How many times have you blamed an event or person for your negative reaction? If you’re like most people, it has happened often. Everything from traffic jams, to comments made by others, to sudden changes of plans can make people upset. But what if I told you that these events, no matter how bad you think they are, are not the cause of your stress?
Epictetus (A.D. 55-135) wrote: “It is not the event itself that is the problem; it is the perception of that event.” In other words, the things that happen to us aren’t problems; rather, it is our reaction to the events that determine whether we feel stress or not. This bit of information has made one of the most important impacts in my life. Here is a simple way that I have shared it.
As a former school counselor, when a student was upset by what someone else had said, I would ask, “Suppose you didn’t know what had been said about you. Would you still be upset?”
The student would respond with something like, “Of course not! How could I be upset about something if I didn’t know about it?”
I would then offer, “So it is what the person said—but you were not upset until you learned about it. You then decided to react by being disturbed.”
Your Perceptions Determine Your Reality
How you perceive something determines how you feel. This bit of information gave the student a new awareness.
Today, you may say, “I’m insulted by what you said.” But it’s not what the person actually said as much as it is how you interpreted the comment.
Similarly, you may think, “I’m a victim.” This may be true, but it also has to do with perception, rather than the situation alone.
The more you become aware of your own perceptions, the more effective and enjoyable will be your life.
Live Without Stress
Teaching, parenting, and simply living can be stressful at times. That’s why I wrote my newest book Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey. If you’re looking for stress management advice, check it out. The book is available as a print book (Buy one and get a second copy free to give as a gift), as an eBook, and as an audio book at PiperPress.com.