May 082003
Authors: Monica Owens

May 2003

While searching recently for a graduation card, I came across one that caught my attention. The simple card featured a quote by Shakespeare: “We know what we are, but we know not what we may become.”

It’s great to be on the same page as Shakespeare. For me, and for him, knowing what the future holds involves so much more than just hoping or believing that I can “be anything”.

For me, the future has always involved an active effort at shaping, planning and – yes – even work. Of balancing clubs, studies and friends with conscious effort to make life better and more fulfilling. But the key amidst all this chaos is to try and stay relaxed.

Yeah, right (especially with finals right around the corner)!

I am a recovering perfectionist. I have always tried to do my best, which remains a laudable goal. I meet deadlines, fulfill commitments and accept responsibility. All good things, at least to a degree.

Yet, lately I have realized everything doesn’t need to be managed or controlled (sorry, liberals!). That after one does his or her best that may just need to be “good enough.”

I agree, most of the time, with the pundit who said, “To find happiness, give up being general manager of the universe.”

So what if a professor doesn’t run her class the way I would? Not a big deal. And about that friend who annoys everyone with his boisterous ways? Not my worry.

The Stoics had it right: be more accepting, and happiness just may result. Worry less, and live more.

Worried about dying in a plane crash while being crammed into the middle seat on that cramped 737? I know I sometimes do, and yet I shouldn’t. Your actual chance of dying in a plane crash is less than one in eight million on any given commercial flight. In fact, Consumer Research magazine estimates you would have to fly every day – for 20,000 years – before you would likely die in a plane crash.

Worried about global warming, about melting when July rolls around? I was too, and then I saw the recent Rocky Mountain News headline “Cold February Covers Great Lakes in Ice” reporting that the lakes have iced up for the first time in thirty years. It was, by coincidence, about 30 years ago (Nov. 23, 1974 to be precise) when the New York Times published a piece titled “Why Most of Us May See the Next Ice Age.”

So the debate goes on. While we all should be informed about the facts surrounding important issues, and speak out about them when we can, worrying about what the future holds sometimes doesn’t make much sense.

For me, I’m going to back off a bit. I will try to be less of a perfectionist (except when perfection is needed, like stopping at red lights) and realize that I should concentrate on that which I can change, while not obsessing over those things that are unchangeable.

So when you’re on a plane, think about the odds. And when you read about global warming, understand scientists have been wrong before.

But if you really want to worry about something, worry that you might actually win the lottery. This should concern you because if you do happen to win, studies show in many cases, you will actually be less happy than you were before – though the odds are only one in 1.1 million of “winning” the jackpot.

And if you do win the big money, get ready to give at least half to the government in taxes. There’s something we all should worry about.

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