You are driving to work when suddenly another driver cuts into your lane and nearly clips you.  You immediately get mad and it sets you off for the morning.

One of your co-workers calls in “sick” – again – meaning you will be doing double duty for the third time this month.  Your own work is piling up while you try to cover for her.  You head to the manager, ready to explode.

You have tickets for a ball game you’ve been looking forward to attending with your family, but the dark clouds overhead open up and ruin your plans.  Your kids are disappointed, and you curse the weather gods for spoiling your day.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could control your emotions and shake these things off, along with all the other things that might happen to you on any given day?  It’s natural to be upset when things don’t go according to plan.  But all too often, we overreact and start a domino effect that prevents us from seeing the positive side of anything.

George Foreman, former heavyweight boxing champ, makes a great point:  “Being angry and resentful of someone is like letting them live rent-free in your head.”

Controlling emotions is a challenge for people of all ages.  But it can be done!  You are the only person directly responsible for your emotions.  You are responsible for how you act and react.  No one makes you respond in a certain way.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives,” said American philosopher William James – in the late 1800s, no less.  Clearly, the problem has existed for ages.

Fortunately, there are some very effective strategies for getting a grip on your emotions.  It takes practice, to be sure.  But the payoff is unmistakable.  And your blood pressure will thank you too.

  • Practice good self-care.  Take care of your own physical, emotional and mental needs.  Someone who does this on an ongoing basis will better be able to handle negative emotions – and not become a threat to others.
  • Identify what anger and frustration feel like – both in your head and in your body.  If people are cut off from their feelings, there is a much higher chance that they will act rashly.
  • Get out of the stressful situation and take a walk.  Take the time you need to process your feelings and emotions.  Perhaps it’s enough for you to take a deep breath and count to ten – slowly.
  • Vent to someone who will listen without judging.
  • Find a temporary distraction.  Engage in an activity that will take your mind off the upsetting subject.
  • Take action.  Think about how the situation could be positively changed, and then encourage steps to help solve the problem.
  • Communicate your desire for change to others who can help make the change a reality.
  • Think about “what’s right,” rather than “what’s wrong.”

A gardener ran a business that had been in the family for several generations.  For as long as anyone could remember, the current owner and previous generations of owners were extremely positive happy people.  Most folk assumed it was because they ran a successful business.  In fact it was the other way around.

A tradition in the business was that the owner always wore a big lapel badge, saying “Business Is Great!” even though it went through tough times like any other.  What never changed, however, were the owner’s attitude and the badge.

Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, “What’s so great about business?”  Sometimes people would also comment that their own business was miserable, or even that they personally were miserable or stressed.

The badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about lots of positive aspects of business and work.  Even the most miserable would usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple of minutes listening to all this infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

It is tough to measure an attitude like this, but to one extent or another it’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The business owner freely admitted:  “The badge came first.  The great business followed.”


Mackay’s Moral:  Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush – it can color any situation.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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