Monday, January 28, 2013

Success and Spilling the Mustard

One Saturday, when I was 6 or 7 years old, our family was eating grilled hamburgers outside in the back yard. It was a lovely late afternoon, and I was looking forward to the delicious meal. I was squeezing mustard onto my hamburger, and without warning the lid popped off and huge gobs of mustard started spilling out all over my hamburger.

My hamburger was ruined and I sat there dejectedly feeling sorry for myself.  I lowered my head as if I was about to cry when my wise mother said, "Turn the bottle over so it doesn't keep spilling out!" I was so busy feeling bad about my hamburger being ruined by the spilling mustard that I allowed the mustard to keep spilling all over my plate.

And isn't that what we so often do? When something goes wrong in our lives, we often focus our energy on what happened instead of on what we can do to prevent further damage or even to benefit from the situation. Although I spilled the mustard, I still had a delicious hamburger, and with a little work I could have responded by cleaning it up and enjoyed it. But instead I reacted and let the problem continue to get in the way of my success.

Reacting vs. Responding
Just like the mustard incident, in life we have the opportunity to either react to what is happening, or respond. My goal was to enjoy a great hamburger, but I reacted to a minor setback instead of responding swiftly so that I could still reach my goal.

If your doctor tells you that you are having a reaction to medicine, it is usually a bad thing. However, if she says that you are responding to medical treatment, it is a good thing. So, How are you going to respond to the "medicine" of life?

Typical Reactions and Responses 
There are many typical reactions that people have when confronted with a problem or issue in their lives. What is your favorite reaction? Becoming angered or embittered might entrench your problems even further. Blaming others for your situation distracts you from taking responsibility for your life. Whatever your typical reaction, it is vital that you learn to respond effectively so that you can move forward to your goal.

Focusing time and energy on on hurt or anger.
Gossiping about the people you believe have hurt you.
Blaming others for your difficult situation.
Holding on to bitterness or anger.
Punishing others for their actions.
Focusing on your goal.
Focusing on problem solving.
Taking responsibility for your situation, despite who or what created it.
Letting go of bitterness or anger.
Forgiving others so that all can move forward toward good things.

To succeed in life, we must be willing to respond to the problems we face so that we can enjoy the delicious "hamburgers of life." Instead of reacting by focusing on past or current problems or events, we can easily focus on how to deal with the issues and move forward to success. The classic statement rings true: "The problem is not the issue. The issue is how you deal with the problem."

Thank You Mom!
I am grateful to have a wonderful mother who taught me this powerful lesson. And while I sometimes still react in unhealthy ways, when I choose to respond to the the problems I face and work toward my goals, I enjoy increased confidence, hope, kindness, and success. And I get to enjoy the "hamburgers of life" more frequently.


thegardnerthree said...

This is my favorite post so far! Such good thoughts.

joel gardner said...

Thanks, Gardner 3! I will keep writing...

Wendy said...

What a great analogy! I'm enjoying reading your blog.

joel gardner said...

Thanks, Wendy!