Are you able to make the most of any situation? When things don't go your way, do you get frustrated or do you learn how to be more resourceful? The one thing you bring to every situation is yourself. While you don't control a lot of things that happen in your life, the most important thing you control is your reaction. In Work from the Inside Out: Seven Steps to Loving What You Do, Nancy O'Hara writes about an old Zen saying that reminds you to choose your best response for any given scenario.
You are Not in Control of the Situation
O'Hara writes the following:
"On a hot day many people walk around complaining about the heat, miserable and cranky because the weather doesn't suit them. These same people also complain when it's rainy and cold or simply not a picture-perfect day. What these people lack is an acceptance of what is and an understanding that they are not in control. There's an old Zen saying that you might want to write on a piece of paper and tack up over your desk or work station, or carry around with you, to remind you that you are not in charge.
When it's cold shiver. When it's hot, sweat.
And not only are you not in charge of the weather, but you are also not in charge of company policy or how it gets executed or who your coworkers are. (Even if you are the boss who sets the company policy, you cannot control every little aspect of a dynamic organization.)
When it's cold, shiver. When it's hot, sweat."
You are In Control of Your Reaction
"Each time you look at it, and each time you hear yourself complaining about the weather or your job or your boss, let this saying remind you that the only way the weather, or anything else, will change is if you move to a different climate or when time takes its course. But before you make any drastic changes, consider that staying put and sweating or shivering might be the best answer. Moving away will not guarantee that the new situation will be more to your liking. Let this saying also remind you that while you may not be in charge of the weather, you are in charge of your reaction to it. And this is where you must look to understand why you are dissatisfied and what you can do about it. You must look to yourself."
Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:
- Raise your tolerance level. Roll with the punches. You can't control what's on you plate, but you can control how you eat it. Your frustration in life is directly related to your tolerance level. See Low Frustration Tolerance.
- Be flexible and adaptable. If you can be flexible and adaptable, then you have a wider range of possibilities for being successful. The willow bends while the oak breaks.
- Learn to adapt, adjust or avoid. For any situation, you should be able to figure out whether to adapt for it, adjust the situation for your success or avoid the situation altogether. If you choose to adapt for the situation, make sure you aren't compromising your strengths or passions. The more self-aware you are, the better you can figure out how to setup the situation for your success or to avoid the situation because it's not a good match for you. When your situation is not optional, remember that your own reaction is. Always choose your best response.
- Distinguish between what you own vs. influence. One of my most important lessons in corporate life was when I was challenging some decisions from up above. My manager had very sound advice. He told me to distinguish between what I control versus what I influence. For the things I don't control, I could learn to be more accepting. This proved useful time and again, because I learned to pick my battles more effectively. For the decisions I don't own, I can certainly try to influence them, but I can also be more accepting of the fact I don't control them.
- Avoid becoming the boiled frog in the pot. While it's good to be adaptable, you have to be careful not to become the boiled frog in the pot. This is about knowing your ROI quotient for your investment. Are you getting the return where you spend your time and energy?
- Identify whether you're moving toward or away from your goals. While resistance makes you stronger, it's important to know whether you're moving toward or away from your goals and readjust as needed. Knowing that you are on your path is reassuring and helps you stay on track when you face resistance or personal growth feels uncomfortable.
- Distinguish between situation and disposition. The first question I ask myself when a situation turns bad is, is it me, or is it the situation? As a general rule, I carry my good behaviors forward, and drop what's not working. I also try to learn the context of the situation so that I can get better at recognizing patterns.
- For any situation, choose your best response. The most important question I ask myself is, what's the most effective response I can choose for this particular situation? The real point is to choose an effective response versus simply react.