I was listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin when I heard her say “do the inner work, not the outer work.” Her and her co-host Elizabeth were discussing why sometimes you just can’t fix a problem; you need to put a band-aid on it so you can move past it. In these cases, it can be much more productive and easier to change how you react to the situation than trying to change the situation itself. As someone who routinely is trying to fix everything and constantly worrying, I decided to make this my experiment this week. What if I could focus on myself and how I was going to respond to challenges instead of trying to change the behavior of others or fixing entire situations? Here’s how it went:
The thing I was most surprised about was that I was way calmer. Instead of looking at situations as stressful moments I would have to power through, I looked at them in terms of what actions I could take and let the rest go. I also stopped worrying as much. I knew that I was doing everything I could do, and everything else was out of my hands.
It also helped me see what wasn’t investing time and energy in. For example, we’re currently looking for florists for our wedding and have a pretty good idea of what we want. One of the possible florists sent us a proposal three times that included the wrong colors and number of pieces, even after she was informed of her mistake. Normally, I would have kept working with her to try to get it right so I could compare her proposal against the others. Instead, we decided this florist just wasn’t right for us. Doing the inner work (deciding what was best for us and moving forward with our decision quickly) rather than doing the outer work (trying over and over again to get the florist to be what we wanted) worked so well.
Did focusing on the inner work and not the outer work make me happier? A resounding yes!