I’m currently studying a MOOC (online) course with Pennsylvania University on resilience. One part of the course this week focused on the film: Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. Will Smith plays the character Chris Gardner. The night before his interview Gardner is locked up in jail and so must attend the interview with no opportunity to change into appropriate interview-wear. The clothes he wears are the clothes he’s worn all night. 

Facing that scenario what might you have done? Gardner attends the interview in his already-worn-all-night clothing. 

Yet, he does not let this phase him. Why? Because doing something about his clothing was out of his control. All too often we seek to change that which cannot be changed. What Gardner does do is address all the things that he can control. For example, he waits quietly in the jail until he’s released. (After all, no amount of frustration is going to release him any earlier). The only modification that Gardner had the time to do is this: tuck his shirt in. So, that’s exactly what he does. And, crucially, doesn’t waste time and energy trying to change any other clothing issues. Why? Simply because he can’t. 

Once Gardner arrives at the interview, he scans the interview room for every snippet of information that he can use to his advantage. When the interviewer comments on his attire Gardner takes control by acknowledging his inappropriate clothing. 

There were plenty of other things that Gardner does to take control. But there were plenty of things too that Gardner doesn’t waste time and energy trying to control either. 

The point is this: we need to stop wasting time and energy on what we can’t do anything about. So, consider this instead: What can you do something about?

I’ll leave you with my latest tweet @stephenlong:

You might not be able to control what you’re wearing but you can control how you look. Tuck your shirt in!”