Affecting What You Cannot Control (or Can You?)
Photo by geishaboy500; creative commons license.
“Honor your hopes, not your fears.” That’s a bumper sticker that author Barbara Samuel once told me about, and I’ve always liked the sentiment.
While positive attitude is understandably beneficial for any action you take, it’s also amazingly rewarding for actions you want others to take, even in a rather passive way, and for drawing the right people into your life. It’s a way of affecting what you cannot control. I’ve repeated several situations over the past decade and this time, I’ve gone into them with a positive outlook and I’ve seen very different results. This is true of several areas of my life, including a lot of my socializing right now, but I’ll use home repairs as a example.
If you’ve read my journals, articles, and Third Degree Diariesfor a long time, you know that right after my divorce, I was terrified of not being able to feed myself or my kids. I had traded my assets for my big house, to keep some continuity for my children, and financially, it made more sense to stay in my house than to trade it for a smaller place that I owed more on. Meanwhile, most people assumed my ex had paid me off handsomely and had no idea of my money anxiety. I assumed I’d have to cut my own hair because I’d never be able to afford a “real haircut” and that I’d never eat out again, ever. So when I had hurricane damage and house repair to deal with, I cringed, feeling that the expense would be more than I could bear—and that every repairman would show up with dollar signs in his eyes and greedy intentions. And that’s exactly what happened.
I had a positive outlook about the things that I could do—which worked well for me—but not about the things that others could or would do in dealing with me. In the year after my divorce, I saw my worst financial nightmares land on my doorstep, courtesy of a wide variety of repairmen. I absolutely drew the worst possible people to my home. I was shafted by a major home building supply company that not only had to have their work 90% redone by the same company within a week but decimated my gardens, did thousands of unreimbursed dollars of damage to my ceilings and walls, gave out private information on my whereabouts to strangers, and kept me tied up in legal loopholes for the next year and a half. I had repairmen my ex and I had dealt with for a decade try to strong-arm me into buying products that cost ten times the product I needed. Lawn maintenance crews suddenly wanted three times the price my ex and I had negotiated with them. And these were all people I had done business with for years.
You see, there was a common thread among all these people, and it was exactly what I feared. How much plainer could it be than the repairman who thought his phone was on mute and told his secretary he hated not being able to schedule me immediately because I was newly divorced with a big house and therefore rolling in the dough? This was what I expected of these repairmen, but it was also the type of people I’d had in my life for many years.
I decided to start manifesting “a better quality of repairman” and since then, I’ve developed my own list of plumbers, electricians, painters, etc who do quality work and save me money frequently by suggesting cheaper ways of achieving the same goals.
This summer, I knew I had a lot of major repair work to be done to my home, so I changed my outlook. No more shysters! This time, I would hire new people I’d never worked with before but positive, upbeat people who, in short, just had good energy. And they would all do wonderful work for me at a reasonable price.
Focusing on that happy outcome, when I interviewed an assortment of lawn crews, painters, flooring restorers, electricians, clean-up crews, I paid attention not just to price but to my intuition about each potential worker. I made sure my decisions were aligned with those feelings—and my expectation of a happy partnership.
The difference in repairmen in three years and this summer has been like night and day. The ones who didn’t “feel” right, I never called back whereas I knew immediately which workers were right for the job even before I saw their quotes. As for the work to be done by contractors who didn’t fit into my positive outlook, I didn’t fret but stayed positive that the right person for the job would come along. And they did! One of the repairmen I’d already hired also did electrical work. My favorite was–after I’d said no to sprinkler repairmen who wanted to run new lines, dig a new well, and sell me a new pump for about $3000—my guy who cut some damaged trees from the front yard fixed the entire sprinkler system for around $20 worth of parts and a few hours’ time spread over two days.
My own positive outlook—for myself and for the results of the work—really attracted the right people to help me get the job done, and done well. The lesson for me is that even when I consider something “out of my control,” my attitude and focus will change the situation enough that the things “out of my control” will still align with the things I want.