Every time you are faced with a choice, you have an opportunity. You can use that choice to give you more options, or you can build obstacles for yourself. If you look at every choice you made in the past that now seems like a mistake, go back in time to what you thought your options were, and you’ll see that you chose the best option you thought was available to you.
Of course, other options were available, but you couldn’t see them at the time.
A student came to my desk this week upset about a situation she did not like. She was so upset that she was unable to think about what she could do about the situation. She was not willing to try to calm down and sort out her options. Since she was so wound up, her mind running in circles like a squirrel on its running wheel, she could not think. She had no options. When asked a few questions about things she might do, she went back to being upset.
After a few minutes, it became clear that she felt the need to be upset, to feel victimized, to express the wrong that had been done, and to stay in that place of feeling bad. She could not see that she had options for action, that there were alternative ways of dealing with the situation. She could only see the obstacles to doing what she felt were the best solutions, rather than seeing any opportunities for fixing the problem.
Later the same day I found myself whining about a work situation, and as I complained to my friend, I could hear the childish “wahhh wahhh wahhh” sound in my own voice. I commented on it, and then allowed myself to calm down enough to listen to my friend’s advice. The immediate solution was obvious, and those were the steps I took. Like my student, I’d put my self in the squirrel cage, instead of stopping to take a breath and calming my mind so that I could think of another response.
Getting upset may be the natural response, but learning to control that emotion gives you the opportunity to find the options for solving the situation. Otherwise, you only see and create more obstacles between you and what you want.