The Only Thing We Can Control

    "The only thing we have full control of is our attitude." I heard this striking phrase while listening to an interview with Own the Podium CEO Anne Merklinger on CBC radio.  
    Immediately I went into full 'Devil's advocate' mode.  Wait, don't we have full control of our bodies?  No, if that were true, I would be outside running, and not inside, resting a foot plagued by a stress fracture.  
    Well, what about my situation in life?  I'm very much anti-victim in my mentality and I believe strongly that we have made all of the decisions that have led us to our present circumstances.  A corollary to this belief is that if we want different circumstances, we can simply make different choices.  But do I have full control over the results of my choices?  Alright, probably not.  Life happens.  Unforeseen things occur that can derail even the best-laid plans.
    Well, what about children.  Don't we have control over them?  Ha!  Perceived control, perhaps.  But anyone with kids has likely long since given up trying to control them, or faced extreme madness.  It's the same with trying to control anybody.  Even trying to change someone's behaviour isn't possible.  
    The more someone tries to tell me to change, the more I dig my heals in and refuse.  I can guarantee I'm not the only one.  But, if someone takes the time to talk with me, to be curious about why I'm doing the 'undesired' behaviour, and to share their experience of that behaviour, I am more likely and open to change it.  This approach has the advantage because nobody is trying to take away my control.  I still get to be the decider of how I act; I just get more information so that I can make better decisions.
    Heck, speaking of actions, I often don't think I even have full conscious control over how I act all of the time.  With all of the conflicting wants and desires I have to contend with in my life, I often make decisions I regret later.  Just talk to anyone who over-eats at a holiday meal.  They know exactly how they're going to feel about 30-45 minutes after eating the mound of food on their plates, yet we seem incapable of doing anything.  What's with that??
    Well, let's turn the argument back to the issue of my attitude.  Sometimes I have a bad one.  I don't always feel like I'm in control of it.  Perhaps other women in their child-bearing years can sympathize with me. There are times of the month when I am definitely not in control of my emotions.  
        But that's emotions, and we're talking about attitude.  Can I separate the two?  Don't my emotions have a big part to play over my attitude?
    Well, perhaps not.  If you think like me, that our emotions are a product of our attitude, then it can be easy to reverse-engineer the emotions I want to have.  Here's how I explain it.
    Our emotions are a result of what we think about a certain situation or event.  Granted, they can also sometimes simply be an uncontrollable hormonal concoction, but I'll address this shortly.  So there are 2 factors that lead to our emotions: the events or situations (I call this the 'data' component) and then there is what I think about the events and situations, or what I call 'story'.  From here come our emotions.
    Data comes at us in all shapes and forms.  We see things, hear things, taste them, feel them, sometimes sense them in other ways, and we even experience them as hormone fluctuations.  This is data.  It's the stuff we can measure scientifically, the evidence we bring to court.  And we don't always have control over it.
    But we do always have control over the second part, the 'story' part, the way we make sense of the data, otherwise known as our attitude.  Take, for instance, that chemical hormonal imbalance.  The fact that I have changes in my estrogen and progesterone levels can be scientifically measured.  But my attitude and my thoughts toward these changes are entirely fluid.  If I think the changes are annoying, I'm likely to be perturbed and moody.  But let's say I've just come off birth control and am trying to regulate my cycle so that I can have children.  In that case, the return of such evidence as my changing hormones might be a welcomed one!
    And I think it's the same for any situation that befalls us: it's not the situation that controls our attitude and our emotions.  It's what we think about the situation that has the ultimate control over our entire experience of life.  I've proven this to myself over and over again as I've looked at how other people cope with the exact same circumstances I've been in.  I've learned a great deal from others in my hunt for the attitudes that bring joy, peace and satisfaction in life, because I believe we don't have to live in misery. 
    Here are some attitudes that I've given up, in favour of these attitudes that work;
"Nothing I try works. I should give up"...                              
"I know there's a solution to my problem. I just haven't found it yet."
"Everything bad happens to me"...   "Everything happens for a reason" or, "I know God has a plan for my life, even if I can't see it."

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