post written by: Marc Chernoff

One Choice That Will Change Your Life


The Smartest Way To Live

The difference between fiction and reality?  Fiction has to make sense.
-Tom Clancy

This evening I met a friend at a local bar.  She brought her laptop along so she could show me some of her latest digital art designs.  As we chatted and scrolled through her artwork, the laptop suddenly started making an unhealthy buzzing noise, then the screen flickered on and off and then cut off completely.  And as we both stared at one another in dismay, the funky smell of fried computer circuits consumed our nostrils.

I grabbed the laptop off the bar to inspect it and the problem instantly revealed itself. The bottom of the laptop was soaking wet and an empty, spilt water glass rested against the side of her purse just behind where the laptop was sitting.  In the midst of us chatting and shifting the laptop’s 17 inch screen back and forth, we somehow spilt a glass of water that the bartender had inadvertently placed behind the screen, which was out of our view.

When life throws us nasty curveballs like this, it typically doesn’t make any sense to us, and our natural emotional reaction might be to get extremely upset and scream obscenities at the top of our lungs.  But how does this help our dilemma?  Obviously, it doesn’t.

The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be more tempered in our reactions.  To want to scream obscenities, but to be wiser and more disciplined than that.  To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse.  And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.

Every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity.  But in order to attain this growth and creativity, we must first learn to control our emotions.  We must recognize that difficulties pass like everything else in life.  And once they pass, all we’re left with are our unique experiences with each other and this crazy world, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Life is short.  Our thoughts steer our reality.  We already know this.  The choice is ours to make.

Photo by: Gary

Download the ebook If you enjoyed this article, check out our new best-selling book.
Marc and Angel Subscription via Email And get inspiring life tips and quotes in your inbox (it's free)...

Enter your email address to get new articles delivered for free:



25 Comments

  • Every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity” That is so true. You can learn the most when you could choose to suffer the most. Just become accepting and humble and maybe even laugh about it.

  • Hi Marc.

    I’m on the same page with you here. In those times where something displeasing occurs, I have learned that I can only take something positive from the situation if I am calm about it. There is no opportunity for success, but there is opportunity to get some guidance, and that is important for future usage.

    Getting angry in these situations is very easy, but it also reduces any opportunity to benefit. Those few who stay calm get another bit of knowledge added to their mental toolbox, and are stronger for it the next time around.

  • you are right Marc, and let me add something, being prepared makes the things more tolerable, for example having a backup for the data on the laptop could ease things. thanks you for the post :)

  • Exactly. I lost my wallet when I was in Bangkok last February, and while it was easier (and probably more fulfilling in the short term) to scream and wail and panic, I just calmly accepted my fate and worked to try and get things sorted out. The people around me were pleasantly surprised by how I was handling the situation.

    I learned valuable lessons from that experience, too.

  • Must say this all sounds just like the “Law of Attraction” What ever our minds are set to will become a reality. As we are given the choices of emotions we still only really have one proper one to pick. That is to be happy. When its only oneself that can be happy, as we all are individuals we can sense happiness in others and feel how it spreads like wildfire. Of course some one will throw in death to the board and ask what about it.. Why not be sad?

    Sure we should feel, but there is the linearity of life that it starts and it ends. We can just do the best we can in between. So I’d say be glad and remember your friends and beloved for the time spend with them and make tributes for them on your own way. That show that happiness for everyone else around you.

    My Religion is Love!

  • Nice story Marc. I agree, it’s easy to sometimes reactive negatively when situations, like yours and your friend’s here, seem to ruin the day. But by making a conscious choice to notice the situation, and change it into something better, a bad day can turn into something to laugh about. Even though most people would overreact to that situation, it seems like you guys made the situation okay. Great lesson, thank you.

  • Yeah right!! We got to be mindful of our reactions to external happenings. Mere awareness can save us most of the times.. Anger does not give us enough time to consider the consequences.. Emotions come and leave us devastated without even knocking once at our mind opening. One needs to contemplate with a calm mind and consider the options.. The results will stay in our head.. and come out when we are at the verge of becoming ANGRY and Frustrated again.

    Nice Article. Thanks.

  • I think there is a fine line here. You can also learn a lot from negative emotions. Simply brushing off adversity often means people do not learn from their mistakes or the situations which put them in trouble. Appreciating when and why you feel bad can be a major driver for improving your life. Although I agree flying off in a rage often does more harm then good.

  • @farouk: No doubt about it. Preparation is half the battle… and realizing that nothing is guaranteed.

    @Ren: Yeah I’ve been down the path of a lost wallet too. It seems like a massive tragedy in the moment, but in reality everything in the wallet is easily replaceable.

    @Louis: You’re right. There is a big difference between ignoring negative situations and not overreacting to them so that you can learn from them.

    @All: Thanks so much for the added insight and fresh ideas. Keep them coming. I love reading all of your comments. ;-)

  • Your words are so true… I think no one else required this post more than me… at least today. Thanks!!!

  • Great post Marc. Simple, but so well put. How we behave and carry ourselves in these sorts of situations ultimately reveals a lot about ourselves and.

    Also and more importantly, it’s important to remember that good can always come from the bad — if we choose to find it.

  • I’ve been living on a similar rule for awhile now: “is it worth getting angry over?”. Sometimes, yes, anger is a valid reaction, and occasionally people need to vent to be healthy and happy. If you control/subdue your emotional reactions all the time you become detached. But at other times it is completely unnecessary to throw a fit over the smaller things in life that we cannot avoid or control, we aren’t kids throwing a temper tantrum over spilled milk anymore. So perhaps what you really mean is that overreaction (on the side of negative emotions) is fruitless, which I would have to agree with. Pick and choose your battles wisely.

  • Its funny. Since becoming an active blogger and a coach, I have totally changed my tune on these “mini tragedies”. I used to get sooo upset when things did not go my way or if something went wrong (like this laptop story).

    Now, I immediately think about the story I get to tell and the lesson I get to extract from the event. I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience anger or frustration when things go wrong, but I move through it so much more quickly because of my changed perspective.

    Great post as always!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. This is something I am just learning in my thirties. It doesn’t help anything or anyone to overreact and take a fit. It is a great skill to learn how to control our emotions.

  • I guess, it is human behavior to feel upset or angry, but with little thought and planning, we can behave differently and positively.

    I think it is okay to feel upset when your hard work goes to drain, otherwise, we might as well be robot.

  • @DaveUrsillo: Indeed. At times, I bet more good can come from a slight ripple of bad than would transpire if there was no ripple at all. It’s how we grow.

    @Erin: You hit the nail on the head. Like I stated in a comment above, there is a big difference between ignoring negative situations and not overreacting to them so that you can learn from them.

    @Success Coach and Zengirl: Feelings of anger are natural. So there’s obviosuly nothing wrong with experiencing these feelings… as long as we don’t let them get the best of us.

  • Our thoughts are our realities, this is true. It is surely up to us to do the controlling. But I also think an esoteric realization such as this is beyond the comprehension of most people. That’s why I say “think big and keep it positive.” Or think like you would if you were going to die today. Then live in this direction every single day.

  • I was so impressed with this article that I decided to write my own article on my website on the same topic. You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can control your approach and attitude when dealing with life’s drawbacks.

  • Very true that life is the ultimate curve ball. However if we are honest with ourselves looking back the tough stuff is often the making of us. It forces us to re-evaluate things, demands the best of us and unlocks out true potential. What would we be without these trials? Not who we are today for sure.

  • Our perception of truth relies on our preconditioned belief system, because of this we fail to realize that we have the power to change our perception of things. Only through this realization can we free ourselves from our limited understanding. :-)

  • Many years ago I developed a personal mantra: Nothing bad ever happens (it may hurt like hell, but that doesn’t make it bad). And you know what? It’s true. Even when something sucky happens I learn valuable life lessons, and in the end wouldn’t change the past if it meant forgoing that lesson.

  • So, what happened to the laptop and all her stuff? I hope the moral is to have backups of everything :-)

    But, seriously, you’re right that it is in our difficult times that we show our character. It’s easy to be all smiles and happy when times are going well. It’s how we react (or don’t react) in the difficult times that proves who we really are.

    Karen

  • Really in love with all your blog post. So inspiring…

    Thank you, Marc :)

    Suvina

  • Great post. I am reminded of the quote “You can’t direct the wind but you can adjust the sails”

  • Good read. Yes Marc, controlling our emotions is our key to succeed practically and socially.

Leave a Reply