Each year, seniors and postgraduates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
I am going to tell you about the key moral I try to live by: Control what you can control. I was introduced to the concept at the Jon Elkin Goalie School four years ago. During a goalie psychology lesson, Jon emphasized the importance of focusing only on the game on the ice and ignoring outside factors. He ended with the phrase: Control what you can control. At first, I thought little of it, just another tip to improve my game. However, with time, I would learn of its greater applications in life.
With hockey, I quickly learned the value of Jon’s words. When I worried about whether my team would play well in front of me or not, felt frustrated over a bad call by the officials, or stressed over my poor performance in a previous game, I struggled. Once I restored my focus to my own game and controlling what I could control, my play improved.
Later, I learned the value of Jon’s words in relationships with people. My pesky little brother has a way of getting under my skin like no one else. We fight over everything: video games, clothes, who the dog loves more, superiority, food. It’s great. Through all of our disagreements, I recognized that I can’t control my brother. He has a mind of his own, so I must be patient and most often capitulate for the sake of peace. This saves me a lot of time and energy, even if it means losing more arguments. In fact, it’s slightly reduced the amount of arguments we had.
Investing your energy in matters that you have no impact on will result in dissatisfaction or a sense of worthlessness. If the conflict on which you have been wasting your energy does go your way, you may feel relieved; however, the dissatisfaction of knowing that you had no effect on that success remains. If things don’t go your way, you will face the frustration and regret of knowing that not only have you failed, but you have also exhausted your energy on something that you could not influence in the first place. So, for the sake of your mental health, do not squander your energy on matters you cannot control.
Alternatively, investing all of your energy into tasks you can impact will result in more positive outcomes. If you succeed, you will be pleased to see your hard work pay off. But if you fail, here lies the greatest benefit of “controlling what you can control.” Even in failure, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have invested all your energy in the right place and that you did all you could. In a world where ninety percent of the things you do seem to fail, this is incredibly important.
So how do I implement this motto into my life? With every task I approach, I say to myself: “I will invest all of my energy into controlling what I can control.” With hobbies like sports, music, video games; work, at school or your future careers ask yourself: “am I focusing on controlling what I can control?” Most importantly, implement this mentality in your relationships. You will never care about anything as much as you care about another person, which makes a clear understanding to the limits of your control essential to your mental and emotional health. So, when a relationship is strained, step back and do not worry about what you can not control. This usually means focusing on yourself and your own faults over those of another.