I was recently told something that has been on my mind for a bit. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the message was this: you can’t change the past, and you can’t control the future, the only thing you have power over is the present.

Some of you upon reading the above statement, (if you’re also in touch with your inner child), might think back to the DreamWorks movie Kung Fu Panda. About halfway through the movie Master Shifu, the wise turtle Kung Fu master guy, tells the main character this: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it the present.”

So, what was my friend and that wise animated turtle trying to tell us?

Well, so many of us focus on what we can’t control. The weather, other drivers on the road, our co-workers, and even the stupid choices we’ve made in the past. But all these things are completely outside our control. We can’t change whether it’s raining when we get up in the morning, we can’t control the guy who cuts us off in traffic, or the fact that our co-worker thinks we can’t hear them loudly eating their Cheetos at the next desk. Even the choices we have made are outside our control, none of us can go back and change them, no matter how much they make us cringe.

And even though our current choices have a massive impact on our future, we still can’t control everything that’s going to happen. We can’t control the weather in the future any more than in the past. We can’t change what hard, awful, unpredictable things will happen.

My purpose in writing this isn’t to depress you. But it’s to help you see that killing ourselves with anxiety for the future and living in the past will not help us at all. We can’t do anything about those things. But we can take ownership of the present.

Like our turtle friend said, “today is a gift,” but too many of us throw out that gift. We can be too caught up in the mistakes we’ve made in the past, or too focused on the future, and completely miss the opportunities in front of us. Even when the present is hard, that is no excuse to dwell on dreamy memories of happy experiences from our past, nor is it an excuse to tell ourselves that everything will be better as soon as we get that nice thing we’ve been wanting or as soon as some fun event happens.

Some of you may have heard of having an internal vs. external locus of control. Having an external locus of control means that we see our situations as controlled by things outside of us. Whereas having an internal locus of control means that we understand that we have control in our lives. That means responsibility and accountability in what we do.

These concepts go hand in hand with the idea of cherishing the present moment. We need to understand that we do have control of our lives while recognizing that we don’t necessarily have control over everything. When we stop worrying about the past, future, and everything else we can’t control, and focus on the present moment, then we have the power to truly change our lives. No longer handicapped by fear and anxiety, we will be able to make the decisions now that will empower us to become the person we have always wanted to become.

As we keep our focus on the moment, and own our own lives, we will have the power to truly change our lives. While we still won’t be able to control the tragedies and struggles ahead of us, or the mistakes and hardships behind us, we will be able to control the person we are. We will be able to choose who it is that conquers, or collapses, under the weight of life. Make the choice.