MYST 62 Trevitorial: Choose to Change

Today’s quote comes from Kara Counard, our guest from Episode 30. (Kara’s story is a powerful example of making tough choices, and finding greater success! If you haven’t listened to the episode, check it out.) Kara suggests that we need to change our minds about ourselves. What is she talking about?

We have control over very few things in our lives. We can’t control the weather.

We can train our pets (sometimes) but we really don’t control them.

Our kids? Please.

We can control the vehicles we drive…unless you hit a patch of ice here in Wisconsin, in which case you are being controlled by momentum.

We might have control over where we work, but my guess is that everyone who is listening right now has to answer to someone else for some part of your job. Even if you are a self-employed entrepreneur, you still need to be responsive to your audience so that you give them the answer to their problems.

About the only thing we can control with absolute certainty is our reactions to stimuli around us. That’s it.

I’ll cover this in greater detail in an upcoming show, but I recently had a student ask me why I don’t get upset when things go wrong. Sometimes a student will make a mistake. Or our assigned meeting room at the clinical site will be arbitrarily changed. Or weather forces a cancelation of class—after I’ve already driving 40 miles through a snow storm.

I don’t get upset because a) that won’t change anything, and b) how I react is my choice.  Why bother getting upset over a snowstorm? That won’t change anything except to make me angry, frustrated and disturbed. The snow will remain, unfazed by my emotional outburst. And I choose to not lose my temper over things that I cannot alter.

It, like so much else, is a choice. And we can choose to look at things in any way we want.

Let me give you an example:

Last April, very early in spring, the ground still snow-covered, I was driving home on an interstate highway, with a posted speed limit of 65mph / 105Kph. As I drove, with no other traffic around me, the left front ball joint of my wheel snapped. One minute, I was driving carefree and then suddenly BANG! I was sliding. I steered to the right to get off the highway, and in doing so, slid about 20 feet down an embankment and crashed through two stout fence posts before coming to a stop.

from a distance

The offending wheel!  close up, resized and highlighted

It was the most exciting 3-4 seconds of my life. It was 3-4 seconds that lasted about 18 lifetimes while it was happening.

When I came to a stop, my first reaction was laughter. I could not believe what happened and that I was completely unhurt. The car? Totaled. Then I called my auto insurance agent, and a local tow-truck service. I was dialing the local Sherriff’s line when I saw one of the deputies carefully walk down the embankment.

I got out, and we talked. He determined based on skid marks on the highway that I was not driving recklessly, and he also did not smell alcohol on my breath. So we waited for the tow truck and then he drove me to a restaurant to call for my son to pick me up.

That was scary. And I was sad, because I really liked that car, and I knew that the insurance company would declare it a total loss. But I was sooooo happy.

My wife wasn’t driving the car. Nor were my sons. That would have made me so worried. When it happened, there was no traffic around me. Suppose a car had been tailgating me? Or one had been driving in the lane to my right? If this had happened 5 seconds earlier or 10 seconds later (I later timed it), in both cases I would have not slid down an embankment, but rather been pitched off the roadway, down to another road 20 feet below. What if I had taken my alternate route home (which I do about half the times)? It is a lonely county highway, little traveled, with steeper embankments going down to small rivers?  Or, most likely, if this had been a normal year, the snow cover would have been gone and the ground soft and soggy. Instead of sliding, my wheels probably would have dug in, and made my car roll. And at 65mph (ish), it would roll many times.

So many worse things could have happened. Instead of being upset at breaking my car, I was happy and overjoyed that nothing truly bad happened.

When was the last time something bad happened to you? Something unexpected? Did you react with anger, frustration? If you did react like that, did it make anything better?

What does that have to do with changing our minds about ourselves?

How we feel about ourselves, about others within our life, about our situation in life, all of those feelings are a choice. And if our current choice is not working for us, we need to change.

We need to change our reactions, our thoughts, our feelings. No one can change that for you. Do you dislike your manager? Maybe so. Does having those feelings result in any positive change? Probably not.

So what can you do? You have two options. No, three. You can change your reactions to you manager, you can change your thoughts about your current job and look for work elsewhere, or you can stay where you are and keep thinking your current thoughts and remain miserable.  (Oh, and in case you don’t know, everyone around you knows that you are miserable. Including your manager.)

You need to make a choice about making a change. And all changes begin mentally. When I am having a bad day, I ask one question (and it is a simple one): “Is there something that I can do to directly change my situation?” In my broken car, there was nothing I could do to change the outcome. So I didn’t worry about it. When my wife told me that her car was handling poorly on the snowy roads, I could do something. I first checked the treads, and then I ordered the best snow tires I could get for her car. Expensive? Yes. But would I rather pay that, or always worry when the roads are snowy and slippery (about 4 months a year in this part of Wisconsin)?

“Can you do something that will change your situation?” If yes, then do it!

If no, then accept your situation. In blunt language, “Suck it up, Buttercup” and live with it. Whining won’t change it, and no one wants to hear that! Having a tantrum won’t change it. Accept it. Deal with it. Learn from it to (hopefully) prevent it from happening again.

Choose to change.

It is a powerful ability. And not everyone will take this advice. It looks much more passive than some people want, but it is really “active-passivity”. You are not passively accepting your fate, but rather, you are choosing to not fight a useless battle. Save your energies and ammunition for a fight that is possible.

You all know people around who fight everything, every time. They never win. No one takes their actions and words seriously. And then you may know that one person. Quiet. Gets along with everyone. Adapts to changes easily. Oh, he/she might grumble, but they don’t put up fights, and the grumbling is short-lived.

Until something big happens. And then, suddenly, they change. The quiet, peaceful, get-along person becomes vocal, forceful and stands their ground! And they usually win, right?

What will you do? How will you change?


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

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