When Things Don’t Go Your Way…

As nice as it would be to have complete control over outcomes, it isn’t humanly possible. Cause and effect is a principle of life that we can usually rely upon, but sometimes there seems to be another will for our days and experiences that turns our plans upside down. Sometimes these unexpected turns can create a domino-effect of unfortunate events, and sometimes they are the blessing that we didn’t know we needed. Either way, when things don’t go our way, or are contrary to our plans, we need to be prepared to accept what happened with calmness and confidence.

When disappointments or setbacks come, emotional responses can increase, making it hard to think clearly and know how to handle the change or problem. However, if a person has prepared to expect hardship, setbacks, and unforeseen circumstances by adopting an accepting tone and developing a skill called “Accepting a ‘No’ Answer,” then they could very well find the blessings in the hardships and feel empowered during times of uncertainty.

An Empowering, Accepting Tone

Even though everyone knows that April showers (or snow) bring May flowers, people still complain about the rain or snow. When we are ready for warm weather, and we know it’s just around the bend on the calendar, it’s hard to be patient on cold days. Complaining damages our overall attitude, but a tone of acceptance empowers and uplifts.

Years ago, while doing treatment foster care for troubled teens, I had a teen living in my home who habitually stole things. She was a diagnosed kleptomaniac. We worked so diligently to try to help her choose to not give in to her impulses to steal and to watch her own behavior and thoughts more closely. We had great success, but she still sometimes fell into old habits. When she would steal again, it almost seemed worse to me since we had done so well at choosing not to steal for so many days in a row. I hated feeling like I was back-tracking and repeating the same teaching again and again. And, I was beginning to wonder if she would really be able to conquer the problem. I felt stuck.

Then it hit me; I was choosing to feel stuck. I didn’t have to see her behavior as my enemy. I didn’t have to allow repetitive teaching moments to bother me. Since her behavior was annoying to me, I was choosing to think about how it affected me instead of accepting her.

When a person has an accepting tone, they have chosen to not take things personally. When trials, setbacks, or annoying behavior abounds, an accepting person chooses to see a situation and start solving a problem, but not emotionally invest in the situation or think about how it affects them. Once a person starts over-focusing on how a situation effects them, then they can easily fall into selfishness and victimhood.

We can’t control everything; we can only control the way we think about things and how we respond. So, when my foster daughter stole, instead of thinking about how I was affected, I trained myself to think these thoughts about her, “She fell into a habit again. Habits do that to people. She can learn to beat this habit. It’ll just take time and patience. Let’s talk about the situation and plan for a better tomorrow.”

Choosing to accept that there were things that I couldn’t change, but that I could still help people through, was one of the most empowering and calming choices I ever made! Since God knows what lessons we need and experiences we have, He knows if our well-planned days need to adjust sometimes. He also knows that other people can impact our careful planning, too. He knows. So, I decided that I would trust in that; that I would accept God’s will in my life, even if it occasionally seemed to seem like it went off course.

Think of the moments that go off course in each day. How many times do we need to correct our children or ourselves? If a person chooses to emotionally invest in each alteration in a day, then they would be emotionally drained every day. When a person chooses to adopt a tone of acceptance, then they literally fuel their days with hope, determination, and confidence to solve problems because they don’t have to take them personally.

The “No” Answer Skill

This week:

  • It snowed instead of rained.
  • It was really cold.
  • I couldn’t get my yard work done.
  • Multiple plans fell through.
  • Someone got food poisoning and needed my care.
  • I got to a youth activity at my church only to find that I didn’t have a vital thing I needed.
  • People cancelled their plans to help me with a church activity.
  • I couldn’t get ahold of people I really needed to talk to.
  • I couldn’t pick up a shipment of something I needed for business at the appointed time due to a communication breakdown and had to drive 2 more hours a separate day.
  • My father-in-law died and we need to have a funeral on the same weekend I’m having a wedding for my son and two other life altering events for two other children.
  • Etc.

The list for this week could literally keep going. People have been so wonderful to help me out in all of these circumstances and to be so loving to our family. Those are the blessings. In fact, even though most everything this week has changed, it has turned out for the best in most circumstances.  Since we decided to have a tone of acceptance in our family, and to accept whatever comes without drama or stress, we were able to see the many blessings. Accepting God’s will allows us to have a tone of gratitude even though plans changed. We also have a skill that is part of our family culture that has prepared us to handle all of these setbacks.

When I was 14, I had a church leader who advised me to say “okay” and be okay when my parents told me to do something or not to do something. This advice was life-changing for the 14-year-old me. It actually helped to repair my relationship with my parents at the time.

When doing foster care, I learned a skill set for “Accepting a ‘No’ Answer” that gave me even more understanding of what skill I was living because it detailed the steps that I hadn’t articulated yet in my mind. I taught this skill to all of my children and have utilized it myself daily since then.

The steps to the skill are:

  • Look at the person
  • Keep a calm face, voice, and body
  • Say, “okay” or disagree appropriately
  • Drop the subject.

Planning to keep a calm face, voice, and body, and knowing what to say and when are really empowering steps to the skill. And, dropping the subject is where the tone of acceptance really helps. It can be hard not to think about all of the details and setbacks when they happen. But, it is possible if you decide to stop thinking about them and determine that stress-thoughts are not productive and aren’t allowed a place in your brain.

May flowers are always just around the corner of all of life’s showers. The question is, will we see them? Will we drop the subject about the showers long enough to see the blessings in the rain? My father-in-law passed away at a very hard time logistically speaking for our family; or did he? As I think about it, I realize that my children were all in town for the wedding. They didn’t have to ask for more time off of work or arrange travel again. And, we get to follow up a sad event with a happy one with all of our loved ones. What a blessing. God knew, more than we ever could have, that the unexpected timing of this death would bless us all, even in simple ways we may not have thought of.

Things won’t always go your way. They just won’t. Developing the tone and skill of accepting all of life’s no answers can create peace during many of the certain tough times ahead.

Nicholeen’s next Parenting Mastery Training is just around the corner. Join her for a self-government culture shift in your life and your parenting.



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