Feeling bitter? Frustrated? Depressed? Like there’s nothing you can do about so many of the situations of life? Most of us who feel that way can find instant relief by realizing,

the biggest problem is between our ears.

Most of our frustration is a result of our focus. Which means we can switch our focus and pull the plug on bitterness and frustration.

The Freedom Killer and the Power Builder

There’s nothing that kills our sense of freedom and power more than complaining about and dwelling on unchangeable realities.

  • You work for the owner’s son, and he’s not a good leader. But he’s the heir apparent in the company, and he’s not going away anytime soon. There’s nothing you can say or do that will get him replaced. Complaining about him, and dwelling on it, will only make you more miserable and eventually get you fired.
  • You’re an American who didn’t vote for Trump and you detest everything he stands for politically. But there’s nothing you can do to change the fact that you’ll be hearing about him for at least the next four years. Complaining about it, and thinking about it, will only make you feel more powerless and will get your focus off more productive areas of life.
  • You’d like to live in sunny San Diego, but your four siblings and your parents live in the bitter cold of Minnesota and they like it there. You’d prefer to be close to family than have better weather, and you can’t get all of them to change their minds and move South together. Complaining about Minnesota weather, and thinking about how miserable it is, only makes you feel more miserable and powerless.

On the other hand, there’s nothing more empowering and liberating than working on changeable realities. We’re most alive when leading positive change, taking opportunities to make a difference, even in difficult situations.

  • You work for the owner’s son, and he’s the heir apparent, so you support and advise and encourage him so he can become a better leader. You tell him you believe in what he can become over time. You overlook the irritating and unchangeable realities to find opportunities for change. You’re patient and optimistic, because you look for every sliver of good in your work situation. In the meantime, you’re getting more education and planning for a move to a similar company with better leadership and more opportunity for advancement.
  • You didn’t vote for Trump. But you don’t focus on that, and instead, find some local political opportunity to invest in. You’re part of some campaign for improving the city that gives you a sense of purpose and power.
  • You live in Minnesota and switch your focus from the few bad months of weather to the many opportunities to enjoy family time. You’ve actually begun to enjoy ice fishing with your siblings, and you maxed out your catch on the last fishing expedition.

Step 1: Separate Changeable and Unchangeable Realities

Whenever we face a problem or a difficult circumstance, we should identify what we can change and what we can’t. Sometimes we confuse the two and try to change unchangeable things (creating destructive frustration), or accept changeable things (creating destructive apathy). But when we identify them accurately, we can feel more power. We can break free from apathy on one hand and frustration on the other.

Step 2: Accept the Unchangeables

Then we accept the unchangeable realities. We refuse to focus on them. We stop complaining about them. “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain,” wrote the United States’ founding father Benjamin Franklin, “and most fools do.” We don’t spend another millisecond focused on things we can’t change, or fretting about problems we’ll never be able to solve.

“When you complain,” writes German author Eckhart Tolle, “you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”

Step 3: Change the Changeables

Then we face the changeables with wisdom and courage. Whenever we run into a problem, we ask, “What step can I take toward solving it?” We take that next step. When we take that step, we feel new power flowing into our lives. It builds the willpower to take another step. Then another, and another.

Instead of wasting our energy finding fault, we invest our energy finding remedies. Eventually, this pattern turns us into problem-solving powerhouses who are full of vitality.