is not a fence, as Albert discovered. It was a statement of his boundaries. An expression of his beliefs. It was his Achilles heel.
And if it wasn’t the fence, it would have been something else.
Whether you choose ‘back to black’ or ‘back to breath’ is a present moment decision. One influenced by the lens chosen.
#7: What Can’t Be Changed?
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.” — Epictetus.
You can’t change the weather. Your parents. The children you’ve born. Your past.
How you interpret your relationship with them though, is your choice.
As the Norwegians famously say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”.
You’re 7 Seconds Away … Just As Long As You Stay …
“The only true borders lie between day and night, between life and death, between hope and loss.” ― Erin Hunter
In football, most plays last about 7 seconds.
The song ‘7 Seconds’, written by Neneh Cherry, was recorded as a duet with Youssou N’Dour.
It’s a song about birth. Innocence. Choices. Destinations. It could be your life-marker:
- Seven seconds to see the past as past.
- Seven seconds to spend energy influencing what you can: your mind, the actions you take in this present moment.
- Seven seconds to change what you can, forget what you can’t.
- Seven seconds to choose a better attitude.
- Seven seconds to still your mind.
- Seven seconds to forgive.
- Seven seconds to breathe-in the present moment.
- Seven seconds to walk away from the unwinnable battle.
- Seven seconds to be your own greatest influence …
What will your next 7 seconds say about you?