Three things. When you boil it all down there are really only 3 things that each of us controls in life. And that’s only true if you live in the privileged and affluent parts of our world. For some it is only two or one.
Like the primary colors of red, blue and yellow combine to make the whole rainbow it is these primary factors alone that we have the ability to control. All else is a combination of the three.
Your Emotions. To feel is to be human. When a person is unable to feel sorrow, joy or fear there is often a psychological blockage that needs to be worked through. Avoiding situations that touch us in a deep way – like the death of a loved one, the thrill of an adventure or the risk of reaching out in friendship – can limit the depth that we as humans are able to experience life in its fullest.
Controlling our emotions is not about controlling our feelings. It is a matter of controlling how we respond and react to any given situation.
Between action and reaction, cause and effect, there is a moment of time for the human species in which only thought exists. Animals don’t share this opportunity. Their reactions are instinctive, they respond. But for a human, how we respond to a stimuli is always preceded by an opportunity to consider what our response will be.
Do I lash out with angry words when I am cut off in traffic, or consider the possibilities of what the other person may be facing. When the fire alarm goes off do I run for the door or look around and offer assistance. When an offer for intimacy comes do I consider all the repercussions before replying.
It is in that millisecond of time when I insert thought and logic that I become fully aware and fully in control.
Things We Control #2
2) Your Relationships. Humans are relational beings. The human heart craves connection. Why else would solitary confinement be such a cruel punishment or the unheld orphan lack basic mental and physical development. The strong independent person still needs a hug, a pat on the back, a warm handshake and an encouraging smile.
Without human contact we lack a sounding board for our thoughts and feelings, feedback to hone our appearance and personality, and comparisons to regulate our self esteem and confidence. But with human contact we encounter the toxicity of others, the lack of boundaries into our personal space and the cruelness of the human heart.
Our ability to control our relationships is one of the three primary controls we have in life. While we can’t pick our relatives we can control their effect on our lives. It is under our control to set up boundaries, choose friends and regulate the purpose and depth of any relationship.
Determining whether a co-worker becomes a personal friend or if ending a business relationship in order to save a friendship is something each of us must decide. Remaining in a relationship that pulls you down and stifles your growth is a choice, a choice that can be changed. Deciding who will enter into your circle of relationships and how far that relationship will go is under your control. Knowing this and exercising your control gives you the freedom venture into unknown territory, to ‘take a chance’ through opportunities to meet new friends and experience new interactions. When you fully accept that it is up to you and under your control you no longer have to hesitate or avoid uncomfortable situations because the discomfort is under your influence. You have decided to be where your presence is needed, and then you decide when it is time to exit. You decide when to say yes and when to say no. But with this understanding of your power to decide and to control comes the responsibility to consider the feelings of others. With compassion and concern, firmness and decisiveness, you can be a strong blessing to those you love and care about. Your confidence is growing and your self esteem is rising.
If I knew I was going to live this long
- If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.
- Mickey Mantle,(attributed) US baseball player (1931 – 1995)
- I’m not sure what other regrets a man like Mickey Mantle may have had at the end of his life, but this quote has deeper meaning than giving us a short chuckle. Wouldn’t it be great to go peacefully to your grave with no regrets and no remorse for what you meant to do or say and never got around to accomplishing. And since we have no idea when that time will come, the question needs to be restated: Wouldn’t it be great to never have a regret or be remorseful over something left unsaid or undone?
- Another, lighter way of saying it is – “If I had only (fill in the blank) sooner.”
- Not wanting to have any regrets, – this is not meant to be presented in a remorseful way, I am a firm believer that timing is everything and “when the student is ready the teacher will come”. Yet as a parent and coach I often find myself wanting to say “one day you are going to wish you had……..”
- So what is yours? For me it would be; If I had only appreciated my wife more in our early years together. If I had only not ridden the horse that day. If I had only spent a little more time listening and less time talking. (still can do that). If I had only written more notes to my family (still can do that too). If I had only learned sooner about healthy foods. If I had only spent more time reading and less time watching television. In fact there is very little that I can’t start doing right now. Not too old, not too weak, not too stubborn. Truth is – the only thing standing in the way is me. No Regrets, No Remorse. Just doing it. Borrowing some cliche’s and looking back with a smile.
Individual Rights vs. Common Good
There has always been a tension in the American character between individual rights and the common good. While we’ve loved and admired John Wayne striking out on his own with just a horse and a rifle, we’ve also known that the wagon train couldn’t make it across the plains unless we all stuck together. So writes Walter Bennis in On Becoming a Leader.
In the early 1800’s President James Madison wrote, “The public good, the real welfare of the great body of people, is the supreme object to be pursued.” A hundred years later President Coolidge said, “The business of America is business,” and hardly anyone disagreed.
Short term thinking and instant gratification is not the thinking or strategy of a true leader. And this holds true if you lead a large corporation, a non-profit, a small business, a family or yourself.
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Things We Control #2