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Friday, August 10, 2018

One Degree off Center: Just Enough to Throw Us Off


I heard someone recently characterize the how sometimes it doesn't take much to separate a person from his or her serenity.  His phrasing was "One Degree off Center".  That struck me as a very apt characterization.  This actually feeds into an idea that crystallized for me as it relates it to stress and worry. 

I've observed in my life and that of others a funny phenomenon.  They are hit with a significant negative and they are seemingly able to shrug it off.  Yet, the same person is hit with a relatively insignificant negative (often easy to recover from--a one degree off center negative).  They literally fall to pieces or have their serenity totally disrupted.  As with everything else in my blog, I have a take on this phenomenon.

I have literally avoided doing much research for what I write about as I want what I write to be organic vs. ideas and thoughts I literally lift from elsewhere.  It was suggested to me that I could strengthen my blog by doing more direct citation.  That is to say, take the kernels of an idea that comes to me, pop them, remove the ones that are burnt or unpopped and flavor it with it citations.  But, at this point I will stick with my 'tried and true' method, which is to write mostly from my soul.

Back to the point at hand.  Why do we shrug when we are hit by a big negative and get stuck on the seemingly small things.  I have a thought on that: It is our sense of control.


  • When a circumstance is well beyond our control and it is abundantly obvious to us, there is a sense that there is little point in fretting about it as there is no humanly way possible that will affect the outcome of it.
    • When my car was wrecked at the beginning of 2017, I had been worrying about keeping it in good running order for another year or so.  I'd hoped it would hold out, but I was nervous that miles were piling up on it.  This had been in the back of my mind for a while.  When another driver caused a wreck which destroyed my car, literally everything else was thrown by the wayside.
      • I no longer had to worry if the car would hold out another 30-40 miles  That choice/concern was taken away from me.
      • I no longer worried that day about making it to work on time.  It was pretty clear that I needed to go home and rest.
      • I figured that their insurance would pay for it and I'd just get a new car.
  • When a circumstance appears to be within our ability to influence or control it is easier to focus on it.  
    • I was fairly sure I left my iPod at work vs. having permanently lost it, but I didn't to drive all the way there to get it.  So, despite my best efforts, I had focused on it on and off over the weekend, hoping that I was right about it.  I was right as I did leave it at work.  I wasted my time worrying on something small because it appeared to be in my control.  

In the first point, it was totally obvious I was thrown completely off center, so I had the sense that I just needed to turn to side or turn around and I'd be back at where I'd need to be rather than trying to make a minute adjustment.  In the second point, I was very close to center, but I couldn't quite get there.  Rather than having to make a large and obvious adjustment, I only needed a slight adjustment to the circumstance to be back at center.  Unfortunately, it would have taken some effort to get back to center--driving an hour and a half to get to and back from work.  So, the one degree off center that that situation was causing me was worse anxiety in some ways than completely having to go from scratch to get a new car did.


Moral of the story: Be willing to give up the worry about that which you believe you can control.  Because a) the sense of control often is an illusion anyway and b) somethings just don't make a difference in the bigger picture.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar worth here.

-- Rich