You can give control of some part of you to things over which you have no control, allowing them to control your mood, your attitude, your outlook, as well as the actions you take—or don’t take—as a result of some external stimuli. Whatever the external trigger, it only has power over you if you allow it.
If you are often upset, angry, or consumed by negativity because of externalities over which you have no control, here is how to take back your power.
Refuse to Give them Attention
You may allow things like politics, global events, or the conflicts you perceive with other people’s beliefs and actions to trigger a shift in your state, changing it from positive to neutral to negative. Giving control to these things that you have zero control over can make you upset, unhappy, and negative, and in doing so, you disempower yourself and lessen the quality of your life and your happiness.
When you were younger than you are now, you paid zero attention to politics, the many foreign actors on the world stage, or what other tribes believed. You were likely much happier then, in part, because you were outside with your friends (something you should do much more often) and partly because the things that trigger you now commanded none of your attention. Did your lack of concern or care change the events of history?
Like many, you may act as if watching the scoreboard could change the outcome of the game, paying attention to all of the things that are beyond your control, even though your attention has no power to change them. Giving your attention to something over which you have no control and that change your state from positive to negative is to give them power over you, and a type of control they don’t deserve.
Deprive Them of Your Time
The more time you spend on things outside of your control, the more power you cede to them. The inability to avoid overly-sensationalized media designed to speak to the part of you that responds emotionally is a habit that will ensure you have a mentaller state that is more negative than positive. You can’t be triggered by that which is invisible to you.
You can choose not to leave the television on, pumping out headlines designed to capture your attention by suggesting that the world is on fire and out of control, something that has been true since the beginning, and indeed since we Homo Sapiens started to create order out of chaos. This fight will continue for as long as we are here. The social channels are optimized to keep you on whatever platform you prefer, providing you with a non-stop drip of negativity.
The more time you give these platforms, the more you give them control over your state.
There are better ways to spend your time, and there are media outlets that, while rare, are not overly-politicized or bent on provoking your emotions. By taking time away from the sources of negativity, you eliminate their power to control your attitude and your outlook. You may need to consider a negativity fast.
Lessen the Meaning
The primary source of negativity is not the external events beyond your control, but what you believe they mean. Your Uncle Enrico will tell you that the country is going to Hell in a hand-basket when the political tribe he opposes wins an election, all of the world events being the result of a global conspiracy to create a one-world government run by the Illuminati. and 5G towers.
You may invest too much meaning in the reality that other people have different beliefs and values, ones that conflict with yours. With close to eight billion people on the planet, it is enormously disempowering to allow yourself to be frustrated by the fact that most of the eight billion people are different from you.
One of the infections you pick up from giving your time and attention to sources designed to tell you that “others” are your “enemies” will cause you to find more meaning in your differences than they deserve.
The quality of your life isn’t going to be determined by what other people believe or what they do. By stripping the meaning from things external and outside of your control, you weaken their grip on you, allowing you to be more positive, optimistic, and giving you control over one of the most critical factors to your success, your attitude.
Control your Self-Talk
Of all the things that can trigger my negative self-talk, interruptions to my schedule would do it. My self-talk starts with, “These people are stealing my time,” super-charging my negative reaction and attributing intentions to people that were not there. Because I fly every week, more than occasionally, there may be a delay, with a plane not showing up or missing pilots or weather causing things to slow down.
At some point, I changed my self-talk from “stealing my time” to “I finally have a couple of hours to read the books I always wanted to read,” recognizing the delay as a gift.
You may or may not be aware of the fact that thinking is mostly you talking to yourself. What you say to yourself isn’t true. But it does feel like it is true to you, even though it is not. When you say, “This is terrible,” it is undoubtedly going to feel terrible to you, even if it isn’t awful when contrasted with things at are genuinely awful.
Maybe the external things that you pay attention to and ascribe more meaning than they deserve are just “inconvenient,” or “unfortunate,” or “not likely to have any negative impact and are inconsequential to my goals, my life, or my happiness.”
What To Do Instead
Your time, your attention, and the things in which you invest meaning should be the things that are within your control—or at worst, your influence, starting with your state, your attitude, your outlook, and your demeanor as you engage in life. Not that I would pretend these things are easy to control, but when compared to all of the utterly impossible situations, they are an order of magnitude easier.
You are a collection of habits you have created for yourself over the course of your life. If you want to be positive, optimistic, future-oriented, empowered, and happy, you start by removing the sources of your negativity, starting with identifying the sources and replacing them with things more beneficial, like gratitude, contribution, your goals, and your relationships.
Your world is going to look very much like what you focus on, the meaning you invest in things, and what you tell yourself.
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