Reality Check: Going My Way?

Are you stressed? Most of us feel stressed some of the time. Some feel stressed all of the time.

One perception of stress is that it’s caused by things outside of us that we can’t control. Whether it’s our jobs, spouses, politicians, families, economy, or the cat, stress just goes on and on.

I came across a video presentation recently that gave me a little different perspective. I found it helpful; maybe you will, too!

The video was a TEDx Talk by Ellen Gélinas. I was privileged to have Ellen as an instructor during my Reality Therapy certification. She brings her self-deprecating sense of humour with her in her talk.

Along with examples of using choice theory and applying Dr. Glasser’s work to her life, she offered the following definition of stress.

“Stress is when things don’t go my way.”

Too simple? Let’s think about it.

I want, I want, I want…Basically, I want things to go my way. Now, many of my wants are altruistic (and I am sure that yours are, too.) That is, we want good things for other people, as well as for ourselves.

For example, we want good health and good health care. We want connections with people whom we care about. We want sustainable prosperity. We want friendly, satisfied folks to live, work, and grow families in our area.

However, we also want things that others don’t want. What Dr. Glasser calls “our quality world”—that set of pictures of how we would like it to be, is not the same for everyone.

Here’s an everyday example: Some want scenic, pristine roadways. Others want to toss their trash out the car window.

Wants are not universal. For some types of wants, if one person’s want is fulfilled, another’s cannot be. That is, things don’t go everyone’s way.

We are pretty much guaranteed that sooner or later, something will not go our way. Don’t like your daughter’s new tattoo? Your parenting recommendation didn’t go your way. Your spouse watched the game instead of doing the laundry? The chores didn’t go your way. Your boss congratulated your coworkers but ignored you? Recognition didn’t go your way. Forgot your keys in your other coat? The day didn’t go your way.

Now what? Here’s where choice comes in.

We can choose to be stressed about the reality that something didn’t go our way. Or we can choose not.

Really? Is it that easy?

Probably not. However, try an experiment! The next time you recognize that you are stressed (and you know your own stress signals) ask yourself, “What is it that isn’t going my way?”

Then ask, “Is this worth my stress?”

The daughter’s tattoo didn’t go my way; I can choose to stress over it or accept it. The laundry’s undone; I can choose to gripe about it or do it. My boss overlooks me; I can choose to agonize over it or I can talk to the boss (or look for a better job.) As for my forgotten keys; I can fret about my forgetfulness or I can choose a new habit for dealing with my keys.

You can find Ellen’s TEDx talk through the Australian website dedicated to Glasser’s work at  (Her description of picnic preparation is particularly entertaining!)

Do things always go your way? Do they ever go your way? How do you deal with it?

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