“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. –William Shakespeare
An extreme example of this can be found in one of the most inspirational books ever written, a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, chronicles the experiences he endured as a concentration camp inmate in Auschwitz during the Second World War. His experiences led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I passionately believe that you can learn to master your thinking and therefore your emotions, but you must first acknowledge that you are capable of doing so. Most of us have been taught that we are not in control of our emotions, so we say things like, “you made me so angry”, as opposed to “I choose to be angry because you said that”. It’s a minor but very important distinction. Understanding that no one can force you to feel a fear-based emotion is hugely empowering.
Yes, your partner, your family, your friends, your colleagues or your boss can all do all kinds of things that have the potential to make you angry, sad, fed-up or anxious, but the choice to feel these emotions is your responsibility.
I was talking to an old client recently, and he reminded me of a conversation we had many years ago regarding this. He said: “I can remember moaning to you about how a situation around a certain person was making me unhappy, and you said something profound that has really changed the way I look at life. You said, ‘so are you telling me that you are letting other people take control of your happiness?’ The more I thought about it, the more I understood what you were saying. Put like that it sounded pretty silly. Of course, I am not going to put my happiness in the hands of another person. I decided to stop handing the responsibility of my happiness over to others. It was life-changing.”
There is always a choice.
• Take complete responsibility for their lives.
• Do not allow themselves to make excuses.
• Don’t blame other people, events or situations.
• Do not waste time blaming themselves either.
• Understand that they don’t have to be perfect.
• Accept that life goes a little off course at times.
• Understand that they are in control of themselves. They are not victims.
• Blame everyone or everything else.
• Are in denial.
• Will procrastinate.
• Make excuses.
Which are you?
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