“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
To feel powerless, or that we lack control over our lives, can be a terrible, frustrating and energy draining experience. The truth is that the only thing we can ever control is our own reaction to circumstances. This knowledge was a genuine epiphany for me. I had been very guilty of the “poor me” syndrome; blaming other people for my stasis in life. When I understood that I had the power to change that all along, I began to feel empowered, emboldened and embarrassed that I had let other people and their reaction (or lack of) to me dictate my life and happiness for so long.
When my pupils are discussing their fears about presenting solo talks, we discuss the “worst case” scenario. I heard all sorts of elaborate fears during my teaching career:
Well, what if I collapse with nerves or trip on my way to the front of the class?
You have two options; you stay on the floor or you get back up and continue.
What if I lose my way mid-sentence?
You stop, find your place, find your voice and continue on or remain silent.
What if my classmates laugh at me?
You can choose to let their reaction effect how you feel or you can be secure in yourself and continue, knowing that you are doing the best you can and their opinions don’t matter.
And life is no different. We have to decide what things we do have control over and which things we can only control our reaction to. When you are “on the floor” or “have lost your place”, what do you do? Do you stay down; defeated by a circumstance you couldn’t have foreseen or do you stagger back onto your feet and continue. When you lose your place or don’t know what to say, do you stay silent and keep your thoughts to yourself or do you find your voice and say what you really feel?
Recently a friend of mine was feeling a lack of control over many aspects of her life. She had suffered a terrible tragedy because of the negligence of a health authority and this feeling of helplessness was permeating her work and attitude to her job. She had chosen to make a formal complaint and took her concerns to the highest level, culminating in her case being referred to in Parliament. Ironically, literally minutes after having a conversation about control and how she reacts to it, she heard that her complaint had been upheld and more importantly, a review would be held to ensure that no other patient would suffer the same in the future. Her reaction to the circumstances was the key; she was not going to be beaten or silenced and she chose to use her anger about the situation to make things better for others.
We have the power to choose our reactions every day. If you are not happy, choose do something about it. Find your voice. Find your feet. Find your courage and choose to change.