Do you ever feel like your life is out of control? Do you feel that others have more influence over what happens to you than you do? The bad news is that to some extent it’s probably true that external forces are affecting your life. The good news is that you have more control than you might imagine. In fact, making a few changes in your perspective enables you to recognize and focus on what you CAN control, thereby increasing the quality of your life significantly.

Although we often are subject to forces outside of ourselves, the fact is that we ALWAYS have a choice about how we experience any given situation. WE get to choose whether we treat challenges as insurmountable obstacles or as opportunities. Whether we seek the negatives in a situation or the positives is our decision. It’s a fact: whether we search for positive aspects or negative ones, we will find them.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in workplaces across the U.S. today. Though there are signs the economy is on the rebound, employees continue to find themselves faced with the possibility or the reality of layoffs, furloughs, and cuts in pay and benefits. When one’s livelihood is threatened, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, as if things are spiraling out of control. This is exactly the time that leaders must step up and offer an antidote. One of the most significant things they can do for themselves and for employees is to show how to break this spiral - or to prevent it in the first place. It doesn’t cost anything, and the payoff is tremendous for everyone involved. Changing how you experience any given situation is as simple and as complex as changing your perspective.

Here’s what I mean by that statement. YOU are the only person who can choose the quality of your life. You alone are the source of your experiences. No one else has that responsibility - or the ability to make that decision for you. It’s not something that others do to or for you; it’s a personal choice you make, consciously or unconsciously. You get to choose whether you experience a given situation as a victim wallowing in self-pity or as a healthy individual who can act with purpose. For those who may be skeptical about this assertion or think it can’t possibly work given the dire straits in which they find themselves, I invite them to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived three years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Briefly, he realized that although his captors could do whatever they wanted to him physically, he alone retained control over his mind. He was able to survive by choosing how he perceived his day-to-day experiences. Although his circumstances did not change, the way he viewed them literally made the difference between life and death for him.

When it comes to taking charge of the quality of your life experiences, it’s entirely up to you. You cannot delegate or abdicate this responsibility. Yet we often have years or perhaps decades of practice in being victims because we didn’t know we had an alternative. For suggestions about how to begin to break free of these unproductive habits or ingrained patterns, please see our articles Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life and How to Release Things You Cannot Control. Putting their suggestions into practice will help you answer the question posed in the title of this article: what quality of life do you choose?

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.

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