Do Not Stress Over Things You Cannot Control. But Work On What You Can.

My wife and I have had our share of hard times when it comes to money and living situations. For instance, when we first started renting we only lived in our place for nine months before we lost it because the retirement home where I worked suddenly cut everyone’s hours. I went from about 40 hours a week to 12 hours, which wasn’t enough to pay the rent. So we had to move in, first with my wife’s mom, then her grandpa.

But for about one full year now something wonderful has happened: We have been able to live in the same house. That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but trust me, when you’re used to having to move your family around from place to place your entire adult life, that’s a big deal. You learn to appreciate the little things in life like that.

And when I think about what has helped us to get to where we are now, a couple things come to mind.

One change that I think we made is a very simple but powerful change in attitude: We’ve realized that life is a series of choices, and your life is going to go according to those choices. Yes, tragedies and bad luck happen, but when you make a good choice, you have a higher chance of having a good outcome.

A negative example of this in my personal life is that I have chosen to quit a lot of jobs in the past. The bad news about that is that it makes my job record look bad and me look lazy—and ultimately makes it hard for me to find a job. The good news is that I have the power to change that record.

Also, I think about money. If I choose to spend my extra money on things I don’t really need, then when something breaks down or I need some extra gas, I won’t have the money. I do think we have become wiser with our money, and I think it’s one reason we’ve had more stability.

Another source of motivation for us is that our kids are very happy where we are now, and we don’t want to fail them again in any way. As I wrote in another piece about what kept me motivated at the job that I then held: “Seeing my family smile and enjoy their lives is worth every drop of sweat, every long hour, and every raging customer.” At that time I was managing a very stressful job at a chicken restaurant. Today I wake up every weekday morning at about 3:30 to go to work at my current job (and, trust me, I’m not a morning person!). In both situations, when I think about the fact that my work means my kids get to live here, it’s worth it.

Finally, as I wrote about in another piece, I’m learning to accept the things that are within my control, and to hand everything else over to God. It’s just not worth worrying yourself to death about things you have no control over. It’s like that famous prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Yes, we have had some struggles in the past year, including some bad choices I made when it comes to work, but we have worked it out. The bottom line is that my wife and I will do anything to keep the house where we are now because we worked so hard to get it. We’re proud of the life that we’re creating for each other and our children, and the hard work we’ve put into getting where we are now. For instance, we had no help to get the house, but saved all the money ourselves. (Sure, we’ve had to have a little help from other people along the way, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; everyone needs a little help sometimes.)

So if you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship or with your finances—or in any other part of life—the most important thing to keep in mind is this: Some things in life are within your control, and some things just aren’t. So buckle down and do your part, then give whatever you don’t have control over to God: He will do the rest. You just have to do your part.

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