You Think You Are in Control?

“Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” You may have heard this famous statement by Chuck Swindoll. The more life I get under my belt, the more I believe this is true. Crap happens every day, but how it impacts us is directly related to our perspective and our attitude.

What are you doing to make the most of bad circumstances? I had a tough week the other week. As I was driving to a meeting, my car broke down on the side of the road. It was the most inopportune time! I tried to start it and quickly realized I wasn’t going anywhere in my car. After letting the other person know I would no longer be making our meeting, and after arranging the tow truck, I had an hour to kill. I could have spent it sulking about how I couldn’t afford a broken car, how I was missing a critical meeting, or how life sucks, but instead my first thought was, “Well, now I have time to practice my presentation!” For the next hour, on the side of the road, that’s what I did. There isn’t anything you can do about the past. Once something happens to you, all you can do is choose how you are going to respond to it. Always try to make the most of what happens to you and you will find, in the end, it was probably a valuable experience.

What is your frame of reference? Often we get caught up in the moment and lose perspective. How significant is this event? Will it matter in a year? 5 years? 50 years? A lifetime? You will find that most things we get frustrated over don’t even make it to the year mark, let alone the five-year. Big things do happen, and I’m not trying to diminish those, but someone snapping at you on a conference call will most likely be water under the bridge within a year. So why let it take up that much of your life? Our lives are short: let’s fill them with the thoughts and conversations that matter.

Are you in control of your emotions, or are your emotions in control of you? Have you ever reached that tipping point? You know, that moment when someone has frustrated you so much that you can feel the blood coursing through your veins and your heart pounding? It’s easy to let go and just become victims of our emotions. Usually, though, we end up in a worse spot afterwards. Our emotions are pretty extreme when left unchecked. When in control of them, we can use them to fuel our response in the direction we want to go. Never respond out of emotion alone. Every response should have a balance of emotion and logic (use just logic, and you will end up like Spock, and that isn’t good either).

I’m amazed at how much control we give up to our emotions, lack of perspective, and circumstances. It should be empowering to know we can be masters of the outcome no matter what comes our way. Choose wisely.

Jana Axline is president and leadership coach at Axline Solutions and author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Axline Solutions.

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