Although called “hunting,” it is actually nothing of the sort. These elite, aristocratic folk stood beside each other, shoulder to shoulder with their shotguns poised awaiting the birds to fly into view before attempting to blast them into tiny bits.
The pigeons were released from their cages by some lowly minion across the field at a predetermined verbal command, usually from one of the “hunters.” At this time, the birds would scatter into the air, only to find themselves in the midst of buckshot whizzing by them accompanied with the ferocious bangs of each gun in succession.
Some of the birds would indeed perish. The ones that were injured or made it safely through the maze of buckshot did what pigeons naturally do– they returned to their cages. The same cages at the edge of the field, to find themselves in the same predicament again in a day or two.
As I was reading this description of pigeon hunting, I made a realization. Most of us are pigeons ourselves. Every day we are released from our cages, only to dodge the stress, pain, discomfort, and misery we experience in our daily lives. Then what do we do? We return to the very cage that released us into all of that negativity only to do it all over again.
We keep returning to the same cage that causes the strife in our life.
The pigeons released from their cages during the hunt are free–for a moment. But because of their natural instincts to return to where they were born, they keep coming back. Essentially, people do the same thing, only our cages are the predicaments we find ourselves in (stressors) and the buckshot is the stress it all causes. We grit our teeth and push through the stress only to return to the same type of predicament the next day, which causes the same type of stress.
There is a better way. We are not doomed to live the same stress over and over, day in and day out. All it takes is a little self-awareness of our stressors and a dose of logic to fix or prevent these stressors from wreaking havoc.
It All Boils Down To This:
If something is causing stress in your life, it needs to be dropped! There is no rule out there that says you must suffer. Complaining only makes it worse. The only way to drop the stress in your life is to either eliminate the cause or fix it. That’s it. That’s the secret.
If the lack of money is stressing you out, then fix the problem. Go work your tail off in another part-time job. If you are working 18 hours a day and still have no money, then you have a paycheck problem. Find a different, better paying job. Is traffic on your daily commute stressful? Try leaving earlier or later or take an entirely different route. The solutions are out there if you take the time to find them.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” -Maya Angelou
On a daily basis, we need to evaluate our lives and determine the origins of our stress. When found, all it takes is a few moments of thought to figure out how to either drop the stressor or fix it.
Trust me, it is as simple as it sounds.
There is one more tiny tidbit of truth that will completely blow your mind. When I figured this out, it was truly life-changing. Over 2,000 years ago, there was a stoic named Epictetus. And this guy Epictetus said (and of course, I am paraphrasing) there are things you can control in your life and things you cannot. Every single one of your life’s situations can be categorized in one of those columns.
So, if you think about it, the things that are truly out of your control really shouldn’t bother you, right? Then why do they? Simple- because we allow them to bother us. It all comes down to your mindset. Once you make the leap of understanding that stressing out over things out of your control is a waste of time and energy, life becomes a whole lot easier. This 2,000-year-old philosophy has stood the test of time and rings just as true today as it did back then.
What are the things we can control? If you think about it, there are only a couple of things we can actually control. Those are our thoughts and our actions. That’s it. Everything else is literally out of our control. Since everything else is out of our control, then why waste time and energy stressing over it?
Rainbows and Unicorns
I do not mean to paint a “rainbows and unicorns” picture. And I certainly am not the type to say that “life is a bowl of cherries.” But I firmly believe in the stuff I am peddling above. I believe it takes the years off of my appearance and adds them to my life. You may not believe me, especially when you look at my picture, but I am actually 86 years old! Ok. Kidding.
Seriously though, the biggest question I get when I tell people about Epictetus and dropping their life stressors is, “Won’t bottling it all up inside cause me to explode later on?”
Nope. That is a myth. First off, you aren’t bottling anything up, and second, if you were bottling it up and then released, it would only make you feel worse.
Letting Off Some Steam
In a study done by Brad Bushman, Roy Baumeister, and Angela Stack, they found that allowing people to “blow off steam” after becoming angry actually made them angrier. On that same token, by allowing yourself a “release” from your stressors you can actually become even more stressed out. So, it totally begs the question: why get stressed out over it in the first place?
Again, not trying to sell you a “Rainbows and Unicorns” philosophy on life. I get angry. It is human nature to feel anger, stress, or to otherwise emote. However, with practice, we can learn to catch ourselves before it gets out of control.
We can catch ourselves just by asking two questions: 1) Is this within my control? 2) Is getting upset, frustrated or stressed going to help the situation?
If it is under our control, take a step back from the situation and think about how you can fix it or otherwise prevent any negative feelings. Then, decide if getting stressed or angry about it is even worth the time or energy. Chances are, it won’t be.
What if it was an inconsiderate driver that cuts in front of you in bumper to bumper traffic? Yeah, you might want to ram him with your car. But in the grand scheme of things, what does it matter? Who cares that he cut you off and is now in front of you? Maybe he has a family emergency and is trying to get to the hospital. Regardless, it does not bother you because it is all out of your control. Your actual control of the situation was that you left the house earlier so inconsiderate jerks like that wouldn’t make you late for work.
That’s being a pigeon that doesn’t fly back to its cage.
A Parting Shot
Folks, you have a choice in how you handle your individual situations. You are in control of your thoughts and actions. Those that follow their instincts and defy logic are the pigeons that fly back to their cages only to experience the same stress, again and again, day in and day out. I strongly urge you to keep asking yourself these two questions:
- “Is this within my control?”
- “Will getting upset fix the situation?”
Because you are a smart pigeon and have the innate ability to overcome instinct with logic, you can learn to fly the other direction, away from the gunfire. Yes, the guns are loud and sometimes scary. But by flying the other direction, there is no chance of ever getting shot. It’s all in your control. And only a fool would keep returning to the cage. Go and be the pigeon that doesn’t come back.
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A pot of coffee and an early morning silence. The kids are not up just yet…