The Stoic concept of knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can’t may be useful when you are dealing with tolerations – those aggravations and annoyances you have been putting up with and putting off dealing with.
The Car Fire
When I was a young man, I confess I was not very responsible. I learned to ignore and put up with many things instead of dealing with them. And looking back on that time, that behavior showed up as a haphazard life, with no direction and little control.
For example, when I dropped out of college and went to work full time, I bought a new car – a Volkswagon 412 station wagon. It was very, very nice. But I did little to take care of it. It stayed filthy most of the time, with overflowing ashtrays and piles of beer cans in the back floorboard. Over the years, I ignored the minor problems and put off having maintenance work done, and the car deteriorated.
You need a BIG – Bold, Important, Gratifying – goal and you need a plan. The plan gets you started, but the plan you start with is likely not the plan that will get you to your goal. Be adamant about your goal, but be flexible in the plan to get you there.
A Plethora Of Plans
I had a difficult experience trying to find a job when I first moved to South Carolina. My wife and I, newly married, moved here when she was offered a position as a high school media specialist. I was finishing my degree in data processing. Computer programmers were in high demand, and we assumed I would have no trouble landing a job. However, this was not the case.
I began by having 100 resumes printed with our new address and phone number. I mailed them out, unsolicited, to 100 companies I identified in our area. Then, I waited for two weeks with not a single call. Then we learned from our local phone company that the phone number they said was our new number was not the correct one. I had mailed out 100 resumes with a non-working phone number!
The ABCs of effective living? A = Adversity, B = Belief, and C = Consequent feelings. Our Beliefs (B) about an Adversity (A) – NOT the adversity itself – cause our Consequent (C) feelings. [Seligman] It isn’t what happens to us but how we think about what happens to us that determines how we feel. By stepping into the space between stimulus and response, we can choose a more empowering set of beliefs. But first, we have to see that space.
Understanding The Gap
“Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.” ~ Dr. Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”
When I first read this statement many years ago, I struggled to understand what it meant. I understood the words, but I didn’t get the concept. It was completely foreign to me. I had become so inured to reacting to whatever I encountered, it never occurred to me that there was any other way to behave. I pondered this idea, discussed it with various friends, and read and re-read that section in Dr. Covey’s book.
I am painfully shy. I am uncomfortable in crowds and especially in groups of people I don’t know very well. Some of you may be surprised by this revelation, although some of you will not be. It began about the time I reached junior high. I often got tongue-tied when called upon in class so I rarely spoke up. I avoided parties. And I didn’t have many friends. It was difficult to get to know others and for them to get to know me. In fact, some of the older guys at my school gave me a nickname: “Oddball”.
Use your Signature Strengths to improve your life, building on positives and learning from the negatives but don’t neglect your other character strengths. If fact, you can use your signature strengths to practice and build up your lesser strengths to better use all of the strengths.
Signature Strengths are one of the foundational principles of positive psychology. Early proponents, including Martin Seligman, Chris Peterson, and others, combed through the wisdom literature of many of the world’s religions and philosophies. They identified six “virtues” that were common across all the cultures and thinking, ancient and modern, that they examined.
Then they identified 24 ways the six virtues are lived out. These they called strengths. We all embody all 24 of the strengths but we rely on and use our top 5 or 6 strengths more often and more naturally.
“There is a candle in every soul / Some brightly burning, some dark and cold . . . Carry your candle, run to the darkness / Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn / Hold out your candle for all to see it / Take your candle, and go light your world.”
Chris Rice, “Go Light Your World”
In The Dark
I grew up in the country. Beyond our backyard was a pasture, then the woods. My brother, my cousins, and our friends liked to play in those woods. One evening after supper, we ran into the woods to play a game. We were having so much fun we lost track of time and didn’t realize that it was getting late. Before we knew it, night had fallen and we were in the dark. I began running, but of course I couldn’t see and ran smack into a tree! (I suppose you could say I couldn’t see the tree for the forest.) Fortunately for the rest of us, one of the guys had a flashlight. He turned it on and then we could see him. We all gathered around and he led us out of the woods, shining his flashlight . . . no more running into trees.
Moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset helps you progress up the hierarchy of needs to self-actualization. You must experience having enough at the lower levels of physical and emotional needs in order to move to higher levels and towards self-actualization.
How Many Tomato Seeds?
The presenter at a conference held up a ripe red tomato. She asked the audience, “How many seeds are in this tomato?”
The participants imagined cutting open a tomato and tried to estimate the number of seeds inside. They began calling out answers. “500”, “700”, “1000”, “5000”, “10,000”.
Quietly, the presenter said: “There are enough. Enough to save for planting next year and enough to give to my neighbors so they can have tomatoes as well. Next year, they’ll have enough seeds to share with more people. And I will share with others, too. How many seeds are there? Enough.” 
Everyone has a combination of character strengths, “core capacities” for human beings to grow and flourish. The combination of strengths and the ways they are used is unique to each individual. While you can’t be good at everything, you could be GREAT at one thing. Focus on developing and expanding your unique Signature Strengths
The Animal School 
Once upon a time, the animals decided they must make some adaptations to meet the challenges of a changing world. So they set up a school.
They developed a curriculum of climbing, flying, running, and swimming and declared that all animals must take all subjects.
The duck excelled at swimming. In fact, she was better than the instructor! However she was only fair at flying and her wobbly gait got her a D- in running. Because of her poor running grade, she had to do extra practice. She ran until she wore out her webbed feet and then she was only average in swimming. But average was OK so nobody worried. Except the duck.
Denying pain, hurt or disappointment brings suffering. Accepting reality is a necessary step toward change, if change is possible. To choose acceptance is to acknowledge that some things cannot be changed and to learn to be at peace about that.
A Missed Opportunity
On most Wednesdays around 11:00 AM, you can find my wife, Rebecca, and me doing our weekly grocery shopping at our local store. (Taking advantage of the senior discount, of course.) However, recently we had an unusual experience.
When we arrived at our usual entrance to the store’s parking area, we found that it was blocked by a police car. We drove towards the next entrance but we observed that all the entrances to the parking area were blocked by police.
We followed a couple of cars toward the back of the store and discovered that a back entrance was open and unguarded. So all three cars went in that way.