“I understand that I cannot control the thoughts and actions of others. But I can exercise the ultimate control – control over the meaning of any situation – control over myself. When I am in control of my thoughts and my feelings and my actions, nothing is more powerful.” (INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free, Chapter 6).

You have the power to control the meaning of any situation in that you can control your thoughts, feeling, and actions. Here are two proven ways to do so:

Manage the Gap

As we learn from Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, between a stimulus and a response, there is a gap in time, and what you choose to do during that gap is crucial. Managing this gap is precisely what will put you in control of a situation and allow you to act in a way that moves you toward your full potential.

When adversity strikes, first say to yourself, “Manage the Gap.”

While you may not be able to control a negative thought or feeling that enters your mind, you can choose to believe it or not, you can choose how long you focus on it, and you CAN CHOOSE your action.

Control the Meaning

A technique you can use to help you control the meaning is DATAdecide, ask, truth, act.

– Decide what you are feeling. Recognize and identify your emotions by asking, “what exactly am I feeling?” Let’s use, for example, anger.
– Ask yourself, “What else can I assume about the situation that is causing me to react this way? Could I be mistaken about the true intentions of the person who is upsetting me? How would a stranger see this situation?” These simple questions will help you think rationally, provide you with a new perspective, and give you time to decide how to respond.
– Remind yourself of the bigger Truth: you can use the energy of anger and redirect it rowards the pursuit of something you are passionate about. You can control the actions you take and the emotions you focus on. You CAN control the meaning.
Act in a way that moves you closer to your full potential. By simply not acting on the negative emotions you experience, you are unlearning what was learned. To not act out of anger is a significant accomplishment.

While implementing these steps may seem difficult at first, even the attempt to control the meaning has a massive impact on the brain. As renowned psychoanalyst Norman Doidge explains, “Each time we try, we begin fixing bad connections and creating new ones. Even just from the effort. We create new pathways in the brain, and we lay the groundwork for change.” Success will not happen immediately, but the attempt to control the meaning will help you heal and will move you closer to your full potential.


You can learn more about “DATA” in Chapter 6 of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.