Quantum Happiness Series- conscious control


“Being proactive is like having good mental posture. You must keep your head up, anticipate obstacles in advance and be flexible.”

The first step in exterminating ennui and inviting inspiration into our lives is to break the habit of reacting and start acting. 

My children used to say,

“I didn’t mean to do it.” 

And my response was usually, “Were you trying not to do it?”  

It’s two ways of looking at the same circumstances. In the former you are a helpless victim, while in the latter, you possess the power to be successful.

Look at the usual things that derail your days. Then determine the root cause for each one. 

·        If you are late for work, is it because you didn’t allow enough time to stop for gas or run errands?

·        If you overslept, is it because you were up late watching television, hanging out with friends, or playing video games?

·        If you don’t have time to read a book, is it because you spend hours on the phone, tablet, or computer?

Find those things that are weighing you down and draining your energy and be honest about what part you play in the situation.

·        Are you allowing others to dominate your time and drain your energy?

·        Are you agreeing to things just because you don’t want to say, “no?”

·        Are you going along to get along?

If so, you are responsible for you. Now is the time to take control of your time and energy. They are both valuable, finite resources and you must stop giving them away mindlessly.
Reactive response:

Before I broke free of ennui, when one of my children needed something special for school, I would drop everything at the last minute to find it. If we ran out of coffee, I would have to rush to the store for more. If I had an appointment and the car needed gas, I would have to make an unplanned pitstop and be late.

I was the perfect example of someone in the grip of ennui, an unwitting slave to what Charles E. Hummel refers to as the “tyranny of the urgent,” in his book by the same name.

When anything outside my area of responsibility needed attention, I waited for someone to address it, my stress level rising with every passing day. This habit of waiting for others to address a problem or ignoring the problem in hopes that it will go away generates passive stress, which percolates quietly below the surface adding to frustration and overwhelm.

When I began unearthing the roots of my ennui, I discovered how much energy I was wasting by waiting and worrying. That’s when I decided to see what things I could take care of myself.

It was liberating. I stopped making to-do lists for others and started getting things done myself.

There came a time when our children were small, my husband’s business was new, and he was working long hours. Meanwhile, we were having a plumbing malfunction at home. In a moment of desperation, I called a professional plumber. For $200 they solved the problem. When James got home and heard what had happened, he was pleasantly surprised to find he no longer needed to spend his weekend digging up the back yard.


I learned that day that sometimes it pays to pay a professional. Just because one of us can do the job, doesn’t mean that one of us must do the job.

Proactive progress

After that, I started looking for things that I could take care of myself. I bought a set of hand tools and proceeded to hang artwork and curtains, put together purchases that required assembly, and make minor repairs, all things that James would ordinarily do. But, as owner and operator of a quickly growing small business, he was sometimes gone 12-16 hours a day. When he was home, I wanted him to be able to spend time with us instead of doing chores, so I learned to take care of simple things.

Then came the snowball effect. The more I discovered I could do, the more inspired I was to do things. I soon realized that there was a choice where chores were concerned. I could either do them myself, delegate them to another family member, or pay someone else to do them for me. It was a simple matter of priorities.

It was silly for us to willingly pay $50 or $60 to take the family out to dinner, but not be willing to hire help with household chores that none of us wanted to do. Having someone come and clean the house or cut the grass cost less than the price of having dinner in a restaurant, and I don’t mean a fancy restaurant. 

Very Mary Wednesday

With that in mind, Mary, our housekeeper, came every other Wednesday. So, on those nights, we ordered pizza, ate it from paper plates, and savored the evening in a fresh, clean house. Priceless.

Eventually I hired someone to cut the grass, wash the dogs, and buy the groceries. I actually saved money by staying out of the store and letting someone else shop. And, it freed the weekends for us to enjoy our family instead of working furiously to prepare for the upcoming week.

Chores galore

I was on a roll, so I decided to try delegating the laundry. Every family member became responsible for their own wardrobe, which gave me much-needed relief from the mountain of dirty clothes. To my surprise, James and the girls really didn’t seem to mind. In fact, it gave the girls a sense of satisfaction and independence.

I also stopped policing what the girls wore to school. If it was inappropriate, the school would make them wear their gym clothes, and if they were making a poor style choice, their friends would be glad to alert them.  I soon discovered that when I told them that what they were wearing was inappropriate, they argued, but when the school administrators or their friends corrected them, they listened. 

Lesson learned

Since then, I’ve decided that being proactive is like having good mental posture. You must keep your head up, anticipate obstacles in advance, and be flexible.

By learning to pay attention, plan ahead, and deliberately control my time and energy, I was able to start moving forward instead of staying tangled in the tentacles of ennui, reacting to one unnecessary crisis after another.

Engagement exercise 1:
Mentally review the past week.

What things are you waiting for someone else to do?

How might you accomplish these things yourself?

This mental waiting game is exhausting and a prime culprit of passive stress. By proactively addressing the task ourselves, we foster a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance that replaces passive stress with passive pride. 

Engagement exercise 2:
List three things that you could currently delegate to a professional if money were no object:

Now, look at your weekly expenses. Do you spend more for less on other things? Do you:

·        Spend $5 every weekday on a latte?

·        Get a mani/pedi every couple of weeks?

·        Have two dozen pair of expensive shoes?

·        Go clubbing on the weekends?

But don’t think you can afford $50 for help with the house or babysitting, or yardwork?

Are you sure?

This has been an excerpt from the Everyday Vacay e-series. Stay tuned next month for Healthy Habits -- Seeds of Success. 

Check out the entire video series here.

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 Featured photo (top of page) by Pranav Kumar Jain on Unsplash