I recently came across an image from Carl Richards, author of the book The Behavior Gap, that hit close to home – so close that I now have it hung up at my desk! It shows a Venn diagram with “Things That Matter” on one side, “Things You Can Control” on the other, and “Things You Should Focus On” where the two meet in the middle.

(Image Linked here)

How often do we waste away precious time thinking about either side of that Venn diagram? I would be willing to bet that a good bit of our thoughts fall on one side or the other – not the in between. Those things that matter that we cannot control tend to be the things that keep us up at night. I personally have spent countless hours stressing over and thinking through things I have no power to change. It is easy to get lost in reliving moments we wish we could do over again, or in rethinking over and over (and over and over) that dumb thing we said earlier in the day. But where does that get us?

And as for the things that we can control that do not matter all, those are the things that distract us from the here-and-now. Carl Richards gives the example of someone cutting us off in traffic. Can we do something about it? Sure! We can honk our horn; we can get nice and close behind them so they can see our angry eyes in their rear-view mirror. But does it matter? Nope! All it does is distract us from our happy thoughts and the song we were singing along to on the radio.

I am forever trying to master the fine art of giving these things to God. It takes constant intentionality to release those tempting, but ultimately unproductive, thought patterns. I hope someday for this to become second nature but for now that Venn diagram serves as a daily reminder. The things that matter that you can control are the things worthy of your attention. Everything else is a distraction from your family, the things that you enjoy, and your happiness in this life.