A Lesson in Philosophy

Do you on some days feel that there is too much noise, distractions and interruptions in your life?

The kids crying, begging for TV and candies. The dog barking. Your phone ringing. Your husband asking you to check that the door is locked. Your mother telling you to clean up the kids’ spills on her floor. People at work demanding that certain things be done urgently. Little arguments between family members. The floor getting dirty after you have just vacuumed in the morning. There is no milk left in the fridge. The TV remote control is not working. And this is only a small fragment of the list.

These daily distractions used to irritate me, a lot, especially on days when I needed to get things done because it felt like I would never get there. At times the noise level got to a certain point that I just wanted to shut everything out. I found that these instances climaxed for me after I returned to work – I guess it goes in hand with the number of things you have to tend to in any given day, the more expectations and responsibilities the higher the noise levels and the lower your tolerance levels.

After a while I realised that unless I was contented to just let myself slowly turn into an angry, miserable human being over the course of time, there is something that has to change. It was not only affecting my health, but also my relationships with the people closest to me. I was snappier and losing my temper quickly. But I couldn’t stop people from expecting things from me, for example people at work are always going to demand priority on things that matter to them. And I couldn’t stop most of the events from happening in my life, for example, the floor is always going to get dirty again within the same day with the dog and the kids running in and out.

And then I realised that the only thing that needed to change was myself and my way of thinking. I was letting external events affect me too much.

A (very) wise man named Epictetus said 2,000 years ago, in relation to how one should live:

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

And he also said that:

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.

So that is what I set out to change. I need to be clear in my mind about what my true goals are and focus on them – my health, my family, my career, all and aspects of them. This year I am breaking them down into achievable periodical goals (for example, successfully transitioning my daughter into kindy and getting her enrolled in swimming classes, getting another article published, moving back into our new home); and then let the rest be what they are supposed to be i.e. noise and distractions. I will either still deal with them because they matter to other people, but I do not let them affect my mood and well-being nor distract me from the goals I set out. I will handle them calmly as they come up, to the best I can, communicate accordingly and move on. Or alternatively I can sit on them for a while and do nothing, because sometimes things resolve by themselves without me having to do anything.

I can’t say that I am already doing this all the time, but just by being conscious of my thinking has already brought me more calm. Here, to being a better me in 2018.

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