by Niall Doherty

A friend of mine recently commented that nothing seems to get me down; I take everything in stride and focus on the positive.

Now that’s not always true — I’m not immune to the occasional lull — but I do think I’m pretty good at staying upbeat. Perhaps the biggest reason I’m able to do that is because I realize everything is a choice. And I do mean everything.

One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and went on to found logotherapy. In the book, he recounts his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. He writes of the guards taking everything away from the prisoners, all of their human freedoms, in an effort to crush their spirit and destroy their will.

But Frankl came to the realization that there was one thing that could not be taken away from him: his freedom to choose his reaction to what was happening to him. As Frankl himself puts it:

Between stimulus and response lies man’s greatest power: the power to choose.

Frankl went through a living hell and lost just about everyone he ever loved. He wasn’t sure if he would ever make it out of there alive. But he refused to surrender that power to choose. He found meaning in his suffering. Lucky for a lot of people that he did, because he went on to help and inspire millions through his writings and teachings after the war.

Use your power wisely

If you get upset by someone or something, you’re giving that person/thing power over you. But you don’t have to surrender that power. You can choose not to.

A story about the Buddha reinforces this point. There was a man who constantly harassed and insulted the Buddha, throwing all sorts of verbal abuse at him. But the Buddha never seemed fazed by this. When someone asked why he didn’t take offense, the Buddha replied…

If someone gives you a gift and you refuse to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?

Whether it’s stubbing your toe in the morning, having your laptop stolen or getting laid off, you can choose your reaction. Who says you have to feel bad about such things? What if you just laugh it off, take it as a wake-up call or view it as an opportunity, the start of a new chapter in your life?

Now I’m not suggesting that you put your fingers in your ears and ignore the gravity of a life-altering situation. Not at all. But you can choose to use the hard knocks more like a springboard than a stumbling block. Lots of people can recall a turning point in their lives, an event that seemed disastrous at the time, but in hindsight proved to be the best thing that ever happened to them. Imagine if you started to look at everything “bad” that happens to you in that light, right then and there as it’s happening.

Got laid off? Great. Now you get to be creative and resourceful in finding work that you truly love and will be fairly compensated for.

Develop that mindset. Choose your reactions and watch your world change for the better.