Emotions don’t care about what’s fair

It’s Fall. It’s getting darker, earlier. The temperature is dropping, and the holiday season is upon us.

In conversations these days, we ask questions of ourselves and others that are both reflective and forecasting.

“How has the year gone?”

“What are we doing for the holidays?”

“Any big plans for next year?”

I’ve attended a bunch of board meetings in the last four weeks and have several more to come in the next month. These are the year-end meetings. It is time to reflect, look forward, and ask ourselves “what have we learned that will influence how we go on from here?”

My reflection on the last year is that I am happy with how I have transformed my relationship with time. Indeed, getting older, climbing into the mid-40s is making me more aware of the time I have. However, it has been my exercise of control that has had the most substantial impact on my relationship with time this year. I believe I have an incredible foundation for how I will use my time next year.

I talk about it over and over in The Grind and conversations with people; Practicing control over my body has deeply translated to my understanding of control in business and relationships. When I made the decision 11 months ago to stop drinking, that was a pivotal exercise in control.

Fasting eighteen hours a day, five days a week is about control.

Meditating every day is about control.

Recently moving to a plant-based diet is about control.

Maintaining a very active exercise regimen of running, weight lifting, pilates, martial arts, and boxing is about control.

These were things that I previously said, “I couldn’t do,” but now I am doing them all.

They were always in my control, I just didn’t exercise that control, so I didn’t do them. And I got what I got… hangovers, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, 30 extra pounds, anxiety, emotional instability, etc.

But what about controlling time? Time is a little different because it starts to involve other people. We all have commitments we want to honor, but we don’t control other people. We can only control ourselves to a degree.

How do we exercise our ability to control what we get out of life when we have to interact with other people?

The answer lies within the same principle of what we do to control ourselves.

First, we set expectations.

It has become abundantly clear to me that I am most likely to get upset with someone else when they do not meet my expectations of them. Is this fair? That depends on whether or not I set clear expectations with them, and they agreed to meet those expectations. If that did not happen, then no, it’s not fair for me to get upset with them.

But emotions don’t care about what’s fair. They are purer than that. This is why it’s so important that we remember to take inventory of our expectations. We have to know whether or not we have communicated our expectations and received agreement with the people in our lives, professionally and personally.

In the absence of that, we are setting ourselves up to be out of control. Strong emotions that we can’t process quickly absorb time and throw us off balance. Some feelings are unavoidable, but many take longer than necessary to work through because we failed to set proper expectations.

My expectation of myself is that I will value my time highly, prioritize my health, and work on things I am passionate about. My actions, for the most part, fall in line with that expectation. It’s my job to communicate that to those in my life, especially those close to me.

Second, we decide what we will tolerate.

Tolerance is a loaded word. Zero tolerance sounds like an excessive, punitive model for correcting behavior. We are urged as a society to have tolerance for people who don’t look, sound or think like us. And growing up, if we heard the word “tolerate” from our parents, it probably meant we were in trouble.

Tolerate is a heavy word.

But deciding what we will tolerate from ourselves and others is critical to having any control over what we get out of life.

I decided I would not tolerate the voluntary destruction of my precious body anymore. I started eliminating things that were harming it and engaging in practices that would restore it to as close to ideal as I could get it. I made decisions about what I would tolerate professionally, which has made me a much happier person. I am finding a voice to communicate what’s ok and what’s not in my relationships. Others should do the same with me.

The truth is whether we have embraced that certain things are intolerable or not, our spirit tells us when that line has been crossed. If we don’t learn to listen and protect our spirit from being violated, we suffer internally.

In work, in relationships and from ourselves, we demonstrate our locus of control when we are clear on what’s ok and what’s not ok, and use our voice to communicate these boundaries. If people don’t agree with you, then there is work to do on alignment or decoupling. But that’s better than being stuck in a misaligned situation that routinely hurts you.

I couldn’t be more excited for next year. Last year this time, I was wondering how I would get through the next day. Today I’m thinking about how I’m going to map out the next ten years. I know I don’t have complete control over how things will play out, but where I do have control, I really have it.

Have a grateful week.

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