The four choices to take responsibility for the things that chronically bother you instead of sweating over them.

by Kevin Stacey

© 2002  TrainRight, Inc.

We all have situations in our lives that are not the way we would like them to be. Unfortunately, many people hold onto their problems far too long and allow them to chronically bother them. I find that many folks are experts in their own problems. Not in solving them, but in thinking about them and describing them to others! The hallmark of the mature adult is the willingness to accept full responsibility for all of life’s circumstances. If something is bothering you, then it’s your problem; you own it and are responsible for taking action to resolve it.
Here are the choices: 

Choice #1. Change it if you can - attempt to communicate. We can’t change people, places, or things; the only thing we can control is ourselves. Since many of the things that chronically bother us revolve around interpersonal situations, we often forget that other people are not mind readers, and that we solve communication problems by communicating. So, we try. We let the other person know what it is we want that we’re not getting, or what we’re getting that we don’t want. Communicating in an assertive, professional manner lets everyone know where you stand. You can’t control the other person’s reaction, and you may not change his or her behavior, but communicating helps you feel better and brings you to the point where you can say, “I’ve done everything I can.”  

If you’re unable to change the situation:

  • Choice #2. Accept it/let to go.
    Just make a decision to stop sweating over it. Interrupt yourself when you find you are about to talk or think about it. Remind yourself what it’s costing you to keep giving the situation your limited energy. It’s helpful here to use a specific phrase that you say to yourself or some other mental routine to stop yourself from focusing in the problem. Letting
    go can be a process, and it’s perfectly natural to have to express your emotions about a situation before being able to let it go. After  allowing yourself some time to do that, ask yourself the question, “At what point is this becoming counter-productive?”

  • Choice #3. Reframe it or look at it differently.
    The situation is the same, but you transcend it by looking at it in a different light or from a different angle. This is what Stephen Covey would call a paradigm shift. A reframe can be as simple as expressing gratitude for what is right instead of focusing on what is wrong. With other people’s behavior, it may be seeing their vulnerabilities, insecurities, challenges, or the 
    innocence in their actions.

  • Choice #4. Leave it/walk away.
    Sometimes you just have to say, “I’m outa here.”  Some situations are just not meant to be. Often there is no one to blame, but life changes and the best choice may be to move on to something new. Give yourself the permission to do that. This choice takes courage, but in many cases, you end up better off in the long run. I think we all know of people that should have left a situation 10 years ago, but for some reason stay and are chronically bothered, either inwardly or outwardly complaining. What does that cost them?

To be able to make one of these choices, it’s imperative that you don’t deny or fight your current reality. You’ll notice you’re doing this when you find yourself saying the words “I can’t believe ________.” Believe it, because that’s the reality you’re currently faced with. A better question to ask yourself is, “What’s the next best thing I can do?”

For those of you with a spiritual connection in your life, you may recognize the Serenity Prayer intertwined in the above choices. Isn’t serenity the opposite emotion of being bothered? So we pray for that and say, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

About the Author

Kevin Stacey helps companies and professionals achieve maximum productivity and effectiveness through stress management and time management training.  He is available to speak on these topics.  For more information visit or call 1-800-603-7168.

© 2002 Permission is granted to reprint this article in print or on your web site so long as the paragraph above is included and contact information is provided to   Thank you.