The universe is change; life is what thinking makes of it. – Marcus Aurelius
What does that mean?
This quote is about how life works, and one way of looking at it. Change happens. There is no way around it, change will happen. Get used to it.
The universe is full of change, and we are part of the universe, so we are part of that change, we are bathed in that change. All day, every day. It will never stop changing, and neither will we.
The second part of the quote addresses our attitude towards change. Our lives will be what our thoughts make of the change. If we think that change is exciting, we’ll have an exciting life.
If our thoughts are that change is annoying, our lives will not be as pleasant as we might wish. But the cure for an annoying life is to change our thinking, as we will not be able to change the universe.
Why is how we think important?
While some of what happens to us in life is the actual event, far more of what happens to us is our attitude. I’ve known amputees who look on life as a new adventure, and those to whom it was the end of their world. Which of those people had a more interesting and fulfilling life? You probably guessed correctly.
Note that at this point in time, no amount of thought or attitude will regrow those missing limbs. But our attitude, and how we think about our lives will have a significant impact. For those of us who are relatively healthy, of what do we complain? Our food isn’t warm enough? Our beverage isn’t cold enough? Really?
While I’m sure you rarely if ever complain, there are those who do so far more regularly. Have you noticed that those who complain the most seem to have the least fun? And that the people who are having all the fun are rarely seen complaining? I can’t say that there is causality there, but it is an interesting coincidence.
Our attitude is our altitude. If we are constantly complaining, it will be hard to have much fun. If we’re constantly having fun, it will be hard to complain. Most of us will live our lives somewhere between, and we need to remember how important our thoughts and attitudes are to our quality of life.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Where in your life has the universe been unfair? Where are things not going your way? What has changed, and not in a favorable way? How has your attitude helped your situation? Does complaining accomplish much? In my experience, it hasn’t. It also perpetuates the thought process of victim-hood, which is also less than useful.
Complaining, in my mind, is just another word for nagging. You might wear someone down and get something out of it, but they aren’t happy about helping you. They might even resent it. That’s not good. Not good for your attitude, and certainly not for theirs. It also reinforces the wrong thinking in both parties.
I know a lot of people who are getting cranky about getting old. Age is one of the changes we can actually anticipate. There isn’t any way for it to sneak up on you, unless you are actively ignoring it. But to complain about it? That’s not very bright. Besides living to be old beats the alternative.
Do you see how one slight change in how one thinks about being old can change things drastically? If you are dreading your next birthday, consider what it would mean to not have that birthday. Yes, old isn’t as nice as young, but it sure beats dead. That’s your alternative, right? No thanks, I’ll take old.
What were some of the things you identified as being unfair, unhelpful, or has changed in an unwelcome way? Have you already identified where you might change your thinking, even just a little bit? Yes, some things take some effort to think about in a positive manner. But what is your alternative?
Take a moment and consider one of these things. What was your attitude in the past? What kind of results did that attitude get you? What did you have to think about it to have that attitude? Why did you think that way about it? This kind of introspection can go back several layers, and is a worthy of your time. Take a moment to do so. The deeper you dig, the better and easier the results.
Now consider what you could change in your thinking towards this thing. How does a simple change of thought impact your attitude? How does that change of attitude impact your life, and how you choose to live it? Depending on how deep in your introspection it was, a small change can create huge ripples in your thinking, your attitude, and your life.
Change will happen. All that remains is how you will deal with it. That will depend on your attitude. Your attitude depends on your thoughts. Have you considered what you think about it, and why? Change your thoughts, you will change your attitude, and with that, your life.