Choosing Your Own Reality

Reality can suck, especially on TV. Contestants are regularly voted off the island, fired from apprentice jobs and judged to be lacking in any discernible talent.

In “real life,” serious disappointments are likewise bitter pills to swallow. Many of us have endured significant economic hardships — from downsizing and outright business failures to mortgage crises and investment losses. Few of us have escaped unaffected.

Some people are more resilient, bouncing back quickly. Others struggle to cope with the changes forced upon them. What makes the ‘realities’ different?

While few of us personally contributed to the housing bubble and bank collapses, each of us must take ownership of our responsibility to effect personal change and move forward. It may be tempting to see yourself as an unfortunate victim, but this line of thinking leaves you feeling helpless. When you assign yourself the role of victim, you deplete the energy and creative energy you need to be resilient.

Is it time to view your situation in a different way — an approach that many of us inherently fear and resist. You have to get to make a choice:

Are you ready to take steps to remedy the situation?

Do you want to remain stuck?

Do you want to flourish?

Mere survival has little energy or movement to it. Thriving however energizes us to move forward. The problem is, we’re profoundly affected by loss. It drains our physical and emotional reserves, and it can contaminate our thought processes. Instead of optimism about the future, we can become prone to negative thinking, doubts and fears.

Acknowledging reality is one thing. Choosing to thrive see and responding to situations differently requires courage and imagination.

What Can You Change?

You can’t change other people, places or things. The only thing you can change is your thinking, beliefs and actions, including your self-talk. Those are the keys to bouncing back and being resilient.

Here’s the challenging part: approaching situations differently usually involves processes that are uncomfortable and foreign to us. For example, you may need to take a risk and leave your comfort zone. You may have to call someone you’ve been avoiding. You may need to confront an issue or be willing to ask for help.

Embracing and acting on these realities may seem like an excruciating prospect. You’ll need to shed your protective cocoon and open yourself up to possibly. Cocoons are merely illusions of safety.

You cannot reach your dream without shedding your old skin and learning to think anew. You can’t land another job unless you’re brave enough to apply. You can’t benefit from retraining until you sign up for relevant programs or classes.

If you fail to take responsibility for your thoughts and actions you will never be able to live into the possibilities that are out there for you. You’ll be stuck in a bad movie. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you’ll just keep replaying the same mistakes.

Your Aha! Moment

It’s tough to face reality. We don’t always like it, so we often distort it. We delude ourselves by finding ways to see ourselves as heroes.

When you’re mired in a difficult situation, ask yourself whether you want to be “right” or open to finding a breakthrough solution. Instead of being defensive and asserting your point of view, ask questions and seek win-win possibilities.

Achieving a breakthrough means leaving the past behind. Old actions and attitudes may have worked in the past, but it’s time to consider new ones. Replace your victim state of mind with a willingness to explore a new reality, possibilities and imagine your part in it. Recognize what you can and cannot change, and create a plan of action.

Stay in the Game

When Survivor competitors are voted off the island, TV audiences tend to favor blustery rhetoric and weak excuses over true accountability.

The same happens in real life. We come up with excuses and blame others when problems and conflicts arise, giving ourselves subconscious permission to excuse ourselves and blame others. It’s much harder to be courageous accepting harsh realities and take personal responsibility.

In The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability, Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman identify four critical steps to recovering from a setback:

  1. See It. Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of a situation.
  2. Own It. Accept full responsibility for your current experiences and realities.
  3. Solve It. Change these realities by identifying solutions (many of which you’ve never previously considered).
  4. Do It. Summon the commitment and courage to follow through with these solutions, even when they force you to take risks.

“Ultimately, we alone determine the course of our lives and the measure of happiness we achieve,” they write. It’s impossible to change reality and create new possibilities if you refuse to accept responsibility for your experiences. Accountability contributes to lasting success.

Next time you’re facing a rough situation, see it, own, it, solve it and then do it. Working with a professional coach like me helps you to get unstuck and take forward consistent action. Above all, don’t allow yourself to just survive – Thrive.

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