As much as we cannot control a majority of events in the outside world, our Creator has given us an indomitable ability that in fact is almost even MORE powerful than the ability to always call the shots.
What is this invincible gift?
It’s the power of CHOICE.
Every single day we make thousands of decisions, decisions that impact our entire quality of life. Now this may seem obvious. But I’m not just talking about what choices we make about what action we will take in the world today (because obviously the actions we take impact and influence our lives immediately).
What’s been even more powerful for me has been the ability to choose HOW to look at the events in my life.
That’s right – it is WE as humans that get to decide what something “means.”
Did you realize that you are deciding what things mean thousands of times a day?
And it is THIS – the meanings and interpretations we assign to the events that occur – that is the ultimate power (but can ultimately slam us down if we’re not careful).
My older daughter who will be 13 next Friday did something pretty upsetting today. She “acted out” in a way that would be distressing to any parent, and her behavior needed to be addressed.
(It’s not important what she did to the point of this story, so I’ll refrain from the gory details – LOL).
Now I could have immediately gone to a place of “the way she behaved today means that I have failed her. I have been an incompetent mother. I’ve not modeled good behavior to her. And it’s too late now – her actions speak louder than words, and clearly she’s not going to be a successful citizen of this world.”
Yes, I could have absolutely beaten myself up as a mother.
But do you see that all of that self-talk is just MEANING that I would be assigning to what she did? I’m drawing a conclusion that her poor choices mean certain things about both me as a mother, and her long-term likelihood of being a functioning member of society!
(And no wonder interpretations like that simply “take us out.” They render us hopeless and the world gray!).
Now alternately, I could assign very different MEANING to my daughter’s behavior based on how I am looking at it. In the simplest form, I could say “This is not a reflection at all of my as a loving and responsible parent. She’s just pushing boundaries, as many kids do on the cusp of puberty when their hormones make them a little insane(!). What she needs is loving guidance here, and I’m just the person to offer it.”
Now how would THAT interpretation – the MEANING I am assigning to the event – change my experience of it?
In the first scenario I am a failure, I end up depressed and hopeless, and in fear.
In the second scenario I am a confident, successful parent, this is just a fairly normal thing (though annoying), and I am grateful to be able to guide her through this.
This is why I call the power of choice an indomitable ability!
Author Victor Frankl suffered horrific, inhumane treatment at the hand of the Nazi’s during World War II, and went on to write a book, Man’s Search For Meaning, about how he was able to transform his experience (while it was happening!) by being proactive and purposeful in how he chose to interpret his conditions.
If he can do that, then I can take responsibility for how I choose to look at a 13 year old’s bad behavior.
For more on this, check out this powerful video narrated by Tony Robbins on the subject: