By now, you certainly realize there are things in your life and in this world that are simply beyond your control.
That doesn’t seem to stop most us from trying. Events in the past, present, or future and especially other people are frequent targets of the need to control. Have you recognized this in yourself? How’s it working for you?
Our reaction to circumstances truly plays a key role in the overall quality of this experience. Yet how often do we catch ourselves and genuinely acknowledge the one thing we truly have control of?
That one thing would be our thoughts.
Let me share a fun story with all kinds of examples of circumstance woven in. It wasn’t fun while I was going through it, but of course hindsight is everything.
I was born in a shack in the hills of Kentucky.
Don’t worry, I’m not planning to share my entire life story.
My parents were young hippies soaking up the counterculture of the 70’s. Everything about the circumstances of my birth was purposeful on their part. They were in an anti-establishment mindset at the time. They didn’t need hospitals or government intervention.
That means they didn’t need to be bothered with getting me a birth certificate for…well, years.
Now, being born at home was a bit of a stigma for me earlier in life. I really didn’t want anyone to know about it. It certainly wasn’t something that I would weave into an introduction!
I also didn’t think much about it until a classmate in high school reacted with utter shock when she found out.
“You weren’t born in a hospital??!!” And the way that she said it was as if I were an alien from another planet. She was mortified.
By my late twenties, I had grown to very much appreciate my parents for having the courage to do this on their own, especially my mother. What a badass.
The circumstances of my birth and the delay in having it formally recorded was never a barrier in my life until two years ago when I applied for a passport.
Why? Because my birth date and the date of issue of my birth certificate were more than two years apart.
Circumstance. Fact. Completely neutral.
Okay, what do I need to do to prove my existence since I have worked and paid taxes for most of my life??
Well, here’s the fun part. According to the US Department of State, I needed one of the following:
- An affidavit from a witness (“such as a midwife”).
- Hospital records (nope).
- Immunization records (kind of).
- Early childhood school records (sketchy).
- Census record (maybe).
- Notation in a family bible (ridiculous).
That last one really got me! What??!! Okay, so if someone had written in their bible the day I was born, this is an acceptable form of proof.
Mine was a journey through utter bullshit bureaucracy that spanned several months. Every day, I grew more and more frustrated by it all. The journey just became more comical so I started to share the saga publicly on Facebook for my friends to follow. I used the hashtag #iamlegit.
All of the efforts and results along the way included:
- Affidavits from both parents (the only witnesses to my birth) were denied.
- Hospital records were non-existent (no one could believe I wasn’t taken in to be checked out).
- Immunization records had the wrong date of birth recorded (off by two days)! So they were rendered useless by me. I wasn’t even going to open that can of worms.
- School records weren’t the kind of records they were looking for (I’ve got nothing).
- There was no family bible (though I’ll admit that it crossed my mind to create one).
In the end, the only thing that came through was the Census Record. I had been documented as a ten year-old to have been living where I said I was at the time. Turns out, that was adequate and acceptable “proof of birth”.
Whatever. I had to pay for that report, so it makes sense.
Here’s the point of why I’m sharing this crazy story with you.
There are a LOT of circumstances included, none of which I had control of, and I allowed myself to feel victimized by them. All the way back to the day I was born!
None of these events meant anything until I had thoughts about them.
I wish my parents had just taken me to the hospital.
Why did they wait so long to get my birth certificate?
This is so stupid.
Why is this happening to me?
It’s not fair!
Those thoughts led to feelings of blame, shame, anger, frustration, bitterness, and on some days, utter despair.
As much as I joked with friends and family on the posts I was making, I just wanted a resolution that I had no control of. That was maddening.
Why did I need a passport? Well, we had our first ever European vacation booked, that’s why! Yet instead of basking in the anticipation of it, I began to fear that I wouldn’t even be going if I couldn’t prove my citizenship by the narrow standards that existed.
Because I continue to grow and evolve as a human and as a coach, I know if I were facing this roadblock today, I would handle it much differently.
The negative thoughts that I was having about situations that I had no control over would have been fleeting, at best. Instead of wallowing in the misery I had created and numbing away my negative emotions, I would have focused my energy on what needed to be done without making myself miserable along the way.
As there are no do-overs in this life, I’ll just have to be patient and wait for the next challenge to arise.
When that happens (and it will), here’s what I know to do:
- Recognize that a circumstance, situation, or event is what it is and means nothing about me until I have a thought that makes it so.
- Catch that thought and turn it around. Managing your mind 101.
- Choose a new thought that better serves me. My current favorite is, I am grateful for the lessons I am about to learn.
I know that last one seems “out there” so if it’s too much for you, pick your own thought – one that works for you. The key is to catch your mind doing its thing before it spirals you into a place you don’t need to be.
Apply your need to control something to those thoughts in your brain. It takes practice, but it’s very a empowering exercise that yields far healthier results for you long term.
“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle
Life will always throw you curve balls. Learn to be confident in your ability to connect with them in a way that propels you forward rather than the ways that drag you down.
Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Book a free consultation with me here.