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Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I am sure many of you would have encountered this famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll. Swindoll, who was born on October 18th, 1934, is an author and an educator. He emphasizes the importance of our attitudes in life, and how each morning when we wake up, we have a choice as to which attitude we will choose to embody that day.

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For Swindoll, attitudes are “more important than facts”, “more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes.” They are more important than what people think, say, or do, “than appearance, giftedness, or skill”. According to Swindoll, attitude can “make or break a company… a church… a home.”

Our attitudes shape our feelings, beliefs, and very often our behaviors. Our attitudes, whilst sometimes indifferent, are often either positive or negative. They play a big part in life – which at times can be immensely harsh. Things and events will happen over which we have no control.

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For some – they will accept the harsh reality of their situations, blaming their circumstances for their shortcomings. For them, the event and the outcome are seen as equivalent. They will make rash decisions, clouded by emotions. Decisions which they will regret later on.

For others, harsh realities are not accepted. These people are remarkable individuals. They succeed, despite. Despite what has happened to them, their past, and their difficulties. They overcome chronic diseases, disabilities, and human injustices (among others). They overcome despite adversity. Why?

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Because they recognize that they always have a choice as to what attitude they want to embody. Each and every day. They have a positive mentality, and a lot can be said for developing a positive mentality. For example, studies have shown that your perceptions of your age, have a direct impact on your life expectancy.

They also recognize that they have a choice as to how they react to everything that has happened in their past. They have control over their emotions. They overcome the odds, despite their situations.

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Consider the following examples:

  1. Jim Carrey, dropped out of school to support his family when he was 15, and at one point he was homeless living in a caravan. This did not stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian.
  2. Bethany Hamilton’s arm was bitten off by a shark at age 13. She was back on her surfboard one-month later. Two years later she won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships
  3. Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at the age of 10 as his parents could not afford the fees. This did not stop him from educating himself.
  4. Richard Branson has dyslexia. At school his grades were poor. Yet he has achieved mega success.
  5. Stephen Kings first novel was consistently rejected by publishing houses. His wife retrieved the manuscript, urged him to complete it. It has sold 350 million copies worldwide.
  6. Oprah Winfrey gave birth when she was 14, lost her child and ran away from home. She was also repeatedly molested by her cousin, uncle and family friend. She has achieved despite this.
  7. Thomas Edison failed a lot of times (there are debates that this figure is anywhere from 1000-10000 times) before he created the light bulb. Imagine the world without a light bulb?
  8. Kriss Karr was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she tackled the disease. She created a new nutritional lifestyle and created several self-help books and documentaries.
  9. Franklin Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down, at age 39. This did not stop him from leading his country.
  10. Charlize Theron at age 15, witnessed her own mother shoot her alcoholic father in an act of self-defence. This painful experience did not stop the actress from becoming the first South African actress to win an Academy Award.

Countless other examples exist, not only in terms of celebrities, but also in terms of people you may know personally.  The fact remains, these people recognize that life can be hard, things and events occur that are out of our control. But we always have a choice as to how we react.

And ultimately we are responsible for our own lives

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain, and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” -Walter Anderson

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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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