“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.” -Viktor Frankl
“We have a fire!”
Slowly waking from my Nyquil induced sleep, I struggled to understand what my wife was saying. “We’ve got what?”
“We have a fire,” she said with enough emotion to bring me to consciousness.
I stumbled out of the bedroom and toward some unusual noises in the garage. When I opened the door, the heat from 50 holiday ovens hit me in the face and smoke filled the garage with an ominous, orange pulse.
Slamming the door, I ran back toward the bedroom. “Grab the kids and call 911!”
My wife grabbed our three year-old daughter and I got our six year-old son. When we hit the door, our neighbor, in his bathrobe, was running toward the front door with his cell phone. He had already dialed emergency services and was giving them all of the details they needed to dispatch the fire department.
We made our way over to his house and made sure everyone was ok. I went back out to wait for the fire department and started to assess the situation. Within a couple of minutes, plumes of flame popped up through the roof in different areas. The fire was in the attic and all over the house. A massive blaze consumed the garage and any serious hope of recovering anything faded.
By the time the sun rose, our lives and pajamas were what remained.
My family and I began doing…well, what we do! Overcoming adversity. We figured out our immediate needs, what our next steps were, and took action to get things moving. In a matter of days, we had life back to normal, relatively speaking, and kept moving our lives forward.
The most unusual and serendipitous part of the experience was how people responded to us. Not the outpouring of kindness and generosity, though that was pretty amazing. What caught me off guard was how people reacted when they realized that we weren’t distraught and immobilized by what was going on.
In some cases, I would be willing to say that they were even… a little disappointed.
“How can you be so calm and motivated right now?”
“You act like nothing happened!” And my favorite…
“Doesn’t it bother you that you lost everything? You must just be in shock.”
I actually laughed out loud when I heard the last one. In shock? Really? When you stand in your neighbor’s yard for four hours and watch all of your material possessions evaporate, reality is very palpable, and any shock floats away with the smoke.
What I began explaining to people is what I want to share with you, via this long introduction. Events in life are constant and impartial. Not unfair. Impartial. It is up to us to give the events meaning and decide how we will carry on once they’ve occurred. When we face adversity, overcoming adversity becomes the priority.
My mindset, then and now, is designed to focus on possibility and productivity. When events like the fire hit, my mindset takes all of the data and acts as a filter. Not as a way to turn a blind-eye toward the hardship, but to give me the kind of information I need to further my purposes.
This filtering process makes me more efficient and successful than I could be otherwise. It allowed me to go through any event and stay on pace and productive, because I’ve decided that’s how I want to be.
Yes, we still cried, cussed, and missed things we had always taken for granted. A well-crafted mindset makes you resilient, not inhuman. Nevertheless, the point is, the event didn’t dictate to us how we would behave. That was under our control.
In fact, in that same year, I finished a bachelor degree, began a masters, and my young (39) wife had a freak heart attack. Put a total-loss house fire on the end of it and we had enough ‘yuck’ and stress in one year to justify some cynicism and negativity. Instead, we rallied as a family, became even closer, and oh by the way, grew our income. This was only possible because of mindset.
I hear you out there…”That’s great, mindset guy, but what does that mean for me?” It means everything! Our mindsets are active and filtering the world for us everyday, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
So how do we get conscious and take control?
- Take 100% responsibility for your life. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. What are you going to do about it? Abdicating responsibility doesn’t get you off the hook for making something happen. Instead, it renders you powerless and a victim.
- Get clear about what you want. Just like ancient mariners used the compass to maintain direction during storms, your clearly defined objectives point the way forward when all hell breaks loose. You can steer yourself to clear waters instead of getting dashed against the rocks.
- Purposely look for opportunities. To build your unshakeable mindset, you’ll need a little practice. When you are clear about what you want, consciously look for ways to get closer. Soon enough, you’ll retrain your brain to show you the best path through.
- Pay attention to your dominant emotions. When life strikes, are you drawn to finding blame or to correcting your course? I don’t mean for anyone to ignore the emotions that pull us back, but don’t give them all of your power. Grieve, mourn, get angry…but then bring your emotional awareness back to possibility.
An alternative to taking conscious control of your mindset is to allow the world at-large to shape it for you. Any takers? Ok then, make the decision now, that you are in control of your life and events will no longer kick the chair out from under you.
Soon, your mind will begin to do the sifting and sorting for you, leaving you free to act on the new opportunities that you never knew were there before.
Be your best,