Have you thought why some people give up and others overcome? Why some get depressed and give in to circumstances and others refuse to give in and find a way to improve those circumstances? I thought about it a lot. Is it really that some are stronger than the other ones? I believe, what sets those people apart is their ability to manage themselves. That’s all. What is self-management? It is the ability to control your response to life’s events, manage your thoughts and feelings/emotions. Or, in other words, it is the ability to control your inner state. It is critical for us to be able to manage our inner state at all times because we make different choices and different decisions, depending on our inner state. Would you agree, that you make different decisions and choose different actions when you feel hopeful, strong and determined and when you feel helpless, dis-empowered and doubting?
Our inner state depends on our Thought focus and Perspective.
What causes excitement and depression? Both inner states are the result of our thought focus. Nobody gets into a depression by focusing on exciting opportunities, or how grateful he is for everything good that he has. Depression sneaks in when a person pays close attention to what he is not happy about and constantly thinks about it. Same way, the more a person will focus on positive events, new opportunities and compelling goals, there will be no room for sadness, but the excitement and desire to implement his desired change. Our feelings always follow our thought focus.
I learned and realized that thoughts and emotions don’t just “happen” to me, leaving me powerless against them. I choose what I think and what I focus on, what meaning I give to the events and what I am going to do about it. Nobody and no event have the power to make me feel in any particular way unless I allow it. I am the one who chooses my response, and that depends on my perspective and my interpretation of what it means to me.
We always in our mind communicate to ourselves what things mean to us, how we feel about occurred events and what we are going to do about it all. When we are doing well, we are excited and think about how thrilled we are that things are going well, what it took for us to achieve success, and having an even stronger belief of what is possible for us, we move on to another venture. Likewise, in the event of various complex circumstances, we weigh our current situation, ask ourselves why it happened, and make conclusions and decisions for the future. While we are thinking about one or the other situation, we feel certain emotions. It’s easy to see the good side and feel positive emotions when the circumstances are in our favor. But it’s more challenging to feel positive if it’s a painful and difficult event for us. The way we will feel about the event greatly depends on how we interpret it and how we communicate it to ourselves.
One of the combining details that affect our inner state and our subsequent decisions is our perspective on the situation. Depending on our perspective we will give the meaning to that particular event, and from there follows our emotions and decisions what we are going to do next.
I am sure we all have experienced a situation, when we, after hearing some news or having some particular experience, automatically reacted to what happened accepting the event as a bad thing. Being overwhelmed with negative feelings, we got so fearful, frustrated or disappointed that we offended someone, hung up the phone or broke our relationship with someone, dropped pursuing our goal, gave up on a project we intended to work on, broke our commitments and similar. After some time, when everything calmed down, we asked ourselves “Why did I do that…?”, then realizing that we acted that way because we were driven by the emotions that we had at that time. Unfortunately, our words and actions most often are irreversible. But if we learn how to stop ourselves from the negative reaction and allow our empowering perspective to shape our response to a situation, it is much easier to accept and handle occurred problems, and we can save ourselves from unpleasant further situations that we might put ourselves into as a result of our reactive response.
Our perspective shapes our response. Having the same event, we have a choice of how we will look at it and how we will interpret it.
Is this a punishment or is this a lesson for me?
Is this a loss or an opened opportunity to have new and better?
Does this situation show me that I am not good enough or does this situation show there is an area where I can improve myself, so I can do better next time?
Is this a dead end or is it a challenge for me to find a way because I know there must be the way?
Is this a failure or is it an experience with the lesson of what I can do better and where I should improve? Is this a crash or is it just the end of something that will be replaced by something that really needs to take place in my life?
Is this too much for me to handle or is this opportunity for me to overcome a new challenge and become stronger?
Is this a problem or is it a challenge for me to find a way, to improve and create what I want?
Let’s take a simple example. Ken, after a break-up with the woman he loves due to her lies and cheating, can look at it in various ways. Ken can come up with ideas that he is not good enough, something’s wrong with him, he has been lied to because there is something better than him and probably this woman only wanted to use him. What is he going to do next? Very likely, this kind of perspective will lead him into a belief that will lower his self-confidence and will greatly impact his decision what love and relationship mean to him. He might start believing that he is not good enough to be loved, women are deceptive cheaters, it doesn’t work out for him because he is not worthy of a good strong relationship and similar. From that belief and a new perspective about himself and relationships, he might make a decision that close connection and love hurt, and he doesn’t even want to get into a new relationship, because he doesn’t want to be hurt and disappointed again.
Having the same situation there is a choice to look at it differently. Ken can look at the break-up as a good thing, because if his second-half chose to lie to him and be dishonest, then this was not really his second half. He knows what kind of woman he wants to tie his life with, and this is definitely not what he wants. In fact, it would have been worse if he wasted more time with her and especially if he had made a life commitment to that person. Now he has a new opportunity to meet his true life partner, who will love him unconditionally, who will not hurt him and will be faithful to him. Actually, he is truly thankful for this break-up, because now he is free to meet his true woman for him and is ready for that special connection and relationship. How will this perspective make Ken feel and what kind of decision he will make? Much different, right? The same situation, two different perspectives, and totally different results.
Another simple example in a different situation: let’s say I come to work and find out that I was let go. What am I going to do about it? It greatly depends on my perspective. I can see it as I am not good enough and they are getting rid of me, it’s a big problem, it’s the end of my security and well being. But what if this is an opportunity for me to get a better position? What if this door closes, so I would open another door to have a career that I really want? Maybe this is an opportunity for me to apply for the position that I dream about or maybe even create my own business? Again, two different perspectives and both of them will create totally different outcomes for a person.
What if we look at circumstances or occurred events as just the facts. The fact itself can’t make us feel in any particular way. It is just a plain fact same way as any object. It’s how we look at the fact will shape our attitude and our feelings about it. Events, the same way as objects or activities are simply neutral matter and they have both likes and dislikes, depending on what it means to people. Let’s take a gambling game. It is just a game, nothing more. But how we feel about it depends on how we look at it and what gambling game means to us. We can look at it as a fun time with friends, the excitement of a mystery of what’s going to happen next and a great opportunity to gain an unlimited amount of money with no effort and work. Also, we can look at it as a waste of time, opening doors to something that can bring a great destruction into our lives and it is just throwing away our money that we can spend on something more meaningful. It’s all how we look at it will make us feel about that object or any event.
Our perspective is the foundation of what meaning we give to the event or any circumstance, and depending on that we will feel about it in a particular way and will choose what we are going to do about it.
Perspective depends greatly on our beliefs.
We have a choice to believe that we are capable and will improve in the learning process or we may believe that we are just not good enough and will never be. We have a choice to believe that everything that happens in our lives is in God’s control and everything happens for the purpose and for the better. We also may believe that there is no God, life is whatever events happen to us, it’s all about luck and most often life’s not fair. We may believe that with our decisions we can shape our destiny, and we may believe that all life’s events and circumstances are out of our control; therefore, it is meaningless to work hard and make the effort. We may believe that we are not good enough and are not really worthy of love and strong family, and we may choose to believe that everybody is worthy and can have it, so we do as well and we will have it when the right time comes. We may have a belief that we will not succeed anyway, because we are not worthy of success or we are simply not as lucky as others, and we can believe that we will be blessed and will succeed wherever we go. These are just several examples of general beliefs about God, life, love and us as people, which shape our perspective about the events and our connection with people. Belief is nothing more than what we are convinced about, which we can choose as well.
We can take another example to show how belief shapes our perspective and the perspective leads to certain decisions, followed by actions. To make it more real, I will take my own life. The car accident that I was involved in was something that neither I nor anybody else in my life could have ever expected. I was 22 years old, and this event was a major turning point in my life and lives of my family members. The result of that event was that I lost a person, who I was dating at the time (he was killed), and lost basically everything that made my life fulfilling and joyous with no way to restore it back. In addition to losing it all, having multiple injuries and losing both of my legs and having my left arm fully paralyzed, made me totally helpless and not able to take care of myself at all. From being active, joyous and having strong potential to be successful in life, suddenly I found myself helpless in bed not being able to move or do anything independently, except see, feel and speak a little bit. Losing half of my body completely changed my life. There were many different opinions of why it happened, questions about my destiny and advice what I should do with my life at that point. I have heard people had ideas that God punished me; others said this was my destiny and I should just accept it. “Such is your fate…he broke your destiny” was a very common conclusion, implying that I needed to just accept it and give in because there was nothing I could do to get it all back or make it better. I also had to hear advice not to try so hard pursuing my dream, because it was unrealistic. I disagreed with them all and decided to fight for my life because I had a different belief.
Today, one of the things I am most grateful for to my Creator is that from the very beginning I had a positive perspective about what had happened and faith of what my future would be like. I had unshakable belief that my life’s under God’s control and therefore, I will not fear. There was a reason why I got into this crash and also there is a purpose why I survived, even though I was given 30% to live. Since the Scriptures say that everything works for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28), that means there must be a serious reason why this had happened, and I believed somehow this was for my good. Even though now I didn’t understand many things, but I believed there’s a purpose in everything and Lord was going to restore my life. In spite of suggestions to give in, I firmly decided that I would not sit around for the rest of my life being a victim of drunk driving. I didn’t believe that this event happened for me to spend the rest of my life being in regret and depression, watching how my life passes by in sadness and restricted lifestyle. I decided that I would not cry and wouldn’t spend my life thinking about what had happened being in self-pity or to collect sympathy from others. I kept saying to myself that what I was experiencing at the time was only temporary. I would live a full life in spite of my injuries. I had a very clear understanding that my destiny was not going to be “broken” because of the event that had happened. I could change my destiny the way I wanted to and with God’s help, that’s exactly what I was going to do. My understanding about it was so bright and clear, as if I were given a palette of paint, being told that I could draw only black or gray house, and I knew that I could use all the colors I wanted, and paint not only a house, but also blossoming gardens, green trees, colorful flowers, bright yellow sun, blue sky… I did not know how my situation could possibly resolve to a better, but I knew that I would live well. I completely ignored people’s sayings “Such is your fate…” As soon as I heard such opinions, feelings of rebellion would instantly stir up inside of me and my response was “No. That is NOT my destiny. I will create the destiny that I want.” I did not listen to what anybody said about my position in life and their opinions about my goals that I wanted to achieve. I always had a vision of how I wanted my life to be, believed that it was possible to implement it and did everything I could do to make it become my reality. My helplessness created a burning desire to do whatever it takes to lead joyous, active and independent life again. I set the goals for myself, which step-by-step transformed my life from not being able to speak, move or do anything independently to traveling from Europe to the United States by myself and building my life all over again. I had a vision that I would live a fully active lifestyle in spite of my injuries, consistently worked toward my goal, and today I live my dream that seemed nearly impossible. In fact, today I feel happier than before the car accident.
Now, after a while, I clearly see that if I had looked at my circumstances “realistically” as many did, and would have agreed with people, who told me that I should just accept what had happened and let it be the way it was, because such was my fate – probably I would still be spending my days being stuck at home having no access to a full life. My belief shaped the perspective that gave me hope and empowered me to take action to change my circumstances and create the life that I envisioned. My perspective about this event and my future gave a birth to the attitude that I can’t and won’t give up on my life, but will take action to improve everything, and had unshakable belief that I would succeed. I did not allow my loss to ruin my desire to live a full joyous life. Opposite, my loss gave a birth within to a burning desire to live and aspiration to achieve my dreams. I did not allow my desperate situation to destroy my faith. Opposite, my faith became stronger than it ever was. My adversity revealed to me the values that I never saw before. My belief and attitude made me strong, persistent and unstoppable.
As all of my above examples show, the same situation can have totally different outcomes, depending on which perspective we choose. Some beliefs are unconscious, and they come from people’s backgrounds, religious beliefs, experience, philosophy or other people’s opinions and their experience. If we are aware of our beliefs and our perspective, we can manage and choose the response that will empower us.
For instance, difficult situations are something that everyone avoids. However, they will be there whether we like it or not. Every single person has faced difficulty at some point in their lives, and the way they handled it greatly depends on their perspective about it and what they decided to do about it. In any case, naturally, everyone has negative feelings about difficult situations. What if we take a different point of view at the difficulty? Opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn what better choices I can do next time; opportunity to develop certain character traits; opportunity to learn to trust more the Higher Power; opportunity to test myself how I can handle challenges. In each situation, it is possible to learn something. If we value learning and growth, we can look at every situation as a lesson and ask ourselves what we can learn from this experience.
If we believe that God does not give us more than we can cope with and there is a reason for everything, we will just know that our current situation is not more difficult than we can handle, and it is in our life for the reason. Our job is to handle it the best possible way and see the reason. After some time we might see that actually particularly this difficult situation was for our good, because it directed our life path toward our dream, it tested us, developed necessary character traits and gave us more wisdom. After seeing that, our belief will get even more grounded, and when next time we will face difficulty – we will be even more steady in our empowering perspective and we will handle the situation in a different way. If we see that a certain challenge was given to us as a lesson or opportunity for our self-improvement, our mind will be focused on what we can learn from that and how we can improve ourselves, instead of how bad and difficult situation is, and naturally, we will handle the challenge differently.
We do not have control over other people and a lot of times we do not have control over what happens in our lives. But we have a choice of how we look at it all and what we are going to do about it. Depending on our decisions what we are going to do next, we will have subsequent events and this way we shape our destiny. If we carefully and deliberately choose our beliefs and perspective, we will always have control over our response to various life’s events, challenges in our relationships or any situation in life.
“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins
Be Strong. Be Determined and Persistent. Be Unstoppable.