On Monday, I was having a conversation with my business coach about some things that have happened over the past year and the ramifications of those things on the future. Specifically, we discussed how my actions, or reactions, to the events may have an effect on the future. Even when we don’t think we are involved in an impactful way in something, our limited involvement still affects our end result. But, the thing he said during that brief exchange in an hour-long phone call that stuck with me was that the difference between people who make the most of a situation and those who don’t is how they accept their role in the situation.
This afternoon, I was talking with one of my agents about an agent he knows (and we all know an agent like this one) that was all drama. She was constantly making excuses, placing blame, and putting out fires in her business and personal lives. It reminded me of a favorite quote of mine from Dan Stewart, “People who spend most of their time putting out fires are also usually the arsonist.”
The root of the issue is this: whether we admit it or not, we are responsible for what happens in our lives, period.
How we react to what happens in our lives is, ultimately, what defines our success. We can choose to accept our role or responsibility for the things that happen in our lives or we can choose to place blame, deflect, and/or ignore. Our reaction can manifest itself in I/me/we/us talk or they/them/you talk. If you adopt the former, you are far more likely to learn from the situation and be better off in the long-run. On the other hand, people who adopt the latter are far more likely to be miserable, angry, and full of contempt.
The I/Me/We/Us Crowd
If we choose to take the things that happen in our lives as steps in our overall journey, we can begin to accept them and use them as growth factors. But, it is a choice, and for the big things, it’s an active (and sometimes very difficult choice). Believe me, I’ve been there when it’s really difficult to choose to make the best of things, and, yes, I have, on more than one occasion, made the wrong choice. It takes work. It takes time. If we pause for a minute when these challenges confront us and consciously make the choice to accept the responsibility for what’s happened and react in a way that moves us forward, it can become habit.
The amazing thing is that when this habit really starts to take root, it will radiate out into other parts of your life. You’ll start to see the best in almost all situations. You’ll see opportunity where you may have previously avoided a situation. You’ll become more magnetic, attracting the kinds of situations and people you want to have in your life. And you’ll live happily ever after, or something like that.
The They/Them/You Crowd
On the flip side, the other crowd is miserable, angry, stuck in their current situation or worse, and, worse than anything, oftentimes alone. Their reactions to the things around them drive people away. Nobody wants to hang out with someone who is constantly upset or miserable or just a drama queen do they? The drama of it all costs personal and professional relationships to go bad. In a world where it’s not what you know, but who you know, who wants to drive away people?
If you find yourself, honestly, a member of the first crowd, good for you. Keep it up. If not, I have a challenge for you. Not to get all motivational speaker on you, but this will really work. For the next 30 days, I want you to track the things you are grateful for in your life and look at one thing, each day, that you reacted to and how that reaction might have been different. You don’t have to get all fancy with it. A simple notepad will suffice. In the morning, before you start your day (even if it requires waking up a few minutes early) write down 5 things that you are thankful for. Then, in the evening, as you wind down the day and have a few minutes, write down one thing that happened that day and how you could have reacted in a way that could have propelled you forward in life. At the end of the month, you’ll not only have built a habit of gratitude, one of the most important factors in seeing life in a positive light, but you’ll have actively practiced, every day, addressing the things in your life in a way where you are looking for the best in them and the best in you. These are two very powerful tools.
Once we start to build the habit of reacting in a way that moves us forward, we can change our lives for the positive in ways we can’t imagine are possible when we are placing blame and reacting defensively. It takes effort, but like anything that requires effort, the reward is almost always worth the work.