We know that we can’t control the outcomes of sporting events or elections. Then why do we become so emotional over what we can’t control?

As a sophomore at Auburn I was devastated for days after we lost a football game against LSU. I was angry, disappointed and wasted a lot of time thinking about what could have been different. A better pass, a different play call, smarter coverage—there were a ton of things that could have changed that game.

But you know what? Worrying about such things is a fool’s mistake. There was nothing I could have done—no way to meaningfully influence the result. If your happiness is dependent on an outcome you can’t control, you’re playing the lottery with your emotions.

But what of past decisions?

We can’t control the past. When we’re young, everyone has great aspirations. We dream of being becoming astronauts, inventors, athletes. As we make choices—we choose colleges, cities, careers, girlfriends—as life happens some of those ideals seem farther away.

Unfortunately, I think this makes many people depressed. It causes anxiety. They think that life has passed them by, and they dream of what could have been.

The past is beyond our control. Living with the decisions we’ve made makes us human. How we cope with those decisions determines our sanity.

When I was in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to listen to several smart people speak. The most profound thing I took away was something that Peter Gruber said.

“You rent everything in this world, everything except your experiences. Everything in life can be taken away—your house, your job, your wealth—the only thing that you own are your experiences. Cherish them. Learn from them.”

The same is true of past decisions. Learn from them, but don’t fret over what you can’t control. Don’t waste time or energy playing the “What if?” game.

Remember, the best quarterbacks have a short memory.

Posted by:Sam Solomon

I'm a designer, writer and tinkerer. I currently lead workflow and design systems at Salesloft.

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