Are you frustrated living at the effect of others? Feeling helpless or out of control? This article offers a way to start and build upon a foundation so you can have more control in life. I share three basic questions for you to answer when life hands you lemons. The better you can answer, the more control you will have.
What do I Know for Sure?
This is an insightful question that will open your eyes like you never imagined. The reason is because we often believe some things (or a lot of things) are true when they are not. There is a critical distinction between what you believe to be true versus what is true.
For example, you may believe, “My boss is out to get me, I’m not treated fairly.” The reason you believe this to be true, perhaps, is because you have evidence. It appears your boss reprimands you for mistakes, doesn’t approve vacation requests, and didn’t give you a raise. Thus, your logical conclusion is that the boss is targeting you unfairly.
Let’s pause for a moment, and ask, “what do I know for sure?”
Do you know unequivocally for sure the boss is out to get you? Actually, no, you don’t. That is a conclusion your mind has drawn up. Is it unequivocally true you are treated unfairly? Let’s dissect fairness – what is fair and how does it apply to everyone?
Does the boss reprimand you only for your mistakes and not others … has the boss ever denied others’ vacation requests … could there be a reasonable explanation you were the only one denied a raise?
This exercise, “what do I know for sure?” will help you shed light on your self-talk, which could become self-destructive if not put in check. It is a starter question that will springboard your way to having more control.
How Can I Help?
This is a beautiful question. It helps your mind break out of the victim or blaming mindset. “But I am a victim!” you might quip. “But it was so-and-so’s fault!” Those beliefs resemble a kind of self-pity, poor-me mentality that fuels negative energy. Negative energy leads to negative actions. I recommend avoiding counterproductive self-talk. It is an easy path, requiring little resistance that promotes downward spirals.
Instead, if you’d like to have more control in your life, I recommend a different path. The path this more difficult and could make your brain hurt. Find answers to, “how can I help?”
Referring to the example above, suppose your boss is out to get you. Suppose you believe this to be a fact. “How can I help?” will get your gears turning in a more positive direction. I am not claiming you go to extremes and try to be best friends. However, I guarantee you can dig deep and find small ways to impact the situation.
“How can I help?” may invoke a variety of answers. It could translate to your job efforts, your timeliness, your communications, maybe even the way you carry yourself. This question does not imply you are at fault or that you’re doing things the wrong way.
It is a positive question that opens the mind to exploring positive actions.
What Does Great Look Like?
When question 1 and 2 seem futile, you can try answering, “what does great look like?” We all want to be great, right? We all want to do great things and make great impacts, don’t we? This question is another way to have more control.
When you’re in a tough situation and it feels like the only way is down, think about greatness. Think about how you could create greatness with available resources. I’m not stating you must solve all problems, and you certainly can’t solve other people’s problems.
I am suggesting you find a way to start small. Maybe creating greatness could mean smiling more. It could mean asking the colleague who hates you if they need anything. Using the example above, it could mean calmly sharing your evidence with the boss to maturely discuss your concerns.
The uplifting impact these three questions can generate are far superior to the negative impacts caused by dwelling or self-pity. Another reason I recommend these three questions is because they are open-ended, ready to be tailored by you and for you. There are no right or wrong answers.
You can have more control in your life, and it starts by answering the three questions above. I am not taking credit for these questions. They originate from a phenomenal TedX Talk by therapist, leadership expert and drama researcher Cy Wakeman. I encourage you to watch as she eloquently explains the nature of these power questions.