Even seemingly straightforward situations have a lot of moving parts.
Think about it: You’re ordering a coffee, and you have a 30-second exchange with the barista. Simple, right? Yes…and all of your past experiences led you to this particular moment in time, as did the past experiences of the barista, the other people working at the cafe, the people who grew and processed the coffee beans, made the cups, delivered the almond milk, and on and on it goes. Countless factors converging in every moment in time.
Why on earth does this matter? Well, it’s easy to get caught up in an unproductive thought pattern when we overlook the underlying complexity of life, the thought pattern of, “I should be able to figure this out!” whenever we’re faced with a problem.
When we take this approach we often feel overwhelmed, because our ability to take action is tied to our ability to “figure it out.” If we can’t do the latter, we feel paralyzed and scattered.
It can be helpful simply to acknowledge that there are far more moving parts than we can ever conceive of, much less address, no matter how long we brainstorm, hash things out with our friends, or stay up half the night obsessing.
How is this perspective shift helpful? For starters, it’s based in reality. This is generally a good place to start.
It’s hard to make effective changes when we’re skewing what we see to fit a neat and tidy explanation that exists in our head. Life generally doesn’t care about our explanations and continues doing whatever it was doing before we developed our clever little plan.
It also requires that we set more realistic expectations for ourselves (and others). Instead of coming up with grandiose plans that rely on everyone and everything around us changing to fit our agenda, we stick to what we can actually impact: our self.
We let go of trying to convince and control others, followed by acting like the Plan Police, making sure everyone’s sticking to the plan (and judging them in our heads when they aren’t). These things don’t work. Or at least, they don’t work well, and they completely drain us of energy while generating a lot of resentment from the people around us.
When we recognize that there are far more moving parts than we can address at any one time, we make choices.
I can’t change all 9,999 things by Friday, but I can pack a lunch today instead of eating out.
I can’t change all 9,999 things by Friday, but I can call my representative this morning and ask her to support such-and-such legislation.
I can’t change all 9,999 things by Friday, but I can take a bath tonight and turn off my devices by 9 pm.
Sometimes we use the larger-than-life plans as a distraction. We use them to justify staying immobilized. Just a little bit more planning and analyzing, and then I can take action. Or If I can’t do all 9,999 things, what’s the point?
The point is that all change, even those epic, sweeping changes that seem like they happened overnight, are the result of tiny, often un-glamorous choices adding up, one after the other, after the other.
We can’t take part in the grand, sweeping changes if we’re telling ourselves we have to know everything, see everything, do everything before we take a single step.
We take part by doing our best to stay informed, by doing our best to tune into our inner guidance, and by making the best choices we can with the limited knowledge we have.
That’s the best we can do.
And you know what? That’s enough.