You Can't Control Events – Only Your Reaction To Them

You either live a life of celebration or desperation.

Roger Miller said, “Some people walk in the rain. Others just get wet.” He’s so right.

Have you ever noticed that two people can experience the same event but react in totally different ways? I sure have. And that reaction makes all the difference in the world.

In my seminars, I teach a simple formula. It says E + R = O or Event plus Reaction equals Outcome. You can’t change, prevent, or delete many of the “Events” that happen in life, but you do have control over your “Reaction.” And that’s critical. Your reaction will give you the “Outcome” of celebration or desperation.

So what determines your “Reaction?” There are three elements. The first element is BELIEF. If you have the right beliefs, and if you believe in the right things, you’ll be on the road to a life of celebration.

Unfortunately, some people just don’t get it. They believe in the wrong things. Just look at people’s bumper strips, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Last week I saw a well dressed person driving an expensive car with a bumper strip that read, “Life is a bitch, then you die.” How sad!

Contrast that to a person who uses the power of BELIEF. Even though that person might have a challenging life, he or she continues to experience joy and peace of mind.

Perhaps the best example I ever came across was a saying scratched on the wall of a basement in Germany. It was found after World War II, placed there by some unknown Jew who was hiding from the Nazis. He wrote: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.”

He or she was living a life of celebration when most people would have thought it impossible to do so. It was a matter of BELIEF.

The second element is FOCUS. What do you choose to focus on? There’s always some good in a bad situation, and there’s always some bad in a good situation. Afterall, we’re living on earth, not in heaven.

An old ditty says it this way: “As you go through life, brother, Whatever be your goal, Keep your eye upon the doughnut, And not upon the hole!”

I’m sure you know some people who focus on the hole, and I’m sure those are the same people who live a life of desperation.

It’s like one person I knew who was sent to a seminar by her company. The trip was paid by the employer; the hotel was very nice, and the training was excellent. But this person’s only comment about the entire experience was the fact that the chairs in the training room were uncomfortable. I’m sure they were. But her focus on the uncomfortable chairs kept her from celebrating the rest of the trip.

By contrast, Dr. Marion Stottlemire at the Kansas University Public Management Center says, “One of the greatest causes of stress in the modern world is unhappiness with our work or our work situation. YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO BE UNHAPPY ON THE JOB. It is killing you.”

To make his point, Dr. Stolttlemire related the following story. He recently met a friend that he hadn’t seen for a long time. Of course, he asked him how he was, and his friend said he was happy and healthy.

As they talked, Dr. Stottlemire learned that his friend had been passed over for a promotion. In fact a subordinate had gotten the job. So he asked his friend how he was dealing with it. He replied, “Well for a while I was quite bitter. Then I realized that I was making myself miserable. I decided that I had always liked this job, and I was just going to keep doing it and make the most of it.” The friend had decided to focus on the doughnut and not on the hole.

So the second element that determines your life of celebration or desperation is your FOCUS. Or as one person said, it’s better to “grow” through your experiences than simply “go” through them. There’s a lesson in every experience, and if you focus on that, you’ll be in much better shape.

The third determining element is VISION. Whereas as focus deals with what you see in the present, vision deals with what you see in the future. Those who live lives of desperation only see doom and gloom in the future.

While England or Great Britain was arguably one of the best countries in the world and was running the largest empire in the world, there were many prophets of doom. In 1801, Wilberforce said he dared not have any children because the future was too unsettled. In 1806, William Penn said, “There is scarcely anything around us but ruin and despair.” In 1848, Lord Shaftsbury said, “Nothing can save the British Empire from shipwreck.” In 1849, Benjamin Disraeli said, “In industry, commerce, and agriculture there is no hope.” In 1852, the Duke of Wellington said, “I thank God that I shall be spared from seeing the consummation of ruin that is settling in around us.”

They did not have a positive or promising vision.

Neither did the prize fighter who was having a rough time in his first important fight. He was floored in the second round by a powerful punch. With glazed eyes, he tried to look up from the mat. “Let the referee count,” yelled his trainer. “Don’t get up until eight.” The fighter nodded and replied weakly, “What time is it now?”

You need a positive VISION of the future if you’re going to live a life of celebration. Tom Layton makes that clear. At 101 years of age, he has won several medals at the Senior Olympics, and he’s a man of great joy. When asked for his secret, he said, “I don’t look at my life as behind me.”

Now that might sound like an odd thing for a person to say who is 101 years old. But Tom has a very different definition of “old.” He says, “Old is when your memories exceed your dreams.” It’s obvious that Tom still has a lot of dreams. He has a VISION for the future. What about you?

Action:  BELIEF, FOCUS, and VISION will give you a life of celebration instead of desperation. This week I challenge you to work on your FOCUS.

To be specific, select 10 specific events that occur in your life this week. For every one of those events, look for the good in each of those events. It may take a little work to find those positive elements, but the more you practice these FOCUS skills, the better you’ll feel and the better you’ll do.