We might not always have control. However, we do have choice.

In today’s LinkedIn rundown, a quote from Bruce Kasanoff (Ikigai Park City co-founder) caught my attention:

“Life is messy. Careers are messy. Since you can’t shift the messy nature of our world, you only have one logical choice: shift your mindset.”

The most successful people, in both professional and private life, are those who can flexibly adapt to unexpected, difficult – ‘messy’ – situations. However, this flexibility does not mean taking any circumstance passively and engaging in the most comfortable position. It means taking the decision to make a choice. A choice of perception – and a choice of subsequent reaction (of course, the reaction might as well be no reaction, which can be a decision itself, and a valid one).

Imagine a difficult situation in your workplace, e.g. a team member constantly delivering reports late.

Do you 1. judge the situation (“bad” rather than “good”), 2. give it a reason (a hypothetical one, of course – it’s all in your mind until then – “They simply don’t want to do it.”), 3. get really indignant and order the respective person to you?

Or do you 1. make the choice not to judge the situation, 2. ask the team member to your office, 3. discuss what it needs for them to deliver the reports in time?

This is a quite simple example of a situation that can be solved promptly if both parties decide to clearly communicate with each other. However, imagining the two differing settings makes it clear how varied the outcome can be, depending on our own choice of perception and reaction.

And then there are events that are so beyond any possible action that we have to reframe the whole situation in order to stay functional and resourceful. Being made redundant, missing a job opportunity, losing a loved one. What choice/s do you make? Is your mindset focused on despair – or hope?

Or situations that only seem insurmountable: feeling stuck in a job you no longer enjoy or being caught in a relationship you no longer bear. Which choices of action do you take? Remain – or resolution?

Some choices we make, some decisions or actions we take, might not seem very appealing in the first place and only reveal their truth and benefit in hindsight. However, the way we tackle challenges says a lot about our outlook of life (growth mindset vs fixed mindset) and will decide whether we are part of the successful ones (and yes, we can define success ourselves!).

Maybe, if you manage to shift your mindset, our world is not so messy after all.

Or, as Captain Jack Sparrow has said so eloquently: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”