December 18, 2022
There is no getting around reality. Reality doesn’t care if you like it or not. Reality is what life hands you on a day-to-day basis.
You can argue with reality until the moon turns green and you’re blue in the face, but you will never win that argument.
Worldwide pandemics, climate change, the war in Ukraine, inequality, political diversity, and killer bees — life presented those calamities. And most of us had very little to do with creating any of those problems, much less having the individual power to eliminate them.
Nevertheless, you are the master of the quality of your life. Even if you’ve had more bad luck than the next guy, you are still responsible for how you handle what life tosses your way.
And if you’re thinking, but you don’t understand what I’ve gone through, just hear me out.
On the other hand, you can stop reading now if you’re delighted with where you are.
However, if there are some things in your life that you’d like to change, read on!
Sure, luck plays a role.
We can’t ignore luck in the quality of life equation.
Lucky or unlucky, we were born in the midst of what some people think is a big mess.
But here’s the thing. Luck may have played a role in plopping you in an unsatisfying situation, but if you’re stuck and blaming it on the bad luck you’ve experienced, you might want to change your mindset.
Unlucky things happen to all of us sometimes and to some more than others (which sucks, I wholeheartedly agree).
I was born with a crumbly spine that’s necessitated two somewhat dramatic surgeries over the last fifteen years.
I could focus on bad genetic luck for a calcium absorption problem and sit in a chair, waiting and hoping for the discomfort to miraculously disappear.
Or, I can acknowledge the reality that I chose to smoke for many years, which exacerbated the situation.
That doesn’t mean I need to blame myself — because the truth is, I didn’t know any better. So today, I acknowledge reality.
And then, I work hard to keep my attention on what I need to do to strengthen that crumbly spine — exercise daily, get in at least 8,000 steps a day and 20 minutes of vigorous walking, and maintain healthy eating habits.
I’m not entirely pain-free, but I’m active and thrilled that I have a choice to move toward what I want rather than away from it every moment of my life.
You can blame luck for where you were born. And yes, where we were raised — our cultural, financial, and social networks — can make a difference. Some environments afford us more opportunities than the next guy’s.
You can also blame luck for your appearance, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, good at math, a physical superstar, or a savant creative genius.
The luck of the draw is real. But, at the same time, you will get nowhere by blaming luck.
This one idea is where the rubber hits the road:
You are 100% responsible for what you do with what life hands you.
The choice point.
The choice point is the spot between what life hands you and what you do with it.
If life hands you something you don’t like, which it invariably will, the choice point is where you decide what you will do with that experience.
Take Edith Eger, 94-year-old writer, psychologist, and Auschwitz survivor, for example.
She was forced into a concentration camp at age fourteen and survived two years of unspeakable brutality.
When she was released, Eger chose to get help for her emotional wounds, went to school for a doctorate in Psychology, and spent most of her life helping other people find the choice point and use it to their benefit, rather than letting what life handed them extinguish their light.
At eighty-nine, she published The Choice, a memoir that became a road map for all of us who have been touched by trauma and survived.
You have control over the most impactful decision you’ll ever make — where you put your attention. It will determine the quality of your life.
Luck doesn’t have the power of choice. You do. Choosing where you put your attention gives you the ability to reduce or magnify the impact of bad luck.
External vs. internal locus of control.
Locus of control sounds fancy. All it means is what have you put in charge of you?
Anything that happens ‘to’ you is external. How you handle it and react to what life hands you is internal.
If an external locus of control guides you, situations over which you have little or no control will determine the quality of your life.
But if you shift your attention from what happened to what you can do about it, you will automatically shift to an internal locus of control.
External locus of control.
External locus of control is anything outside of you that you allow to impact your emotions, decisions, and well-being.
If you have an external locus of control, you might sound like this:
- My boss made me so angry when she criticized me.
- My wife is a nag, so I’m miserable.
- The economy just went belly up, and I’m powerless.
- People won’t let me say no.
- I can’t look foolish because people will mock me.
Internal locus of control.
Internal locus of control is your agency, your ability to manage yourself effectively. When you have an internal locus of control, you might respond to life in these ways:
- I can manage myself appropriately regardless of my boss’s mood.
- I can respond respectfully, irrespective of how someone expresses a request.
- The economy tanked, and I am going to manage my finances accordingly.
- I can communicate clearly and directly what I will and won’t commit to.
- I can look foolish because I have learned that making mistakes is the only way to learn and grow.
- You have little or no control over what life hands you.
- Acknowledge that luck plays a role, and then move on.
- There is a choice point between what life hands you and what you can do about it.
- If you allow external events to control your life, you will never be free.
- If you adopt an internal locus of control, you will have a freedom that no one can take from you.
Pay close attention to your self-talk. If you have the idea that the world – life – owes you something, consider the opposite. Maybe we owe life for allowing us to participate in an experiment that words can’t begin to do justice to.
When life hands you something you don’t want, don’t make lemonade. Instead, decide what you want, and go for it!