What You Can Change: You can change the degree to which you listen to people when they are talking, even if they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear. You can be more careful about how you give and receive your limited time. You can actively not reach out to people whom you know are never going to reciprocate. You can choose to answer the phone more, and be as receptive to people as you would want them to be to you. You can make time for people even when it isn’t convenient, because you know that one day you’ll need them, too.
What You Can’t Change: You cannot make someone be more interested in you or care for you more than they do. You cannot force yourself to be someone’s priority, even if they are yours. You cannot force people to get along if they fundamentally have little in common, even if that means you will have somewhat separated groups of friends. You can’t make yourself transform into a new person every time you meet someone who wants you to be different.
What You Can Change: You can change how long you stay at it, how much effort you put into every project, and to what degree you participate actively in moving up the ladder. You can pay attention to the relationship you have with coworkers and superiors, because they can end up being just as important in terms of success as the actual work that is getting done. You can avoid engaging in backstabbing or gossip or petty judgments about each other, even when it comes time for someone to get ahead and someone else to stay behind. You can focus your energy entirely on what you are doing and actively stay away from worrying about what someone else is getting that you’re not.
What You Can’t Change: You cannot change the person your boss is. You cannot change who he or she may favor in spite of every effort you could make. You cannot make someone else work less to make yourself look better by comparison, even if the two of you are in direct competition. You can’t know the full reasoning behind every decision that is made, even the ones that you perceive to be unfair.
What You Can Change: You can work on putting yourself out there more, trying new opportunities to meet people when you feel as though the dating pool is closing in on you. You can accept dates with people that you may have previously not considered, or open your mind about preferences you once thought immovable. You can make sacrifices and compromises for your partner, actively making their life easier when they need someone to lean on, and listening to them when they need to just talk things out. You can improve the qualities about yourself that you know might not be appealing, or may be preventing you from attracting the kind of people you’re looking for emotionally. You can work on being the kind of person that you would want to date.
What You Can’t Change: You cannot make someone be attracted to you who simply isn’t. You can’t make someone else’s petty judgments go away if they are silly enough to hold them in the first place. You can’t force someone to feel a spark with you, even if you felt an unbelievable one with them. You can’t hate someone for wanting to end something with you, as long as they went about ending it with dignity and respect and care. You can’t hope for more than being treated the way you are willing to treat them.
What You Can Change: You can work on eating cleaner, healthier foods that leave you feeling full of energy and in a good mood throughout the day. You can find an exercise plan that suits your needs and also doesn’t leave you feeling as though your life revolves around physical activity. You can wear clothes and style yourself in a way that makes you feel attractive and healthy, while still being aware that your physical appearance does not define you as a person. You can pursue a balance in life that involves both indulging yourself and treating your body with respect.
What You Can’t Change: You can’t make your body be naturally predisposed to a different shape. You can’t guarantee that you will always be in a certain weight range. You can’t ensure perfect skin, or find a diet and exercise regime that works without fail. You can’t spend your entire life denying yourself the things you want every now and again, nor can you give into every craving or whim and deny your body the care that it needs to function normally. You can’t make the scale replace every other source of value in your life.
What You Can Change: You can change the amount of things you imagine you need to make yourself happy in a given day. You can accept that some of the items you idolize are just going to be out of your reach for the foreseeable future, and that there are always alternatives to any particular object. You can work on DIY projects and homemade foods that help make some of your more elaborate tastes financially feasible. You can treat yourself to something special every once in a while without feeling like you need to constantly be giving into your desires. You can say “no” when people invite you out to things that you simply cannot afford, and work on finding things to do that don’t cost anything. You can be more honest with your partner or social circle about your constraints, and be understanding of theirs.
What You Can’t Change: You can’t go over budget every month and still manage to save the money you need to have some security. You can’t give up on essentials like insurance to subsidize something like partying or eating out at restaurants. You can’t change what your friends are going to want to do when they go out, or if you know a lot of people who have an easier time financially than you do. You cannot force your raises to come before you’ve earned them. You cannot force your apartment to cost less (though you could move into a smaller one).
What You Can Change: You can smile at people you pass in the street, hold open doors, and say “hello.” You can treat everyone — even the barista at Starbucks when you’re hungover at 8 AM — like they are deserving of your respect and friendliness. You can do favors for people without expecting anything in return. You can associate yourself with people who are supportive of your life choices and your achievements. You can end social media contacts which are no good for your self-esteem. You can turn down offers and accept opportunities without feeling guilty about them. You can tell people you love them more often, and tell them what makes them special.
What You Can’t Change: You can’t please everyone — you probably can’t even please most people. You can live your life perfectly well and still find people who will be nasty, who will disagree, who will make you feel badly for being who you are. You cannot make them any better. You cannot get rid of the people who will reject you, or insult you, or make you cry.
But you can choose not to be one of those people. You can choose to be kind, even if the world isn’t always kind to you.