What chronic situation in your life are you complaining about routinely but not doing anything about?
Here’s an example of a conversation that I’ve had many times before. A good friend came to me with the same gripe I’ve heard for the last ten years, “XYZ won’t quit doing this incredibly annoying behavior and it’s ruining my life. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to see them socially and I hate my life.”
Wow, “I hate my life” is a pretty powerful statement. That’s a lot of power to give over to someone else. The conversation didn’t end well. I pointed out, as I have for the last decade, that they have a CHOICE in how they are going to act and react to this person. I said what many wiser teachers before me have said: in a relationship you cannot control the other person. You can only control yourself and your actions and reactions in any given situation.
The conversation got heated. I feel so strongly about the concept of “Take 100% responsibility for your life” that I get worked up when I see people close to me in pain because they’re not living by this principle. You chose to eat the last Twinkie. Every day. For the last 15 years. Now you’re obese. That’s not the food industry’s fault. You chose to have that last drink at the bar. Every Wednesday. For the last 10 years. Now you’ve had your license taken away for your third DUI. That’s not the bar’s fault. You chose to buy the big house knowing you’d have to vacuum six rooms and clean four toilets. Every week. For the last five years. Now you’re feeling like you don’t have enough quality time with your family. That’s not the house’s fault.
I was in Seattle recently dealing with their horrendous traffic. But, in sharp contrast to some of the drivers around me, my blood pressure was stable. I prepared for the traffic by packing a book on tape, stopping at the store to get three different healthy snacks and I had a full bottle of water. All around me, you could see tempers flaring as the traffic stressed and entire commute worth of drivers out. We were all in the same chronic situation – yet some of us were happy and others were downright angry and miserable. How you act and react to situations is a choice. Listen to yourself for the next week.
Are you routinely complaining about something? What can YOU do to change? How can YOU control your reaction so that the situation or the person isn’t taking up so much space in your head?