Control What You Can Control

I made a quick trip to the grocery story to pick up food for the week right before lunch and am happy to have a fully-stocked fridge.

tuna salad wrap 015

See all those bags? I managed to bring them inside in only one trip! I have a weird aversion to making two trips to and from the car with groceries and will nearly throw out my back trying to bring everything in at once.

One trip, baby!

Lunch

I am killing my goal of consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables today. Four down!

Today’s lunch featured a tuna salad wrap with arugula and tomato slices and roasted green beans on the side.

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Loving all the fresh produce!

I also had a small bowl of ricotta cheese topped with a sliced plum, slivered almonds and pumpkin pie spice on the side.

ricotta plums almonds

And now for a little book talk!

I finished reading Open yesterday and have one major thing to discuss that I took away from the book, so let’s get to it!

Control What You Can Control

Control what you can control.

control what you can control
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What a totally simple yet incredibly difficult concept to grasp.

How much time do we spend freaking out about things that are completely outside of our control? How many hours do we waste worrying about what that nasty coworker is going to say today? How many “what ifs” do we put ourselves through day in and day out, worrying about the worst possible outcomes?

On Saturday as I was reading Andre Agassi’s biography, Open, I found myself rereading one passage over and over again. It detailed a conversation between Agassi and his trainer, Gil.

tuna salad wrap 010

Agassi just finished reading an article about himself in a New York newspaper. The article tore him apart and said Agassi “simply isn’t a champion,” and caused him to spiral into a series of self-doubt.

“What if he’s right?” Agassi questions about the author’s statement.

“What if I never win this tournament? What if I always look back on this moment with regret?”

His trainer sees Agassi’s reaction to the article and nonchalantly says, “Control what you can control.”

control

I dog-eared the page and went back and read it again yesterday after I finished the book.

Rather than put time, energy and effort into worrying about things that are so completely out of our control, imagine how much better off we’d be if we poured all of that energy into something that we can control. Something positive. Something that will actually get us somewhere.

I remember when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt completely helpless and utterly out of control. I worried. I cried.

And then I did something.

My sister and I poured time and energy into doing things for my mom to make her journey easier. We made her a chemo countdown calendar where she could mark a big, victorious “X” on the days where she received chemotherapy treatment after she returned home. We reached out to friends and relatives and put together a recipe book complete with kind notes from the people who love her most.

Did this help us gain control over the cancer my mom was fighting? Absolutely not. But it did make us feel like we were doing something and had a little bit of control over my mom’s happiness.

There are things that affect us every day that are out of our control and it is so incredibly hard not to dwell on them and worry non-stop. I loved the simple thought of controlling what we can control and focusing on making the changes we can make to improve our lives without dwelling on the issues outside of our control.

So simple, yet so hard.

Question of the Afternoon

  • What is something completely out of your control that you’ve spent too much time worrying about lately?

Comments

  1. says

    “Control what you can control.” <- That is amazing. Thank you so, so much for sharing. I think we could all use the daily reminder. 🙂

    On a lighter note, I have complete lunch envy. Your veggie-filled meal looks delectable.

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  2. says

    I live in a 3rd floor walk-up apartment, so I hate having to make multiple trips to and from the car to unload groceries. I feel like a pack mule loading up as much as possible for the fewest amount of trips, haha. I got plums at the grocery store on Friday and had one yesterday – so refreshing! I love the “control what you can control” message. I’m definitely a big worrier (right now mostly about finding a job for the summer between semesters) and have to remind myself there’s only so much I can do.

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    • says

      I feel like I could have written this response! I not only live in a 3rd floor walk-up, but I have a major worry problem too. “Control what you can control” and “There’s only so much I can do.”<- I'm going to write them both down!

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      • says

        I know you definitely understand my desire not to go up and down 3 flights of steps loaded down with groceries more times than I have to 🙂 I like your idea of writing those phrases down. Might be time for a sticky note or two on my mirror!

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  3. says

    Such a great point. Way easier said than done, but something I think we can all work on. This one comes in to play a ton with pregnancy and new moms…so so so much is out of your control, but we want so badly to control everything. 🙂

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  4. says

    I used to worry about everything so your message definitely hits home. What ifs ruled my life, but now I try my best to focus on the things that I can directly impact. There have been so many times where I worried or obessed over something happening that never did. That kind of thinking takes the joy out of the present moment, and that’s no way to live!

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  5. says

    I’m applying to grad schools right now and, during this harrowing process, it’s something I have to remind myself of daily. Now that I’ve submitted all of my forms/applications/letters of rec/etc, the ball’s in someone else’s court…. I just have to wait it out!

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  6. Samantha says

    I really liked this post, Julie! So often we dwell and stress ourselves out about circumstances that are completely outside our control- so what use is it pouring negative energy into something when we could be conserving that energy or using it for something positive? I am totally guilty of letting the actions/words of others indirectly affect the here and now of my own life. Sometimes it’s hard for us to realize what we can and cannot control, and that causes a mind spin as well. The sooner we can realize that and get past it though, the more productive we can be.

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  7. says

    I think this quote is so great! I often find it easier to think negative things about myself and bring myself down but when I stop and think about it I know that I can control these negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones.

    P.s. I always try to bring the groceries in in one trip! It is a small victory if I do!

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  8. says

    Ooh yes, great point, and thanks for the reminder! I think we’d be so much more productive some days if we just directed our energy towards the things we really DO have the power to change. Easier said than done, right? Great post!

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  9. says

    I am definitely a bit of a worrier. I actually spend more time worrying over minor things than the big things. Somehow I can tell myself that God is in control of THOSE, but I still want to take control of the little ones. This is such a great reminder (and one that I should look at daily!) Thanks!

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  10. Lindsay says

    I completely agree with “Control what you can Control!”. Love that quote. What a great reminder. It’s so easy to worry about everything… and all the “what ifs”. Thanks! Have a fabulous day!

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  11. says

    I worry about so many things it’s not even funny. I know that it produces a lot of unnecessary anxiety in my life, so I’m trying very hard to let go of the things outside my scope of control, but it goes against all of my instincts. Letting go and accepting is a reminder I need CONSTANTLY!

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  12. says

    Oh boy to this!
    I fell on ice and tore the cartilage in my hip while I was training for a marathon. It has been a LONG journey and I’m undergoing hip surgery on Wednesday. It is really difficult to go through this as I’m a runner through and through and I’m also smack in the middle of my PhD. I have never in my life felt so out of control!!

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  13. says

    I am the same way with packages. I will hold as many as I possibly can to avoid going back to the car. It usually works out. 🙂

    This is such a great post. I feel really out of control in regards to my health. I’m having a ton of GI problems. It’s been hard going back and forth to doctors, and trying to figure out what I can and can’t eat. I feel like I’ve lost control. It’s so hard.

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  14. says

    You couldn’t have said it better – “So simple, yet so hard.” I think I spend half of my day somedays worring about things I can’t control. I have had a lot of health problems with migraines and although I can control some of the external factors, there is a lot that I cannot control, and I just need to let go and stop trying to control those parts that are far beyond my control! Yet…easier said than done some days! 🙂

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  15. Whitney says

    So true! I had a miscarriage in December and my husband and I finally have the green light to starting trying again this month. It’s tough not to overanalyze and worry…

    I’m learning to let go, and let God!!

    🙂

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  16. says

    this is a WONDERFUL POST julie! seriously, rings so true for me especially. i am your prototypical worrier- i ruminate, let things bother me that shouldnt, catastrophize, you name it! i really need to let go of certain things! great reminder 🙂

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  17. says

    Such a great quote – “Control what you can control”. Wiser words haven’t been spoken. I constantly feel like I’m worrying about things that need not be worried about. Who knows what I’ll be doing in the next two years, what my life will look like. I just need to stop and deal with the now, or risk not living in the moment.

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  18. says

    Love the idea of control what you can control. Many things in our life and what happens to us are OUT of our control, but we are always 100% in control of how we react to these circumstances. If we react negatively that makes the issue FAR worse than it needs to be, but reacting as positively as possible will make the problem pass with more ease so we can get back to what we would RATHER be doing lol!!

    I think I need to get on an organic delivery service, if I have the fruits and veggies in my fridge I will eat them, if they aren’t there I won’t. Working on it!

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  19. says

    Wow, this post came at JUST the right time. Thank you. I am worrying over several things that are completely out of my control, and it’s such an energy waster. Thank you for this wonderful reminder. I appreciate it.

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  20. says

    I will always carry as many bags as humanly possible (and then two more) in from the car so I don’t have to go back out. It’s like a challenge, which I love!

    Over the past year, one of my goals has been to learn to say “no” and another has been to not worry about things I cannot control. If it’s out of my control, I pray about it. If there is something I can actually DO about it, then I still pray but I also DO.

    Thanks for the reminder!

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  21. says

    I couldn’t agree more. Especially lately.

    I’m studying abroad in Ireland right now and it’s crunch time for me. I get so incredibly stressed out over the smallest details that I can never concentrate, let alone sleep (hence why i’ve been awake since 3 am 🙁 )

    Thank you for posting this. You’re a true inspiration. This book is now on my summer reading list! 😀

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  22. says

    Love this. It is SO true! There are just some things that we will NEVER be able to control, and I think that’s how God wants it. He wants it to be in His hands, and for you to just sit back & let Him take control! He’ll never give you something that you can’t handle. 🙂
    Awesome post, Julie!

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  23. says

    I totally always bring groceries in on one trip as well.

    Love that quote! It’s so true and something I constantly need to remind myself. I love how you handled the situation with your mom. What a great and inspiring story.

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  24. says

    Such a great post- I hope you know how your words can really resonate with people right when they need to hear it :)… it’s like you read my mind and told me something I really needed to hear today! Thx, lady! 🙂

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  25. says

    I was worrying way too much about selling our house in Ohio. But God is SO good … less than 2 weeks before we had to move to Ohio, out of the blue, we got a buyer! Such an incredible answer to prayer. I often have to remind myself that He’s my provider, and stop trying to control things that I can’t! 🙂

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  26. says

    That’s a very interesting reflexion! I think this is true but we should be caferul of not turning ourselves into control freaks. Control what you can control, but also what is worth controlling!

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  27. Hilary says

    Hi Julie! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, and wanted to let you know that this post is exactly what I needed to hear/read today! Thank you for being such a positive and inspirational person! 🙂

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  28. Jessica says

    Thank you for such a great post – it’s a great reminder that we all need to hear from time-to-time. I’ve been having a hard time lately with having to constantly defend my healthy lifestyle choices (limiting alcohol, prioritizing workouts, etc). I can’t control how others will respond/react to my lifestyle and I need to accept that and be happy with my choices.

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  29. says

    LOL I do the same thing with groceries!! 1 trip or bust. I absolutely love this post. It’s something I’ve blogged about countless times… I think it is the single most stress-reducing step we can take in our lives. So glad you posted about this! 🙂

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  30. Linda says

    I’m the same way with the groceries. One trip, baby!
    I have such a hard time letting go of things I can control. Thank you for the reminder! I’m still working hard on making that my automatic response and not must control everything!!!

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  31. D says

    This post must have been written for me…perfect timing. I’ve had a trying 72 hours and it helped to me read this line…even just on your blog title.

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  32. says

    Ten years ago when I was a freshman in college, I thought I could control my life. I thought I needed to be in a relationship, and I ended up with someone who treated me horribly for six years–to the point where I honestly thought I was going crazy. I also had an eating disorder; I was trying to control my body because I wasn’t having any luck controlling my life.

    I don’t try to control things anymore, because it was only once I learned to relinquish that control that I discovered how amazing my life could be. I am now married to the love of my life and pursuing my career dreams of becoming a counselor and author (of an eating disorder recovery book no less!). And all because I learned how to DIRECT my life without trying to control everything!

    Oh, and I have to add–as a former Resident Director at a university, I used to have to walk across a large parking lot and then up two flights of stairs to my apartment at the end of the hallway. I made a habit of NEVER taking more than one trip, no matter how much I’d bought!!!

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  33. says

    I love this! It’s a message I so need to hear. As my mom always says, “Don’t borrow trouble.” Same concept, but difficult to remember every day!

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  34. says

    I worry constantly about things I have no control over. Mostly I worry about what might happen if I take a leap. What if I decide to pursue photography as a career and no one likes my work? What if we decide to buy a house and then can’t afford the payments? I need to train myself not to worry about the worst that could happen and start looking forward to the great things that could happen!

    P.S. I NEVER make two trips with my groceries! And I live in an upstairs apartment. I bet I look HILARIOUS to my neighbors sometimes!

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  35. says

    Hi, I just recently found your blog and I’m happy I did.. what a great blog post! I’m constantly over thinking and worrying!! I’m trying to change these things about myself because I really hate them.. I needed this reminder today!! Thanks!

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  36. Christina says

    What a wonderful post. Such a simple idea, but so much depth. Sometimes everyone just needs a reminder that it will all be alright! 🙂

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  37. says

    Had to laugh at the one trip with groceries from the car- I do the SAME thing!! And every time I find myself wondering why I can only make one trip.

    I’m trying to worry less about my job search- after changing careers, going back to school for a second degree, and still not having my dream job, it starts to get pretty upsetting. I need to really focus on just doing my best at things I can control, and then let the rest to the man upstairs. 🙂

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  38. says

    Its so funny that you posted that about carrying groceries inside – I posted the exact same thing on my blog today. I will carry as many as I possibly can!

    I think having kids, I worry about things that are out of my control all the time. But that’s what people do isn’t it? You don’t need to worry about the things that you can control because that means they can be changed. Worrying about things you can’t control is why people worry in the first place. If I’m making any sense.
    Basically, I just try to worry less in general.

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  39. Allison says

    I always know that that quote is how I should react to things, but sometimes reactions can be so emotional that it’s hard to see through the blurr to get to the facts.

    I love this quote. Reminds me so much of the serenity prayer… which I have propped up on my workdesk and on my mirror back at home!!

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  40. says

    This is a concept I need to work on a LOT. There are a lot of changes going on at work right now that are going to have a serious effect on my job status (I’ll still have a job, it might just be a totally new one in a totally new place). There is literally NOTHING I can do to change this, and it’s taken me a few months to fully give up wasting my time worrying about the situation at hand. I can control what kind of teacher I am, what I do with my kids, how I treat my co-workers. Everything else will fall into place!

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  41. says

    Haha I laughed SO hard at your grocery victory! I am ALWAYS attempting to make it in one trip – ven if it means taking twice as long!
    I sleep at my boyfriends a lot and I do not pack light, so I end up struggling up his front steps with a huge bag of clothes, my laptop, purse, and extra shoes. I always figured he thought I was ridiculous, but it turns out he’s exactly the same way! Now, after a snowboarding trip we challenge ourselves to unload with the LEAST trips possible.

    On the note of learning what you can control. I have found that a lot of help from reading articles on locus of control which is basically the same concept! We can’t change anything by projecting outwards, we simply have to look inside. 🙂

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  42. says

    What and enlightening post! I am what one would call a “control freak”! I worry A LOT which causes lots of unnecessary anxiety! I worry about my future most of all because I am still stuck in the “I don’t know what I want to do phase”! I quit my day (desk) job because it was making me very unhappy, and am now trying to figure out what my true passion is. I love to work with people, and be on my feet as opposed to sitting in a cubicle for 9 long hours. I also find blogging to be very therapeutic and fun, which really helps to get my mind off of my worries! I guess it’s really the “not knowing” part of this that really scares me since I like to be prepared for everything! Anyways, this turned out to be a really long comment, but the bottom line is that I think we all just need to realize that everything will fall where it should at some point, and if we just relax and learn from our mistakes hopefully we will be able to get to where we want to be! 🙂

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  43. says

    Love this post! I definitely needed this today. I’ve been trying to find a full-time job for the past couple of months, so I’m focusing a lot of my energy on that and doing everything that I can to get to that outcome. Of course, I constantly find myself worrying about it and whoever the competition is out there, instead of relishing in the fact that I have extra free time and focusing on the fact that things will work out when they are supposed to according to God’s timeline, instead of mine. So, I love this!! Control what you can control 🙂

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  44. says

    I also am a master at bringing in groceries in one trip! Despite my complete lack of upper body strength, I do pretty well!

    And I absolutely love the “control what you can control” quote. Definitely something that a lot people (myself included) should take to heart.

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  45. Bridget says

    I have a very close family. Out of the absolute BLUE, 3 months ago, my dad got a rare illness and rapidly went downhill. He went from the strongest man I know to not being able to take care of himself and being bedridden. I watched my brothers take care of him and my mom’s strength and courage overwhelmed me. I decided to control what I could control and stick with my running, even though at times I wanted to curl up and dissapear. It didn’t help him, he died in December, but it helped me to maintain positivity and dispel my angst and dispair so I was able to give more to him and my family. I just went for a long run sunday and played all of his music. I cried, I powered on, and I felt his presence. It feels selfish to take time running when someone is literally going before you, but I’m positive its what made me and makes me, be able to handle this whole ordeal. Great Topic and lesson.

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  46. G says

    “Control what you can control” reminds me of one of my favourite prayers, the Serenity Prayer. Just thought I’d pass it along…

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

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  47. says

    I needed to read this more than you know today. Lately, I’ve been trying to control so many things that are naturally not mine to control. Sometimes, the only thing we can do is let go and just let it happen. So much easier said than done but something I always continue to work on.

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  48. says

    Omigosh I am the same exact way when making trips- I hate to make more than one so I usually load myself down until my arms are shaking and I end up with red marks from the bag handles– but I get it done!

    I really need to hear that control what you can control message today too- last night I was stressing about something that ended up not even happening and yet, I couldn’t stop freaking out about it. I knew it was silly but I forgot- I need to control only what I can control… this might be my new mantra!

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  49. says

    This is a great quote to keep in mind. I tend to beat myself up over things that are out of my control… there’s only so much you can do to “control” certain situations. It’s all about adapting & doing the best you can!

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  50. says

    My roommate always laughs at me balancing bags and boxes and the like all over my body just to avoid having to go back out to the car for a second trip. I’ll crash into the living room shuffling to the kitchen huffing and puffing but triumphant to have gotten it all done in one go! It’s the little (controllable!) things.

    Letting go of trying to control everything in my environment is a constant struggle for me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

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  51. says

    I’m a one-tripper too! Which may or may not have caused some busted milk jugs and tumbling produce!

    I love the message! I’ve learned over the past year to let go and let God. Being the “controlling” and leader of the pack, I always tried to lead myself into things “I” felt was right. Finally, I slowed down and accepted “I am not the pilot!” WE ARE CO-PILOTS! Let Him be the driver in our life.

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  52. says

    What a great post, Julie! I hear a lot of this in my internship with the clients in recovery. It’s the basic premise behind the Serenity Prayer. It’s helped thousands of people to stop using drugs/alcohol and it’s a giant piece of wisdom I think all of us can learn to incorporate into our lives on a regular basis.

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  53. says

    Your posts are always super timely! My mom started radiation last week. She’s doing really well, thankfully, but I love your idea of a countdown calendar! I’m going to make one for her tonight! 🙂

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  54. says

    I really like “control what you can control”. I have spent countless hours worrying about the past, and that I cannot change things that I have done, and that I should only move forward and learn from it. I had something that happened to me last year that depressed me for a very long time, and I was never given a full reason for it, which never closed the door on it. I spent hours trying to figure it out, but eventually, I realized, I cannot control this, or control what information other people give me, so I need to move on.

    Also the bags thing. Here in my city plastic bags are banned! So you have to bring your own bags or buy a paper bag when you are in the store. I ALWAYS forget to bring in my bags! Its the worst. I’ve ended up taking stuff to my car with no bags! haha.

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  55. Keri :) says

    I did a sales job one time and they ALWAYS, ALWAYS told us to: “Control the controllables!”

    It is engrained into my head. lol

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  56. Jenna says

    I love that ideal! My great grandma lived to be 102 and when we asked what her secret was, she always said, “don’t worry about things you can’t change” I live my life by this concept now

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  57. says

    “Control what you can control” is such a great thought to keep in mind especially during rough times. Thanks for the reminder.

    Also, I’ve got the same deal with groceries haha. I’m sure I look insane trying to make it from the car to the door with like 4 bags up each arm but I hate having to make two trips!

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  58. says

    i love this post because it’s something I find myself struggling with almost every day. It’s far too easy (and accepted) to complain about things and take things for granted, but there are so many incredible things I should instead be grateful and thankful for. I actually keep little reminders around my computer and work desk to encourage myself to be positive and worry-less every day.

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  59. *Andrea* says

    great post! i definitely have control issues 😉
    what an amazing daughter you are!!! i would hope that i would also do the same, but i can’t imagine going through cancer with a parent and feeling so helpless

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  60. says

    I love this post! First of all, I do everything I can to make only one trip with the groceries. We live in an apartment, so sometimes I have to park far away, and I usually look like a cartoon character balancing all my bags and milk cartons, but it’s totally worth it.

    And you’re so right – there’s so much we worry about needlessly. A great reminder to just focus on what we can do! 🙂

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  61. says

    Getting into medical school.I just need to stop fretting about my future. I got into one school, and need to stop thinking about the ones I didn’t get into. I need to let go, and just be satisfied with the blessing I ALREADY HAVE.

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  62. Anne says

    I definitely needed this post today! I found myself freaking out over more than one thing I can’t control.

    Deep breaths 🙂

    Also, I have the same grocery bag obsession.

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  63. Sihomara says

    Thank’s for the post!!! I’m in law school and applying for summer jobs. It’s so stressful with the economy the way it is! Firms just aren’t hiring like they used to. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about it, but really, I can’t control that. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

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  64. Pam says

    Completely out of my control- finding a job! I finished college last summer with a major in nutrition, exercise and health. It’s been such a rough road of trying to find an entry level job and it seems no one wants to hire with no experience and so no way to get experience! It’s really frustrating cause it feels like I’m taking steps backwards now, but it’s out of my control so I’m hoping Im just waiting for something really good to come along!

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  65. says

    Thank you for this post! Right now I am absolutely freaking out about receiving my mid-term language exam mark (I basically self-destructed in the middle of the exam). Instead of frantically worrying, however, I am going to try to look to the future. I may not be able to control the grade that I got, but I can control how I’ll respond and move forward.

    What you and your sister did for your mother is amazing. It’s just inspirational to hear about people staying strong and finding ways to deal in the midst of something so difficult and uncontrollable. 🙂

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  66. Kayla says

    I love this post. Thank you for reminding us because this is simply the truth. I think everyone could use this quote in their day-to-day lives… so thank you!!

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  67. says

    My Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in October and that is definitely something I worry about daily that I cannot control. I’ve gotten better with it, but it’s still very difficult. “control what you can control” is a great motto I use for everything else especially since nothing seems quite as significant as it did before we found out about my mom!

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  68. says

    I think ‘control what you can control’ is a reason I’m a worry/anger cleaner – as in, when I’m worried, stressed or pissed, I clean EVERYTHING. Something about exerting control over dustbunnies helps.

    PS – also in a third-floor walk-up; sometimes nonperishables live in the trunk for a day, so I don’t have to make two trips. Now that I type this I can’t believe how lazy it sounds!

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  69. michelle says

    this was exactly what i needed to read at this exact moment… i lost my mother to cancer recently and my family has been a mess since then.. my dad’s battling depression, siblings are lost in life, and i’ve spent half my days since then crying over the fact that i can’t fix it.
    i love your blog, it reminds me to stay hopeful and that there will be a day when all this gets better!!! 😀

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  70. says

    A-mazing post that anyone can relate to and applies to all aspects of life. Great reminder for me to do exactly what was written, control what I can control and remember for the things that I can’t, the good Lord has a plan and is always in control.

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  71. says

    Hahah — i totally will NOT make two trips to and from the car. I have 3 reusable bags and if they start to fill up to quickly while I am at the grocery store, I know I am buying to many groceries, because 3 bags full is the normal amount of what I buy on a weekly basis.

    I can relate to the “control what you can control” quote. I am such a routine person and I am trying to learn that when things go off track, you just have to go with it.

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  72. Christina says

    LOVE this quote. I’m having a hard time with coworkers at the moment and I just have to understand that I cannot dictate what they will or will not to. I can only change how I react. Tough thing to do.

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