When I was a senior in high school, I found myself entering a weird stage in my life. It seemed that although I was still incredibly young, I was being forced to make almost daily decisions that would affect the course of my entire life. These decisions began to slowly weigh on my mind until I reached a point where there were days that I didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning. I was beginning to let these tough decisions turn into self doubt, and cause me to question every thing I did.
At some point during all of this, I had a teacher at my high school introduce me to the concept of “self-mastery”. While I don’t remember all of the details of our conversation, the part that really stood out to me was just one simple sentence, “Focus only on the things that you can control.” At that particular time, I was letting a lot of things in my life cause me stress that I had zero control over. What people thought of me, college acceptance letters, even future employment opportunities were already on my mind and causing me anxiety. All of these things, no matter how important they seemed to a 17 year old, were completely out of my hands. All I could do was get up every morning and try and make the small decisions that I actually had some influence over. What time I should get up, how long should I study for my exams, how I would treat people in my life: those are the things that I started to focus on and spend my time thinking about.
This change in perspective allowed me to “tune out” a lot of the problems in my life that I couldn’t control. My grades improved, relationships were repaired, and ultimately I was a lot happier. 10 years later I can honestly say that much of the growth that I have achieved as a person was thanks to that one small conversation. Individual growth isn’t accomplished by any one grand choice between good or bad. It’s accomplished by making a daily effort to focus on the small things that we can actually control. Everything else will take care of itself.