I used to believe that everything was someone else's fault; if something went wrong, I could easily find someone to blame to take the fault off myself thereby making the situation better. But the funniest thing kept happening: I kept making mistakes. I also kept blaming other people for those mistakes and oddly enough, I never felt any better or felt that I had learned anything from a single one of those mistakes!
People would say to me, "You keep making the same mistakes over and over again. When will you ever learn?" which made me feel even worse and so I would try to find other people or situations to blame! I remember one of the times I got most upset was when I dealt with relationship troubles and was having a discussion with my husband. I was trying to be rational with him because that’s what my therapist had told me to do, so I said to him, "That really makes me feel hurt and angry when you bring up things that happened so long ago."
More from YourTango: Teaching Your Kids How To Communicate No Matter The Technology
I’m sure he must have been watching Oprah because his response to me was, "I don’t make you angry. You make yourself angry! No one can make you angry unless you let them."
Now, that made me really angry! How could he even suggest that someone else's actions couldn't make me angry? I have no control over how people treat me or what they do to me, so how can I stop them from making me angry?
I lived with that belief for nearly 2 years until I went to a conference where I heard 2 of my mentors speak on exactly how I can make absolutely sure that no one or nothing else will ever again make me angry. What they said was that the secret lies in me. In their own unique way, they taught me that I am in control of everything in my world. I am in control of my thoughts, my beliefs and my actions, and as a result, I am in control of my reactions (good or bad) therefore, I determine who or what will make me angry, or not.
Once that idea sunk into my head and I began to look back on the things I considered failures, bad choices or mistakes in my life and I began to see very clearly how I could have so easily changed those failures into successes by the way I reacted to them. By reflecting back on them and envisioning them turning out the way I would have loved for them to play out it became clear to me that I am responsible for creating my own results.
It's kind of like a coach reviewing the playback with his team and pointing out were they went wrong, and then brainstorming to figure out how to do it better or differently the next time. Every person on the planet makes mistakes from the time we're born until the day we pass on. Life is not about trying to live mess free, it's about allowing messes to happen, finding the beauty in them and then cleaning them up joyfully knowing we are better for the lesson.
It's kind of funny, but my best example of how my reactions can change my outcome was taught to me by my two dogs, Buddy and Kenai. Buddy and Kenai are brothers, and we have had them since they were babies. They have always loved being outside with us, running as fast as they can around our yard and occasionally heading into the neighbor's yards to visit their doggie friends. When they were little, we kept them by our sides on a leash while they played, and they were under control. As they grew, we allowed them to be off the leash because they were too fast, and we were too lazy to run around everywhere with them.
One day, Buddy and Kenai ran out of our yard as fast as they could to find where the delicious hamburger smells were coming from. (Ironically at the Berger’s house nearly a block away.) We looked for them for over an hour! By the time we found them, we were tired and frustrated and our voices hurt from yelling their names. We were angry. We scolded them and took them home and put them in their kennel.
We had assumed they learned their lesson, so the next time we took them out to play, we didn't put them on a leash and again, they ran away! We yelled their names and chased them into the same yard that had contained the yummy picnic and nice people the week before. And again, we scolded them and took them home and put them in their kennel! This continued week after week until finally it became a daily occurrence.
I didn't understand, the louder I yelled and the angrier I got, the more they would disobey me! The truly frustrating part is that I had been a Veterinary Technician and a pet groomer for 13 years! I am their Alpha dog, their Mom; they should respect and listen to me, right?! But it took the words of wisdom from my little sister the dog trainer to help me see my mistake (yes, I know you caught this a while back didn't you?)
The problem was not in my dog's behavior, it was my response to their behavior that was causing the issue. By yelling and demanding their attention and then punishing them for finally coming to me, I was making coming back to me a really unpleasant experience. My dogs had chosen to run away and suffer the consequences rather than come to me when called!
When I stopped and looked back on how I could have changed the outcome, I realized that by simply praising them for coming to me when I called them in the first instance, or taking a leash and some treats with me and making going home fun, I could have started a completely different chain of events that would have made my dog's love staying in the yard with me and coming to me when I call them.
My dogs didn't set out to make me angry, but I chose to react with anger! By changing my reaction to the situation, I have changed the results. Now, I tell my puppies to go play and get treats, they run like nut balls around the yard. I reward them with a treat when they come to me when I call and they don't run away: my reactions, my choice, my results.
This week, when you write in your journal, think of something you did or something that happened each day that you are unhappy with the results. Then journal how you could have done it differently to get the results you would be happy with. Don't focus on the mistakes, they are in the past and cannot be changed, but the future and the lessons are your gifts! Make them as bright and beautiful as you dream them to be.
This article is based on a journal exercise from the book: Stop Raising Einstein; Discover the Unique Brilliance in Your Child…and You!
More from YourTango: How To Handle Mental Illness In Your Relationship and Family
For More Relationship Advice From YourTango: