“You cannot control your external circumstances, what other people do and say, but you can control your reaction and attitude to those external circumstances and experiences.”
What do we actually have control over?
This is a question I often ask myself when I’m being triggered, or when fear creeps in.
We have control over our reactions.
We have control over our attitude.
We have control over our emotions.
We have control over our actions. What we do, or don’t do. What we say, or don’t say.
We have control over our decisions. When we are afraid of doing something, we can choose to allow fear to be our decision maker, or we can take action with the fear tagging along.
What don’t we have control over?
We cannot control our external circumstances.
We cannot control what other people do, how they react, what they say, their attitude, and what they believe.
Pre-Contagiously Positive days, I learned how much power I actually had when I not only began to pay attention to how I wanted to feel, but chose to work on strengthening my attitude, and emotional response towards negative external circumstances or experiences. Letting go of the belief that I had control over anything but my choices, my attitude, my reactions and my feelings was a big wake-up call. When I finally understood that I could not control what happens around me, but I could control what was happening inside of me, I became happier, more relaxed and the fog of feeling like I had no control over my life began to lift.
Let’s do a little mindfulness exercise.
I believe that self-awareness is key to taking full responsibility of our lives.
How are you letting external circumstances affect your inner wellbeing?
On a daily, repetitive basis, are you getting pissed off on your drive to work because of all the traffic, still angry when you arrive?
Are you upset at the way your coworkers act, wondering how you can change them (which you can’t)?
Are you participating in daily gossiping, and constant complaining?
Is someone else’s bad attitude (energy vampires) draining you of all your energy?
Even though we know what we can and cannot control, it is going to happen; you are going to have a moment in the day where someone pisses you off, or you might be feeling irritable, maybe you didn’t sleep well, maybe you are hating your job, bad traffic, crappy boss yelled at you, the kids didn’t get ready fast enough this morning, your car wouldn’t start, there was a long line at the coffee shop drive-thru, or you just feel like nothing is going your way.
Here’s the deal…
Bad weather, terrible bosses, traffic jams, long lines, temper tantrums, delays, negativity from the television, newspaper, Internet, radio, social media, or negative people, do not have any control over your present emotional wellbeing unless you allow it.
That’s not fun to hear. Even though I know this to be true, in the moment, it pisses me off because I want to be pissed off. We have all been there, but I know I don’t want to be contagiously negative and take up permanent residence in negative-ville, and I’m sure you don’t either. Instead of staying in that state of negativity, let’s do something about it.
This week, let’s work the work of feeling the way we want to feel by strengthening our inner world. Here are two exercises I recommend. Practice makes imperfectly perfect, so just being mindful will create massive shifts.
Emotional Strengthening Exercise 1: Have some tools in your toolbox that you know work, for you, to get you out of a funk, bad mood, or irritable state. These tools can be your lifeline when you just don’t think you will ever be able to solve the problem or negative emotion you are in. Instead of trying to never feel a negative emotion again, which is impossible, have tools to help you recalibrate when you need it. Think of these tools as your reset button.
What is one thing you can do to turn it around? It doesn’t have to be big, it can be as simple as making your favourite meal while listening to music, calling that friend who always makes you feel better, hugging someone just a little bit longer because you know that hugging releases the anxiety in your body, going for a walk, punching it out at a boxing class, writing it out in a journal, yelling into a pillow to release it from your body, walking in nature with your dog, removing yourself from the negative environment, deep meditative breaths, or it can be as simple (but not always easy) as not letting someone else ruin your day by saying, “I’m not going to let her/him steal my joy.” “I’m not going to let that situation ruin my entire day.” Keep repeating this affirmation until you feel your nervous system get back into a more positive state and then choose what you are going to do or say next.
What can you do today to respond to something or someone in a more positive way?
Emotional Strengthening Exercise 2: How easy is it to go on a rampage of complaining? Pretty easy, right? So my recommended emotional strengthening challenge, including for myself, is to put the breaks on complaining. Let me begin by explaining that I don’t want you stuff down your feelings, I want you to be intentional and pay attention to what you are complaining about that isn’t worth ruining your day over. It is really easy for that complaining rampage to gain momentum and take us straight negative-ville.
I was at the grocery store a couple months ago and I was complaining about something so ridiculous. Then I thought, I’m complaining about something that I think is a little pricey, that I have the money to pay for, and someone is starving right now. I felt so guilty that I took all the change from my wallet and I gave it all to the Salvation Army collection as I left the store. I know I was just being a human being and I didn’t do anything wrong by complaining for a moment, but I did that little random act to remind myself that I have so much to be grateful for and it brought me back to that reality. I know it seems silly, but hey, it helped changed my perspective and bring me back. Had I got into the car still pissed, and then someone cut me off and I became more pissed, and then I got home and had a negative email in my inbox, and my husband didn’t load the dishwasher properly, and my dog dug a hole in the yard again, I would have lost my shit. Instead, all of that could have happened, but because I was being intentional about how I was feeling and I was in a state of gratitude, I prepared myself to not react to the small stuff and it didn’t bother me.
How much stuff are we getting annoyed and pissed off about because of the negative momentum gained from one small experience that we allowed to grow and grow and grow?
So for an entire day, when you catch yourself, stop and turn the conversation around to something more positive. You can even just stop and say to yourself, “No, I’m not going to complain about this.” This is such a great way to up your happiness game. It will make you see all the good that is around you, which you can’t see when you are only focusing on all negative things. Trust me, if you keep looking for the negative, you will find it – it will find you.
When I catch myself, I make myself stop and replace it with better thoughts. Sometimes just saying, “This is a first world problem, do you want this attitude to gain momentum and ruin your day?”Of course the answer is always no. Simply questioning the complaint makes me think if it really matters. If I need to vent, I do it with the intention that I need to get it out so I can move forward in a more positive way. I also choose who I vent to so I know that I they won’t take me further into the negative vortex that I’m in. And, I try to end the venting session with a positive action or new perspective.
I’m not perfect at any of this, and probably never will be, but honestly, wanting to wake up each day and say, “I am so freaking happy” makes it all worth the effort.
If we allowed ourselves to pause, for just a second, we would know exactly what we needed to do to feel the way we want to feel. At any moment we can all choose to push that reset button. Where you are isn’t where you need to stay. What can you pull out of your happiness toolbox today to take that first step back into feeling the way you want to feel?
Yesterday, over on Facebook, I did a live coaching video on this. You can watch it here after reading this blog if you want to dive deeper into this conversation.
Laurie-ann Sheldrick, The Contagiously Positive Girl