Make Your Day in Five Seconds
By Ed Delph
April 4, 2022
Sometimes the problem is not the problem. Consider this case: Diner: "I can't eat this soup." Waiter: "Sorry, sir, I'll call the manager." Diner: "Mr. Manager, I can't eat this soup." Manager: "I'll call the Chef." Diner: "Mr. Chef, I can't eat this soup." Chef: "What's wrong with it?" Diner: "Nothing. I haven't got a spoon."
Years ago, I discovered a principle about life that I knew was real but didn't understand it clearly. Then I found out Stephen Covey wrote about it. It's called the 90/10 Principle.
Dr. Covey said, “Ten percent of life is made up of what happens to you. The other 90% of life is decided by how you react. What does this mean? We have no control over ten percent of what happens to us. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%. How? By your reactions. You cannot control a red light. However, you can control your reaction to the red light. Don’t let people fool you. You can control how you react.
Here’s an example of how this works. You are having breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what has just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.
You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your wife and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the table's edge. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish her breakfast and get ready to go to school. She misses the bus.
Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 40 miles per hour in a 30-mph speed limit zone. After a 15-minute delay and throwing the $60.00 traffic fine away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you realize you forgot your briefcase.
Your day has started terribly. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home. But, when you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your wife and daughter. Why? It's because of how you reacted in the morning.
Why did you have a bad day? A) Did the coffee cause it? B) Did your daughter cause it? C) Did the policeman cause it? D) Did you cause it? The answer is D.
You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those five seconds is what caused your bad day. Here is what could have and probably should have happened.
The coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say: 'It's okay, honey, you just need to be more careful next time.' Then, grabbing a towel, you go upstairs and change your shirt. You grab your briefcase, and you come back down in time to look through the window. You see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive five minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff.
Notice the difference? Two different scenarios started the same. Both ended differently. Why? Because of how you reacted. You have no control over 10% of what happens in your life. Your reaction determined the other 90%."
Once I was speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I stayed up late writing this weekly column for you to make my deadline. When I finished the article, I thought, "Time to go to bed. I have a big day tomorrow. The article came out well. People will like it.”
When I pressed the send key on my laptop, my weekly article disappeared. I tried everything I knew to find it, but it was gone, joining myriads of other emails in the graveyard of cyberspace. Remember, I had just written this article about controlling our emotions and not reacting emotionally. And how 90% of what happens to us in life is determined by ‘Yours Truly.’ The thing that I had feared came upon me. The last two-plus hours were wasted. It's late at night, I'm tired, and now I must write the entire article again.
My reaction? Well, let's say that I'm glad that you, my reading audience, were not in my hotel room at that moment. I know you would never react the way I did, which was not good. Right?
Let’s take that test again. A) Was it the computer’s fault? B) Was it the internet's fault? C) Was it the hotel's fault? D) Was it my fault? The answer probably is D, but if you give me enough time, it might be answer C).
Isn't it interesting how something happens and goes BOOM when we think we have it together? Now, I have more compassion for the man whose coffee spilled on him.
Our takeaway: When you write an article, speak on a subject, or present yourself as the answer person, get ready because you will be tested on it. A Scripture verse says: "Let him who stands, take heed lest he fall." In other words, 90% of experts become ex-spurts. Caution, never say you have it all together in golf. That’s like the Titanic backing up and hitting the iceberg again.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com