Choosing how you feel

My friend Peter has been running Barrel, which has grown into Barrel Holdings, for 18 years. In the past, he’d constantly feel the worries of what could go wrong the following week, even on holidays. 

If you’re an entrepreneur or independent, you’ll know exactly what Peter means—when the buck stops with you, you’re ultimately responsible for everything that you can control with your business. Sometimes this responsibility warps your sense of what’s really in your control, and you start trying to control things that you don’t have much influence over.

For me, while I’ve stopped running my editorial studio, sometimes it feels like my brain hasn’t gotten the memo. Whether it’s on a holiday, a weekend, or a vacation, my brain is constantly trying to anticipate what’s next and urge me to get ahead on something.

Peter’s business hasn’t gotten easier—in fact, some things become more difficult. However, he has come to an important realization, writing, “I’ve gotten better at choosing how to feel about work, life, and my priorities…. I have more power over how I experience my life than I may have believed when I first started. Things rarely have to be crazy, stressful, and hectic, and it’s in my control to make it so.” 

It’s the same for me and you. You can let the stress run your life, or you can take responsibility for it—and make the effort to stay present when you’ve made time to take a break. (Your work might even be better for it, but that’s not the point.)

In No Mud, No Lotus, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Part of the art of suffering well is learning not to magnify our pain by getting carried away in fear, anger, and despair. We build and maintain our energy reserves to handle the big sufferings; the little sufferings we can let go…. Mindfulness is for making us aware of what is happening now. Not only are there always conditions of happiness present in me, but they are also all around me.”

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