Tar Broom by Flickr user erix!

"Tar Broom" by Flickr user erix!

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about some things that were troubling me. I was unhappy with the behavior of others. As we discussed the situation, it became clear that the behavior may well have been driven by others’ reactions to my own behavior.

“You can’t control what they do,” said my friend, “but you can control what you do.” In retrospect, this is very straightforward advice — yet, in the moment, it’s often hard to see.

What’s even more difficult, is to know what it is I can control. My friend gave me a list that has proven to be very, very helpful. I thought you might find it useful.

These are the things that I can control:

  • Attitude: What do I bring to the situation? What are my expectations?
  • Effort: Am I just coasting along at half steam, or am I all in?
  • Tone: Do I say the correct things, yet clothe them in sarcasm or smugness?
  • Motives: Do I have hidden motives, such as vanity or pride?
  • Thoughts: Am I harboring negative thoughts about others?
  • Actions: Regardless of my intentions, are my actions helpful?
  • Reactions: How do I react to what others do? Is it helpful?

If I can keep these elements in check, I can know that if others behave in ways I don’t like, or that cause me problems, it’s not my own fault but something else. I can know that my own side of the street is clean.

Now, I just need to keep this front and center for when I really need it!