Most of us are familiar with the foot-stomping, hands-raving, vocal-chords-yelling, and occasional throwing-to-the-floor kind of outburst that accompany a tantrum from a two-year-old child on hearing the word “no”. However, tantrums are, I’m afraid, not reserved for little ones.
As adults, we can also be quick to throw-a-strop when we realise that we can’t have what we want or are no longer able to do whatever we like. We live in a culture that feeds our desire for more. If we can’t afford to pay cash for something, for instance, we buy it on credit and pay it off in instalments. The price is high, though. Only last week I saw a TV ad for a cash loan company that was offering instant cash at an interest rate of 1299%! Yip, you read that number correctly.
What about the job you really wanted, but never got? Or the property you hoped to buy, but the banks wouldn’t lend you enough money? Or the uni you were desperate to get into, but your grades weren’t good enough? How about that guy you want to be with – the one who, heart-breakingly, doesn’t seem interested? Perhaps it’s your age, or maybe it’s your health or lack of fitness that’s stopped you from doing what you want to do or getting what you want?
So, what do you do when you don’t get what you want? And what could you do when you don’t get what you want?
- Face Facts: Humble yourself enough to take a reality check of your life. When you’re on your own, and it’s just you and your Maker, get real with yourself. Who you are? What are your qualifications and your job experience? What are your talents? What are you good at and what areas need improving – in your spiritual life, your body, your mind, your finances, your relationships – everything? Now that you have the answers to those questions, ask yourself if you really want what you originally wanted? Do you really want to do what you originally wanted to do? And, most importantly, why? What’s the underlying reason behind your desire for more, or for a change? Once your motivation becomes clear, you may no longer want it.
- Self-Talk: If you still feel the urge to get what you want or to do what you want, ask yourself: “Can I do something today that will get me closer to getting what I want?” If the answer is “yes”, then make a list of those things.
- Take the long view: Don’t rush. Hasty decisions often end in tears. Consider the long-term consequences of today’s action or inaction. Take that list of things you can do to get you what you want, or where you want to be, and break it down into everyday habits you can begin putting into practice. These small disciplines may seem inconsequential right now, but in a year or two’s time, you’ll be able to see real progress.
- Take stock: Celebrate small victories. We rush so fast through our days that we rarely pause long enough to enjoy our hard work. God gave us the Sabbath, not only so we could rest, but also so we could look back and enjoy the work we’ve done throughout the week. Have one day every week when you take stock of your progress, your wins and your losses, and what you’ve learnt from both.
- The re-do: Results come with the re-do. You may tweak the plan as you figure out what works for you and how it fits into your life, and there may be days when you don’t follow the plan, but always come back to it. Decide on a plan and then follow through, day after day, week after week.
So, before you next storm off in a huff when you don’t get your way, pause for a moment. Face the facts, ask the self-talk question; take the long view; look back and be grateful for what you do have; remember what you’ve accomplished; and don’t give up – stick to the plan. Also, when you do get off plan, don’t become so disheartened that you spiral into self-destruction and give up completely. Be gracious with yourself, forgive yourself, and try again.