Have you ever been so frustrated with a situation that you threw up your hands in despair, feeling that there was nothing you could do? Left unchecked, this perspective can lead to feelings of hopelessness. Although there may be nothing you can do about external circumstances, you have total control over your response.

Some people fall apart when faced with challenging circumstances while others survive, and even thrive. What differentiates these two groups of people? Attitude, outlook, and action. Those who fare the best, proactively manage their response. People who suffer, typically exhibit a victim mentality by resigning themselves to being powerless to influence any aspect of their lives.

Your perception is your reality. If you perceive yourself as being helpless, you will passively await whatever fate comes your way. However, when you perceive yourself as playing an active role in your response, you become proactive in doing all you can to make the best of whatever circumstances you encounter. Your focus should always be on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Focusing on what you can’t do leads to a powerless feeling that generates despair.

Be proactive. Take positive action to make things happen. Even the smallest activity makes a positive difference. For example, making your bed in the morning reinforces that there are aspects of your life you do have control over. Although this activity might seem insignificant, it provides a meaningful physiological boost.

This simple process thwarts the development of a victim mentality because you are making things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen. Cultivating this positive mindset is an invaluable asset for maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing.

If the big picture is overwhelming, focus on making the best of just today. Don’t worry about yesterday or stress about tomorrow. Now is what matters. You can even challenge yourself by trying new things you have been putting off.

Create a plan for each day and then follow it. Doing so keeps you from drifting aimlessly. Having specific goals for each day boosts your mood. Celebrate each success. Completing each goal is satisfying. It provides a feeling of accomplishment.

You are more likely to engage in positive activities when you are happy and you are more likely to be happy when engaging in positive activities. It doesn’t matter where you start. If you are happy, get into action. If you are not happy, get into action anyway. Don’t wait until you feel like it to begin. Don’t waste one moment making excuses.

Avoid getting mired in trying to figure out why things happen which are out of your control. Instead, immerse yourself in positive activities. Engage in possibility thinking. Have positive expectations. Consider all of the positive options available, no matter how small.

Work with what you have. Avoid lamenting whatever you feel you don’t have. What you don’t have is of no benefit to you. Don’t become trapped complaining or whining about what’s missing. Complaining won’t improve your situation.

Choose happiness. Don’t engage in depressing or negative self-talk. There’s no place for, “I don’t know what to do,” “I don’t know if I’ll make it,” or “I can’t handle this.” What you say to yourself determines your emotional state.

Regardless of your circumstances, you can always do something. You have total control over your response, thoughts, and actions. Don’t wait for a situation to get better before you feel better. Start today doing whatever you can.

“Dare to Live Without Limits,” the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at bryan@

columnist.com or write him c/o this paper.

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