BY DIANE KERTH
Last week I heard this phrase when my friend Sally and I were out to lunch. We were catching up on life and how things have been since the last time we got together. The conversation started going down a dark road of stress, frustration, depression and then she said, “What can I do, it’s just the way it is. I don’t have a choice.” My eyes opened wide, she knew me well, I said, “You do have choices, you may not like the choices that are available, but you do have a choice.” Sally looked mildly annoyed and without saying any words gave me the Diane obviously doesn’t understand my situation kind of look. I didn’t let a moment pass before I said, “I know what you’re thinking, and you DO have choices and to take it one step further, you have power in those choices!” When we miss the awareness piece of asking ourselves what options do I have? what choices do I have? we are giving away our power.
Here’s an example. Every Sunday afternoon I go to my parent’s home (they’re 88 years old) and I help them with a honey-do list. I walk in the door each week and they hand me the list right away of the things they want done. I have been going there every Sunday now for 15 years. In the first year of Sunday honey-do lists, resentment started to build because they were taking my time and always expected me to do more and more. I became annoyed, irritated, and stressed every Saturday night that year thinking that tomorrow I would be “wasting” another Sunday not getting anything done at my own house or in my own life. (I know I sound horrible but that’s what I was thinking!) It created friction and issues when I went over there on Sundays. I found myself being cranky and snappy. It was so bad that one Sunday night when I got home I just broke down and cried. In my head I was saying why is this happening to me and why can’t I have my Sundays to myself like everybody else in my office? They get to relax and have fun and do things. I don’t have that. I am stuck helping my parents. UGH!
Why am I having these horrible feelings? I’m a nice person, I respect my parents, how did it get to this point? Then something came over me and I snapped out of it, I woke up! Nothing was “happening to me” so to speak. I was the one with the problem, not my parents. The most frustrating thing for me about this realization is that I have been studying how choices are connected to personal power, and our sense of control, for years. How could I have not connected the dots for myself? This was what I spent years studying and working on. I was so blinded by feeling miserable and self-righteous that I didn’t take the time to look at what choices I had in this situation with my parents.
We often have choices that go unacknowledged or unrecognized because we are so busy “feeling.” Feeling happy, sad, angry, frustrated, lost, annoyed or stressed. We have to wake up, stop ourselves and really look at our options and so…. I did just that. There may have been more than three options, but these were the ones I considered. Option #1- I can continue on and do nothing different. Option #2- I can stop going to my parents all together on Sundays, the end. (Not a great option, my parents needed me, and it would be totally selfish but… it was a real option) Option #3- I can adjust the way I look at the situation. (Which IS the choice I made.)
What a wonderful choice! It was so empowering to take control of myself and realize I AM MAKING the choice to go to my parents every Sunday - no one is forcing me physically to go. I am CHOOSING to spend time with my parents and do their honey-do list. I am blessed that I have this time with them. When I took control of my choices and the direction I DECIDED to go. I felt strong and powerful. I have been filled with pride every Sunday I drive to my parent’s home because I know I am in charge of my decisions and this is my choice.
We all go through ups and downs in life but when we pause and examine the choices available to us, we can then make conscious decisions on how to proceed. It puts us in the driver’s seat. I can say no, yes, or here’s a different option. Over the years I have often been asked how I stay so positive and happy through the challenging things I’ve experienced in my life. I share that once I had the realization of how powerful I am through my choices, my life completely changed. I was instantly strong. I’m in charge of me. I’m in control of the things I can control.
Sally and I talked through each of her options for her particular situation. Once she laid them out and realized that she was in control of more than she realized, she immediately started to feel better. I told her that she was in charge of herself, no one else. She called me 2 weeks after our lunch and told me how strong, calm and in control she feels now. She says over and over throughout her week, “I’m in charge of me.” And wears a smile every time she says it.
Lead yourself. You’re so much stronger when you understand the ways you can influence your own life. Be in charge of you!
Archives by Month