Whenever you’re in an uncomfortable or challenging situation, you have only 3 options:

1. Wait for the situation to change
2. Change the situation
3. Change your response to the situation

Let’s look at each:

1. Wait for the situation to change

Ask: Is the situation likely to change on its own? If not, then clearly this is not an option for you. Some situations, however, are short-term, and the answer may just be to wait them out. For example, when you’re stuck in traffic or there’s a long line at the store. But while you’re waiting for the situation to change, you may also want to consider changing your response to the situation (see #3 below).

2. Change the situation

The pitfall with this solution is that even if you leave your current situation and go to another, you take YOU with you. For example, have you ever left a job or a romantic relationship only to find that the next one turned out to have many of the same problems?

So ask yourself: Is this current situation part of a pattern for me? Have I had similar challenges in different situations, and is it likely that I will have similar challenges in a new situation? If so, then changing the situation might not be the best choice for you. Of course, I’m not recommending that you stay in a situation that’s bad for you. But when you leave, make sure you learn from the situation so that you don’t relive it again and again in different circumstances.

3. Change your response to the situation

This is the most proactive and empowering option, and it's always available to you, even when you choose either of the previous two options.

There are 3 parts to this solution:

a. Change the meaning you give the situation
b. Change how you talk about the situation to yourself and others
c. Change the way you act and react in the given situation

In a strange way, you have more influence on things outside you when you focus solely on yourself—your own thoughts and behavior. As Wayne Dyer likes to say, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Viktor Frankl taught us that the last of the human freedoms—the power that we all have that no one can take away from us—is our ability to choose our response to any given situation.

To act with such a high degree of “response-ability” can be challenging because we have been conditioned otherwise. We live in a culture where blaming and complaining are a way of life. We blame the Republicans, we blame the Democrats, we blame our parents (for their parenting flaws), we blame our grandparents (for their genetic flaws). We complain about our boss, we complain about our employees, we complain when it’s hot, we complain when it’s cold.

In order to stop blaming and complaining, you must change the meaning of the situation. Instead of seeing it as something that was “done to you,” you can choose to see it as a neutral event that isn’t personal, or even a positive experience that you can learn something from. Change your language to reinforce this change of meaning. Instead of asking, “Why did this have to happen to me?” ask yourself “What lesson can I take away from this?”

By changing the meaning you give the situation and changing the language you use, you’ll discover that you have the power to respond in any number of ways, not just the knee-jerk reactions you’ve made in the past. And you’ll be able to choose new responses to old problems, breaking habitual patterns that have been limiting your growth and progress.

Author's Bio: 

Curtis G. Schmitt, the founder of Turn On to Life!, is a Life/Habit Coach who specializes in helping busy people reclaim their time and their bodies. For a free report on how to avoid the top 10 time management mistakes, visit TurnOnToLife.com.