The Difference Between a Setback and an Opportunity

Have I mentioned before that I’m a control freak? I like to think I’ve gotten better about it over the years, but lately I’m not sure that’s the case. It is interesting, though, to consider whether that makes me better or worse at promoting my goals for public policy.

At first, I recoiled at the thought of being a control freak. You can’t have control without having something that is controlled, so “control freak” quickly sounds like a euphemism for “bureaucrat.”

But it’s just as easy to interpret it a different way, as “someone who wants control over her own life and feelings, even if external factors make that impossible.” The term describes me far more effectively with this second definition.

For the people who work in our cause, control can certainly seem like an illusion. No matter how many victories we win for individual rights and limited government, we still hear stories every day about arbitrary or ill-advised rules and regulations making life difficult or impossible for our fellow Michiganders. It can be disheartening.

Life outside of work has its own challenges. Much as I might like to, I can’t schedule the shifts at my fiance’s company, keep drain sludge from building up under the kitchen sink or control the price of blueberries. I can’t even control the temperature in my office!

I recently took a step back from all these problems and gave myself an attitude adjustment with the help of Viktor Frankl. So much of our lives is focused on the decisions we aren’t allowed to make. Too often, we forget the most important decisions we make each day: how to respond to what we cannot change. So it isn’t my purpose to control the state, drain sludge or anything in between. My purpose is to respond to those obstacles in a constructive way.

My response to government overreach is to work at the Mackinac Center. My response to my fiance’s new schedule is to look for opportunities to better use our limited time together. When the office is too cold for me — “every day,” my colleagues will say — I wrap up in a blanket. It isn’t always easy to look at setbacks as opportunities (see: clogged kitchen sink), but I’m much happier (and more fun to be around), when I make the effort.

I am certain the next few months will be chaotic, both for me as a person and for the world. But having recently challenged myself to look for the positives, I will try to remember to do just that. Opportunities are hard to use when they are unseen and it is difficult to make the world a better place through negativity and bitterness.