The Cessation of Suffering

Is it possible to eliminate suffering from life—to completely remove any possibility of disappointment? Absolutely not. That’s not what this installment is about. This is more about managing yourself.

Before I go on, I want you to think about something. We’ve all seen the poster, meme, or gif that asks for the strength to change the things we can and the patience to accept the things we cannot alter.

That is, essentially, the Third Noble Truth. Nirodha. Control. The Cessation of Suffering.

Control here does not mean what you think it means. It is not the act of trying to exert your influence on absolutely everything. Instead, what we’re really talking about is the process of learning to accept where the limits of your influence are.

Almost from birth, we are taught that its our job to go out and change the world. We hear it almost non-stop. Just about every high school valedictorian says something like this. Admiral McRaven gave a speech at the University of Texas about this very topic. But if you listen carefully to the speech, he’s not saying to go out and do anything that is beyond your control. He specifically mentions items that any person can do.

In writing, you “control” every aspect of your story. In baseball, you control your swing. In the Navy, you control (to a certain extent) how you perform.

In writing, you do not control how a publisher responds to your work. In baseball, you cannot control how the fielders respond to a batted ball. In the Navy, you cannot control how a selection board views your performance.

Hanging your happiness, your sense of satisfaction with life on the things you control reduces how much disappointment and suffering you deal with in life. You cannot force a publisher to love your work. You can write the story that makes you happy. You cannot force the defense to commit an error. You can hit the ball as best as you can. You cannot force the Navy to promote you. You can do your job to the best of your ability.

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