self control

JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept that, although I cannot stop certain things from happening, how I react is what matters most.  I cannot stop the traffic light from changing to red.

And even if I was in an inordinate hurry, I must terminate my break-neck speed at the sight of that red light.  Whether I am happy about this, or frustrated about it, is of little or no consequence.  The germane fact is really quite simple: I have no control over the traffic lights.

Today, I will remember the 90/10 Rule of Life.  10% of my life depends on what happens to me.  90% of my life depends on how I react to it.  In real terms, this means I have no control over 10% of what happens to me.  For instance, I cannot stop my car from breaking down, any more than I can terminate a sudden storm that prevents my plane from taking off to Jamaica, where I have an important scheduled meeting.  Indeed, I have no control over this 10% of the circumstances of my life.  The other 90%, however, is of a marked difference, if only because I determine it.  Friend, did I hear you skeptically ask, “how?”  And, my really simple response is, “By my reaction.”  Yes, indeed, I may be quite unable to control the red light, but, certainly, I can control my reaction to the Red light.  Today, I easily recall the all-too-human story of David Preston, a middle-aged resident of a quiet, upper middle class neighborhood in a Philadelphia suburb.  He was eating breakfast with his family.  His daughter inadvertently knocked over a cup of coffee, even as a wide stain spread rapidly over the front of David’s pristine white dress shirt.

He had no control over the unfortunate incident, and the final outcome of the entire episode would be determined by how he reacted.  David chose to curse loudly, harshly scolding his daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears.  David next turned angrily on his spouse, and virulently chastised her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. An unpleasant verbal altercation ensued. Shortly after this, David stormed upstairs to change his shirt.  Meanwhile, back downstairs, his miserable daughter had occupied herself with crying, rather than eating her breakfast, and unable to be ready for school at the appropriate time, she missed the school bus.  Having dissipated valuable time into bickering, his spouse had to rush out for an early appointment with a client.  David had to rush to his car to drive his daughter to school.

Not unnaturally, being late, he exceeded the speed limit for suburban traffic, and had to suffer a fine of  $40 after an excruciating twenty minute delay.  On arrival at the school, his daughter dashed out of the car without as much as a backward glance.  David eventually arrived the office twenty minutes late, only to discover that, because of inordinate haste, he had forgotten his briefcase at home.  Quite obviously, his day had started on a very bad note. It got worse.

Finally, he could only look forward to coming home.  Sadly though, he arrived home to a strained relationship with his spouse and daughter.  All because of an unwholesome reaction to the spilling of coffee on his shirt!  Today, if someone says something negative about me, I will merely let the attack roll off like water on glass.

Indeed, I will react appropriately, and it will not ruin my day.  And, when someone cuts me off in the traffic, I will resolutely refuse to lose my temper.  I will decidedly not pound on the steering wheel in frustration.  My ten minutes lateness to work will not cost the firm the whole world.

No one will be permitted to ruin this morning’s pleasant drive to the office.  So, the plane is late, and I am going to be late for the rather crucial meeting.  I will resolutely refuse to take out my frustration on the flight attendant.  For, after all, she had no control over what was going on.

I would, rather, invest my time in useful study and the fulfilling past time of knowing the new person sitting next to me.

Today, the brilliant, new vista of an exciting and infinitely more positive life looms ahead of me, as I prepare to live by the 90/10 principle.  And, for me, one good day will always follow the next.  There will be little or no stress in my life.  And, my life will be filled with joy and wholesome relationships.  Just for this day, I will understand the 90/10 principle, and my life will change forever!


Why did David’s day turn out a nightmare?

A) Did the coffee cause it?

B) Did his daughter cause it?

C) Did the booking policeman cause it?

D) Did David cause it?

The answer is: David caused it.

He had no control over the incident with the coffee.  His unfortunate reaction in the immediacy of the incident was what caused his bad day.  Together, let us attempt to reconstruct a better sequence of events.  Coffee splashes over David. His daughter is on the verge of tears.  David, gently puts her at her ease: “It’s ok honey, you just need to be more careful next time.”  David runs upstairs with a towel.

He throws on a new shirt, and grabbing his briefcase, he is back in time to look through the window and see his child getting on the bus. She turns and waves.  David and his spouse kiss before he goes to work.  David arrives five minutes early and cheerfully greets his co-workers.

David’s boss commends him for his effective supervision of his current project.

Dr. Yomi Garnett