Everything we do has rewards and consequences. You can control various forms of pleasure and pain if you understand the linkage between thoughts, emotions, behavior, and reward. Thoughts, for example, usually lead to emotions. Emotions drive behavior. Behavior determines reward. Do you have complete control over your own thoughts, emotions, and behavior?
Here are five ideas for staying in control:
- Own your own stuff and be in control. In The Four Agreements, author Miguel Ruiz writes that we need to control our own thoughts and emotions. When we own our own stuff, we can limit others’ control of our stuff.
- Own your thoughts. Controlling your own thoughts is based on the concept of free will, which means you are responsible and accountable for your own thinking. Not to put thoughts in your head, but this seems like a “no-brainer,’ doesn’t it? If, for example, you study the odds of winning the lottery and decide that you have a very slim chance of winning, you will probably decide not to play.
- Own your emotions, including sadness. Thoughts help determine emotions. If you decide not to play the lottery, you will probably not feel like buying a ticket. Being in control of your emotions doesn’t mean that you cannot cry. At my mother’s funeral service, I wept — and I was in complete control of my emotions. I was in control because it was totally appropriate to cry under those conditions. To the contrary, if your mother dies and you don’t cry, you may not have control of your emotions
- Be 100 percent responsible for your behavior. Emotions drive behavior. In our lottery example, if you don’t feel like purchasing a ticket, you won’t win the lottery. Of course, no one can make you buy a lottery ticket. If you own your behavior, no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. In almost every situation, a person has options. If a wife insists that her husband quit bowling because Tuesday night is scouting night for their son, the husband has at least two options. The husband could quit bowling and then hold his wife in contempt because she made him quit. Another option is for the husband to quit bowling and be happy with the behavior that allows him to spend more time with his son.
- Own your stuff and you will own your reward. Believing we don’t have control over our behavior makes it easier to blame others for our own failure. People who take ownership of their thoughts, emotions, and behavior almost always enjoy more control.