What’s within us that’s beyond the reach of all circumstance…
I follow a business coach on Facebook and am in their ‘closed’ group. I enjoy the banter from the group and appreciate the support and accountability that everyone offers each other. Recently, someone posted a motivational text with their comment alongside it. I felt awful for this poor soul because along with a number of people ‘liking’ and ‘hearting’ the post, one person not only disagreed with the post but shot her down in flames.
The premise of the quote and post was very Winning Edge – that whatever happens to us in life, it’s up to us as to how we respond – that no one can make us feel guilty, sad, frustrated or disappointed – that no one can make us feel anything. There then ensued a whole raft of responses – in the main, agreeing with the original ‘poster’ but some who said that this quote negated the circumstances of the underprivileged – their lack of opportunity which is unavoidable. There then came a number of posts to counter this, along with a couple of contributions to support it, so I observed, as I find it interesting to see how these things pan out.
I felt morally responsible to inject a bit of Winning Edge into the discussion – without commenting on the original post as I don’t wish to become embroiled in these things – and said I found Viktor Frankl's following quote incredibly powerful: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” It was great to see that the quote was well received and prompted further discussion.
A new way of thinking
What I found incredibly interesting is that so many people found this perspective fascinating – they hadn’t come across this ethos before – that we are in charge of the way we respond to people and circumstances – that we can remove the victim mentality when we comprehend how empowering and liberating it is to know nothing and no one can make us feel anything.
For far too many people, they go through life with a victim mentality thinking they have no control as to the path they take. They take the view that there is this mythical destiny over which they have absolutely no control. Nonsense. Yes of course there are things which happen to us over which we have no control but it is up to us how we choose to respond and therefore, the direction our life takes is within our control.
How changing our thinking produces different results
Katie Piper is always given as an example on the Winning Edge course, as someone who changed the way she thought about her circumstances, to build herself a whole different life. At the age of 24, she was a model and TV presenter and enjoying life in London. She started dating a guy she’d met through Facebook but two weeks into the relationship, he raped, beat and stabbed her. She received hospital treatment but refused to name her attacker. Two days after this initial attack, he paid a friend of his to throw sulphuric acid at Katie’s face. The results, as you can imagine, were devastating. Katie was blinded in one eye and has since needed hundreds of operations.
After the attack, Katie moved back home to her family and wouldn’t go out anywhere, apart from to her hospital appointments. Over time – and these are two very key words - Katie started to change the way she thought about her situation – she refused to let that man take anything more away from her. So, she changed the way she thought about her circumstances, which led to her feeling bolder and braver, this led to different behaviours. It started slowly and gradually, such as Katie suggesting to her Dad that they stop for a drink at the local pub on the way back from the hospital, she started to meet up with friends again – thus forming different habits and therefore gradually building herself a whole different set of circumstances from what could have been, if she’d chosen to remain hidden – which quite frankly, no one would have blamed her for wanting to do. Katie Piper is now married with two daughters and very soon after the acid attack, started the Katie Piper Foundation – whose vision is: ‘To have a world where scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion or sense of wellbeing.’ How amazing that Katie fought back to create something which can help others who live with what she lives with.
Choose your thoughts and you can move forward
So, what’s different about Katie? Is she special? Of course, we hugely admire Katie for coming back from such a devastating and traumatic event in her life, to build herself a whole new one. But I would argue that Katie is no more inherently special you or I – Katie made a conscious choice to choose one thought over another and thus has built this life for herself. We all have this choice – to choose one thought over another. We all have this ability - it’s just whether we acknowledge it or not.
Katie had formed the Katie Piper Foundation when she attended a Winning Edge programme and much of the content resonated with her – she said the one thing which helped her through the extremely hard times was that she knew she had the freedom to choose her response – it was down to her.
I know that what Katie has achieved despite her experience, puts all my silly gripes and complaints into perspective. Yes, our own experiences are all relative to us and it shouldn’t negate those experiences but it’s the trivial things we need to get into perspective and to know that we have a choice as to how we want to think about things.
We have the ability to choose how we respond to people, events and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Not always easy I know and it can be hugely challenging sometimes but it’s knowing, we do have that choice. We will have a very different outlook and experience in life if we adopt this mindset, as well as feel immensely liberated and empowered. It’s your life so you get to make the decision whether to feel trapped by the past, or to take the steps to move forward.