Helpless But Not Powerless - April 15, 2021

We don’t always have the power to choose our feelings but we do have the power to choose our actions.

Posted
April 16, 2021
Graphic of a light bulb

Helpless But Not Powerless - April 15, 2021

We don’t always have the power to choose our feelings but we do have the power to choose our actions.

Posted
April 16, 2021

Motivation is what gets you started. A habit is what keeps you going!

JFS Friends: 

Truth be told I sometimes wake up feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure that I can get everything done that I have planned for the day.  When those feelings happen, the advice of my college calculus professor comes back to me – he used to say “When in doubt… differentiate.” So, when I am experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed I try to start differentiating which tasks are reasonable – and within my control – and, for those that are – what could I reasonably expect myself to accomplish today.

Chuck Barris, novelist and host of the TV show, “The Gong Show” said:

"Helplessness is such a rotten feeling…
The cure calls for a monumental effort to stand up and start walking somewhere, anywhere.
But that takes some doing."

Barris is describing something important – that part of the cure for feeling helpless is to accomplish something – no matter how small.

Author Steve Chandler expands on that idea when he says:

“Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully;
do it any way you have to, but do it.”

At times when we are feeling overwhelmed of helpless, our habits can help carry is forward. The philosopher Aristotle says:

“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ”

Part of the answer to starting to feel more powerful again, is to repeatedly do the things that you can so that you can start experiencing a sense of accomplishment. Each action makes the next one seem easier and more possible.

William McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and chancellor of the University of Texas from 2015 – 2018, wrote a wonderful book called, “Make Your Bed” in which he shares leadership lessons learned from his military service. In this book he picks up on this idea from Aristotle that we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is a habit and gives an example from his military service:

“Making my bed correctly was not going to be an opportunity for praise. It was expected of me. It was my first task of the day, and doing it right was important."

It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.”

Part of what I have learned over time is that “helpless” is what I sometimes feel but coping is what I do. If I can choose to start my day with one positive action it will likely lead to another and another… just like it says in Pirkei Avot 4:2 (Ethics of Our Fathers):

           “mitzvah goreret mitzvah – one good deed will lead to another good deed”

Please remember, that we don’t always have the power to choose our feelings but we do have the power to choose our actions. If we choose wisely, and choose actions that are caring to ourselves and others, we may start to find that our feelings also begin to shift as well.

Wishing you the wisdom to create your to-do with list with a sense of compassion for yourself and a dose of realism about what you can get done now and what can wait.

Take care of each other and we’ll talk soon,

Carl Josehart's signature

Carl E. Josehart, MSW (he/him/his)

Chief Operating Officer

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream- C.S. Lewis

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