Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and Holocaust survivor, famously wrote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. I loved this quote long before I read his book and way before I understood how to actually apply in my life.
When we realise and accept that we will never control other people, the weather, or any other external circumstance, the only thing left is the control we have over ourselves. This is actually very good news, because we can stop expending energy trying to change our parents, partners or siblings. There is no longer a need to fix our colleagues or politicians. We can stop worrying about the economy or the housing market. We can let go and we can breathe. And we can keep our power and our peace of mind.
When we accept full responsibility of our ourselves and our attitude, we assume control over the results we create in our lives. The thoughts you think will generate a feeling in you. This feeling will drive your actions. Your actions are what create your results. So by learning to manage our minds, we can directly create the results we want. You are not at the mercy of your external circumstances. You have everything you need to create whatever it is you want to feel and want.
Realising that you have the ability to choose your attitude in any given situation is the only the first step. The next step is to create awareness as to how you feel in certain circumstances that have triggered you in the past. For me, it was the way people drive here in Lebanon. There are a lot of drivers who drive like their hair is on fire. It frustrated me to no end. I became so upset and stressed out driving the 6 km to work and on the return home every day. I didn’t like my reaction and it was hugely unpleasant, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Yelling at other drivers didn’t seem to be working.
It was only when I really absorbed the fact that I had control over my reaction and that I was giving all my power away to the other drivers, that I began to change. I knew I didn’t want to react that way any longer, so I made a choice. As I drove to work each morning, and I felt myself starting to get upset, I had to ask myself if this was worth me getting upset about. I choose to keep my equilibrium because it feels so much better. The other drivers were still terrible, but I chose not to let them ruin my morning.
I had to get into the habit of catching myself when I start thinking about the guy who just cut me off. I’d ask myself if this is worth being upset about (the answer was almost always no). I’d breathe and allow the frustration and discomfort to be there, but I didn’t act on it. I became aware of how I was feeling, but I didn’t judge myself for it or try to change it. As a result, I became much better at processing my emotions and moving through the negative ones easier.
Claiming your power and creating awareness about your feelings, and then your results, is a process. It is a daily practice. You will continue to learn and work on yourself for the entirety of your existence on this planet. This is why we are here.
However, it is important to remember that you are human, with a human brain. You will continue to experience emotions – you will feel hurt and angry and disappointed. This is OK. As you practice this, it will become easier to process them.
Simply creating greater awareness about how you are feeling will change you. Do not beat yourself up if you revert back to your old ways at any point. Keep going. Allow yourself grace. Just remember you always have a choice about how you react and there is always next time.
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