It’s not what happens that upsets us


It’s not what happens that affects us emotionally but the way that we interpret what happens.

For example, recent political events on both sides of the Atlantic have resulted in large numbers of people becoming wildly optimistic about the future, while large numbers of other people have become wildly pessimistic.

The point is that both groups of people are responding not to what has actually happened but to what they imagine those events will mean about the future. (And in a time of churning, things almost certainly won’t turn out the way that any of us expect them to.)

Understanding this gives us the power to realise five things:

  1. It’s our interpretation about what happens that makes us feel excited or afraid
  2. Our interpretation might not be correct
  3. Whether it is or not, it hasn’t happened yet
  4. So if we let go of our emotional reactions and return to the present moment we have the power to look for other interpretations and find what is most likely
  5. Whatever we decide, it still doesn’t change who we are and where we want to get to, it only changes the route we take to get there

Or as Stephen Covey puts it:

“In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.”

Chapter 2 of Inner Leadership provides tools for improving our interpretations.
Chapters 3-7 contain tools for finding an inspiring way forward out of whatever situations we find ourselves in.

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