Three Things You Can’t Change in Life

thangs you can't changeThe secret of happiness is knowing that there are some things you can control and some things you cannot.” – Epictetus

It is empowering to know that there are some things we can change and very reassuring to know that there are others that we can not. Things that are within our control, open a world of ever-increasing possibilities to us. Things we can not change or control allow us to develop acceptance, patience, wisdom and flexibility.

The challenge as I see it, is to tell the difference between the two. How do you know when to persist and when to let go? What are the things that are worth changing and which ones are better left alone?

There are 3 Things on my list that were the biggest source of frustration, stress and misery for me until I accepted the fact that they are out of my control.

Here are my conclusions:

1. You can’t change your past

This sounds pretty obvious and yet we still dwell on things that we have not accomplished, imagine all the vindictive and ironic lines that we could have said to someone two days after an argument and beat ourselves up for the silly mistakes that we have made. I know that I am not immune to this. However, the bottom line is that neither you, nor I can change the past. We can learn from it, cherish it or, at least, accept it. But there is no sense on dwelling on it!

2. You can’t change certain circumstances

I think it was Woody Allen who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”. No matter how well you plan or how much data you have, you can not foresee everything or change any of the circumstances that you will inevitably find yourself in. And maybe it is better that way. It adds an element of surprise to our, otherwise, very predictable lives.

Besides, it is liberating to know that you do not have to correct or resolve problems that are beyond your competency, authority, responsibility or power.

3. You can’t change other people

I recently heard a song that I immediately forgot all except one line. It said, “How do you fix something that was intended broken?” We often look around and think of a million ways to “fix” people around us: we try to mold our partner so that they fit the “picture-perfect” image we have carefully woven in our mind. We readily give advice to our children and feel hurt when they prefer to listen to their friends and classmates, rather than do what we told them.

The world would be a much better place if everyone acted according to our expectations, wouldn’t it?

But here is the brutal truth: you do not get to “fix” other people. They were intended that way. It is a waste of time wishing that those around us were somehow different, that they would stop doing something or start doing something or, that they want the same things we do.

What you can change

Amongst the crypts in Westminster Abbey in London there is an eulogy carved on the tomb of an Anglican bishop (A.D 1100). It says,

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it, too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.

Changing yourself is probably the hardest work on earth. Everyone who has ever been in a serious relationship knows that the simple statement “You’re right. Let’s do it your way” can require an enormous amount of effort (especially if you feel that your idea makes more sense). Or how about squeezing “I’m sorry” out of yourself when you do not feel that you are the one at fault?

These actions of going against our ego, of suppressing accusatory remarks in moments of anger, of forgiving those who have offended us, are the unnoticeable, yet remarkable feats that are worth more than ten thousand smiles or five thousand compliments.

At least this is how I see it.

What are your thoughts and suggestions on changing yourself?

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  • @DavidAHunter

    I agree with all three, but I do believe you can change people for the better IF they are willing to change.

    For me, it all comes down to my mindset. Sure, I cam’t change the past or circumstances, but I can change my way of thinking!

    • Vishal_jaiswalntw

      Ya buddy u r right. But its really 2 hard to change people……

  • http://twitter.com/Boldus Walter Latty

    Very nice article, I love it.

    • Arina

      Thank you, Walter.

  • Ajen

    Hi Arina, you are so right about the challenge of knowing the difference between what is in our realm of control and what is not. Sometimes, even in situations where there are elements that can be controlled, the question of whether we should control these elements or not becomes evident. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that one needs to be mindful of these challenges. I am in total agreement with David. Being mindful is not a passive state; it is an active process that requires a steadfast will to exercise it. …and in there lies the beauty of such challenges as it calls to be mindful.  

    • Arina

      Hi Ajen,

      Being mindful of the problem is sometimes much more challenging than throwing ourselves into an endless round of activity and hoping that the situation will somehow get better. 
      Is there any exercise, technique or thought that helps you to practice being in the moment?I found that concentrating on my breathing and meditating helps me to clear my mind from hectic thoughts and regain peace of mind.

      • Ajen

        I do breathing and meditating as well.  Sometimes, I make great effort to have a mind like a child.  To do this, I experience (by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, hearing) what is before me as if I am seeing it for the first time.  From stopping to smell the roses to hearing the train in the far distance, to looking a a tree with its individual leaves, etc… These are ways of being grounded.  

        It is through our experiences afforded by our senses we become aware of what we can control in our reality. We cannot control the rate in which a rose blooms, but we can control (under most circumstances) how deeply we can inhale its fragrance…  

        One of the most beautiful quality of us human beings is our ability to change how we experience our world. 

  • Iamfantasticfrank

    Hi Arina, I was hooked into reading your article because I was curious
    to find out what 3 things you can’t not change in your life.. (I had
    thought they would be something else like when and where you are born, 
    the conditions of your birth (i.e. healthy or with a “disability” and
    the third one, the day that you will di

    Because if you know anything about TONY ROBBINS he would disagree with
    you on everything starting with your first statement about  you can’t
    change the past..

    While its absolutely true that you cannot change it. you can change how
    you choose to have it be remembered by you.. he calls it I think
    reframing the past.  He would say the same idea about your second point
    about changing certain circumstances to how we chose to assign our
    emotional anchors to them.. which  would then allow us to change how we
    live our lives today…  as for the third concept in your letter. you
    can’t change people.

    That is not entirely correct either.

    You can have  a positive or a negative influence on people by the way
    you choose to “handle” all of their foibles, challenges and problems
    that you are perceiving them to have.

    The degree in your being able to change another person so they would
    exhibit more acceptable behavior choices is up to your ability to not be
    influenced or controlled by the immediate outcome that you get from
    what ever technique you are using to affect the desired change.

    Your statement:

    “But here is the brutal truth: you do not get to “fix” other people. They
    were intended that way. It is a waste of time wishing that those around
    us were somehow different, that they would stop doing something or
    start doing something or, that they want the same things we do.”

    Is not entirely correct either.

     Yes you cannot “fix” other people’s problems and “it is a waste of time
    wishing that those people around us were some how different.”

    Here is a better idea..

     

    First try accepting them the way they are.

    Then you must lead or role model them in a better frame by consistantly maintaining  a higher state.

    And never ever giving up on them.

    And love them regardless of whatever the outcome is..

    LOVE

    FF

     

    • Arina

      Hi FF,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You brought up some valuable points about reframing our past and about helping other people to make better life choices. My favorite part is where you talk about importance of accepting people the way they are, being a role model for them, loving them regardless of the outcome and NEVER EVER giving up on them. I agree with this 100% and I am sure that Tony Robbins would agree with you as well. 

      The point I was trying to make in this post is very similar to what you and DavidAHunter  have also mentioned in your comments – any transformation starts with us. Within us.  

      We can not use our past, outside circumstances or other people’s actions as an excuse to justify our mistakes or our own reluctance to change. 
      In my case, the realization that I can not change other people, is the very belief that helps me to accept them the way they are and practice understanding. The realization that I can not change my past allows me not to dwell on my mistakes and mentally beat myself up for my failures. And strangely enough, the realization that I can not change outside circumstances reminds me to put my faith in God more often. 

      When I talked about things that we can not change I did not mean it in a limiting way. We can change the whole world if we only start with ourselves. :)

  • Kaka Saba

    excellent. these are things that all of us need to know! for less estress and be more relax! thank you.
    saba.k

  • Vishal_jaiswalntw

    Very good Arina. Keep it up… You are the real motivator. Fabulous article.

    • Arina

      I’m glad that you liked this article, Vishal. Thank you for taking time to leave a comment. 

  • Leenah

    you may not perfectly change someone but i tend to advise himher because i myself may sometimes be drunk in my wrong actions and i don’t know i am ,i would badly need some one to advise me(sometimes but – i am speaking here about me – to slap  me in the face) in the nicest way heshe can but in the end not leave me drown in my mistakes,   what i can ,is think how my thoughts should be right may be i am advising them of a wrong thing that’s why they’re not listening and may be it’s a right one i just need to have patience on growing good manners in me first (but in me i should better push myself to the edge to be in a good manner even if i turn out feeling miserable or crying out of pain ,as long as what i am doing is right but still harsh to accomplish means that this will make me better i don’t recall that studying such a science e.g. medicine was according to my current personality but i had to make it a better one :meaning being more humble more giving then taking ) and others.

    and it’s very true to me as well that changing myself to a more righteous personality means a huge accomplishment in the long running vision of making people around me better ones.

    thank you on this article

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree with. Some  European says cannot change women,work and weather. All of out side circumstances are not in our control except our self. We are responsibility for all our actions. Positive Action is = Thoughts + Believes +Approach + Analise +Attitude + Outcome(kind of communication-Assertive) will  produce positive results.
     
    Negative Action = Negative thoughts + Assumed believes while on lower Self esteem + Unclearer Approach with negative Emotions(Anger,Jealousy,Fear, Lack of Confidence and  Self pity) + Impaction + Negative Attitude + Outcome(Communication-Aggressive) will produce negative results. Every Action has Re-Action depends how the reflection
     
       If we want to live we have to Breathe no-one can do it for us because only our responsibility.

  • Diane

    Good day Arina,
    Very good article and comments. I agree we cannot change someone else. However, if we preach by example and other people see the benefit of our actions, it may help bring about some change for that person. That way, the feel they decided for themselves without being forced into change.
    My personal experience with weight loss may be a good example. I started a nutrition program ( I prefer it to dieting) and, even if I felt my husband needed to change some of his nutrition habits, not because he needed to lose weight but for healthy eating, I didn’t force him to change anything. As a matter of fact, I just did what I had to do. As the days passed he saw the results and he gradually changed some of his habits ending up being a very good support for me.
    I think all human beings have a huge power of persuasion either verbal, non verbal or by example. We can choose to use it positively or negatively. We can also choose to follow the leaders or not. The important thing is to feel comfortable with the choices we make. Regrets are not going to change the past, we have to learn from it and move forward knowing we are wiser  because of the good and not so good experiences of our life.
    Namaste
    Diane

  • http://solvica1323971.positivestrongeryou.com Yorelis

    Very few people understand the cause of happiness. Many of us focus on friends, cars, and money as the true reason for happiness and devote all of our time and energy acquiring these things. The real source of peace of mind is in inner peace. Remember that if we have a peaceful mind, we will be happy. Having all the money in the world would not make us completely peaceful if we decide to let in all the negative influences and disturbances in our circle. Improve your personal life by creating a healthy surrounding for yourself and family. You can take steps to gain peace of mind. The first step is meditating at least once everyday. Allow your mind to focus on nothing. Once you are in the mood, allow your thoughts to graze the pastures. In addition, there is nothing wrong with taking time out to dream about a life that you would like to live.