“You have power over your own mind – not over events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
– Marcus Aurelius
When I applied this quote to my life, I gained the ability not only to stay calm when my circumstances seemed overwhelming, but to use a simple shift in my thoughts to turn serious problems into unappreciated blessings.
Today, I’m going to tell you how I did it, and how you can do the same in your life.
It started with a strange lesson I didn’t understand: I have power over my mind
Back in 1971, a friend brought me to a lecture where I learned a bizarre success tip that would completely change my life.
The lesson was: “Nothing is bad unless you think it’s bad.”At the age of twenty-two, I thought that advice was ridiculous. I crossed my arms and thought, “That’s not true – there are obviously bad things in the world, like war and car wrecks.”
Knowing how illogical his comment sounded, the lecturer said, “I know what you’re thinking, and I agree – at the level of fact, there are many things we’d like to change. But you have complete authority over your experience, no matter how it happens or appears.”
“Here’s an experiment, “ he continued, “…the next time something happens in your life that seems really bad, hit your internal pause button and wait three days before panicking. During those three days, turn the volume up on your curiosity, and ask yourself, ‘What good might I derive from this situation?’”
At the time, I didn’t take the advice very seriously. I left the lecture feeling unimpressed, not realizing that it would be only a couple days before I’d need to put the tools I’d just received to the test.
A few days later, my husband lost his job
At 5:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the man to whom I was married at the time came home looking deeply upset. Shaken and ashen-faced, he explained that there had been a big layoff at his workplace. 100 people had lost their jobs, including him.
I immediately started to panic. The lecturer had claimed that nothing is bad, but this seemed really, objectively horrible! How were we going to pay our bills and put food on the table?
Then the rest of the lesson came back to me: “Hit your internal pause button, and wait three days.” I wasn’t sure how to do that – back then, we didn’t even have pause buttons on cassette machines, let alone other devices or ourselves!
I decided to do it by delaying panic – it was Tuesday, so I chose to wait until Friday before I would let myself get really scared. In the meantime, it was time to turn up my curiosity.
You have power over your mind…
We put the lecturer’s advice to use, and came up with a plan
My husband and I sat down with a pen and paper to explore possibilities.
This actually turned out to be easier for him than it was for me – I had trouble thinking about anything besides how bad the situation was, but he found some good in it right away.
If he could work closer to home, and didn’t have to drive 1.5 hours to work each way, that would be good. And what if he could make more money and work shorter hours?
So we began to think – what businesses are closer to home? What work could he do for these businesses, that would be highly paid and require fewer hours than he used to work?
Because we were thinking about, paying attention to, and focusing on what possible good could come from that situation, different ideas began to come into our awareness, and I began to feel more hopeful.
“I’ll talk to you on Friday at 5:00.”
Over the next 3 days, panic rose over and over, but now I had a tool with which to deal with it. I could say to that panic, “I’ll talk to you on Friday at 5:00.”
As we did this, we started to come up with places where he could apply for a job, and then he put our plan into action.
On Wednesday, he submitted his application for his chosen position. On Thursday, he got a call back. And Thursday evening, he walked in the door, completely transformed from the ashen-faced man I’d seen on Tuesday.
He’d gotten a job that was closer to home, where he could work shorter hours, make more money, and ride his bike to work.
And I’d gotten the revelation that, for the first time in my life, I had not suffered while waiting for a circumstance to change before I could feel better. I could schedule my panic for a later time, rather than letting it take hold of me.
Power over your mind: How can you apply this to your life?
Everyone encounters challenging circumstances in our lives. But it’s up to us to determine whether those circumstances will master us, or we’ll master our circumstances and turn our obstacles into opportunities for blessings. This is part of having a growth mindset.
So the next time something “bad” happens, and you begin to panic, I encourage you to:
- Take a deep breath
- Hit your internal pause button
- Wait 3 days before you revisit the panic
If fear attempts to take hold during those three days, tell it, “I’ll talk to you in three days.”
While you’re waiting, don’t just wait mindlessly – turn up the volume on your curiosity, and write down every good thing you might derive from the experience.
Then, once you have your list of good things that could happen, ask yourself: “What is the first step I could take, right now, to make that happen?” Take that step right away, even if you can’t see the entire path.
What about the rest of the path to success?
You now have a tool for trading panic for hope, and turning setbacks into blessings, even if the situation seems objectively terrible.
But what about the rest of your path to success?
How do you choose goals that aren’t just GOOD, but are also aligned with your highest purpose and dreams, and that will help you create lasting happiness, fulfillment and abundance?
And how do you choose actions that will get you quick and lasting results, so you can create a life you LOVE living?
To help you do this, I’ve created a free resource you can download and start using within minutes to start building the life of your dreams, no matter what your circumstances look like at this moment.
Download your free dream-building resource below.