I Can't Control Everything

I was talking with Lily over the weekend, she was all worked up about some kid that was in her class last year. With school starting back in a few weeks she’s getting a little anxious that maybe he’s going to be in her class again.

Our conversation went like this:

“Daddy, he’s just so mean!”

“He tells me all the time that I’m not smart!”

“He picks on my clothes too, and tells me that I don’t know how to dress!”

“He even picks on my book bag, he says that glitter is for dumb girls!!”

“Lily,” I said, “when he tells you that you’re not smart, what happens?”

“I get really upset,” she said, “it just makes me so mad. I mean, my grades are way better than his so who is he to talk? And when he picks on my clothes it makes me feel like I’m not as good as him.”

“Okay, so when he says those things do the words actually hurt you?”

“No, it just makes me upset and unhappy.”

“So if it’s not the words that are making you unhappy, what do you think it is?”

“My reaction,” she says (albeit with her eyes rolling just a little bit). 

She's right.

Winner, winner. Chicken dinner.

Now to be fair she didn’t pull that answer out of thin air. She’s heard me say it dozens of times, so have all my kids.

I say it all the time because it’s true. 

In terms of my overall happiness it’s the one piece of advice that I’ve probably found more useful than any other. I don’t remember where I first heard it, nor do I know if there’s someone to whom it should be attributed.

I just know it works, so I try to keep it at the front of my mind.

It’s nearly universal. It applies to almost any person, any event, or any situation.

“I can’t control X, but I can control my reaction to it.”

When I remember that, I’m much happier.