Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tim Brownson.
No matter the circumstances, you are the only one who has the power to determine your mood. And no matter how bad the mood is you find yourself in, you have the ability to change it in a split second.
Imagine you’re in the throes of a really bad argument with a loved one. It starts off as a minor disagreement, as is often the case with such things, but soon the insults are flying as you both dig in and look to defend your position.
At this point it’s highly unlikely that either of you is thinking, “Hmm, I’d much rather be loved than be right.” You are too busy wanting to win the argument, if indeed “win” is even the right word.
Suddenly, the phone rings and you both stop dead in your tracks and stare at it.
You pick up the phone and gruffly answer “hello.” It’s a very good friend from whom you haven’t heard for a while and you really want to catch up with all the news.
What do you do?
You don’t really want to take out your petty argument on them by being unreceptive and sullen, so in that instant you pass through a state change so rapid and so transformational that an observing alien who doesn’t understand people would be completely confused.
Upon hearing the other voice, all your angst, annoyance, and bitterness evaporates quicker than the rain from a summer storm in Florida.
Who did that? Who decided that you were going to feel better? Who put that extra bounce in your voice with such ease and speed?
Amazingly enough, it wasn’t the Thought Police and it wasn’t really magic — it was you.
You decided that you no longer wanted to feel angry and the other person shouldn’t have to listen to you engage in a shouting match. You made a choice to change your mood the same way you made a choice to get into the argument in the first place.
She Made Me So Angry!
As another example, how many times have you heard somebody say something along the lines of “she made me so angry” or “my boss really put me in a bad mood today”? I’m guessing it’s a lot and I’m pretty sure you’ve said such things yourself, because we all have at some stage in our lives.
The reality is, though, that statements like that are never true, no matter how much we like to think they are.
Your partner has never made you angry, your boss has never made you feel small, the weather has never put you in a bad mood, the dog has never ruined your day, and Aunt Enid has never stressed you out.
The only person responsible for any of the above is you.
Is It Raining Money or Calamity?
Imagine you’ve just won $10 million in the lottery and you’re on your way to pick up your sack of cash. Unfortunately, a few miles short of your destination, your car decides to die on you. Not only that, but to make things worse, it’s raining and you have no coat with you!
How will you feel?
My guess is that you won’t give a damn. Who cares about the car? After all, you can buy yourself a fleet of cars with your new wealth. You can even call a limo to transport you the final few miles if you want. As for the rain — well, come on, it’s only water and if it ruins your shoes, so what, because you can now get those Jimmy Choos you’ve always wanted.
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you are on your way to a job you despise and you’re running late. You’ve been told that if you arrive late, you lose a half day’s pay, and you really need the money this month as your credit card debt is starting to mount.
How will you feel?
Both of those situations are, in effect, one and the same. In both instances your car is broken down in the rain several miles away from where you want to be. The thing that makes them different is how you interpret the ramifications and what you say to yourself.
The True Meaning of Personal Responsibility
There’s a lot of talk about personal responsibility in the self-help field, but it’s still something that a lot of people get wrong. They think taking personal responsibility means being tough on themselves, holding themselves up to higher standards than everybody else, and calling themselves out when they fall short.
The reality is the complete opposite.
Taking personal responsibility means being kind to yourself and taking control of your life from the inside out. It means realizing that the thoughts you have are 100% responsible for your subjective experience and then adjusting them accordingly.
If we say somebody made us mad, what we really mean is that we have allowed something that they’ve said or done to annoy us and we have chosen to be pissed off.
If you say that to yourself the next time you’re annoyed with something that isn’t going your way, I promise you’ll view the situation in another light. After all, you can carry on and decide to ruin your own day (one of a finite number you have on this earth, I hasten to add), or you can choose to react in a more appropriate way and one that serves you and everyone else.
Which one will you choose?