I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey

We attend weddings and funerals. We attend meetings and family reunions. In fact, we attend all kinds of events in our life. Our calendars are filled with appointments and meetups, with invitations and events. Friends, acquaintances,  family, dentists, doctors, teachers, and bosses all seem to decide how our calendar will shape up and how our days will be filled.

All this scheduled activity may give us the impression that others are “driving our car” in life instead of us. Have you ever noticed how fast the weeks zip by and that our calendar month seems like a day rather than 30 or 31 days? Maybe you might feel like shouting out (to nowhere and no one in particular) “Hey! Hold Up! I’m in charge here”.

The following information is based off a talk called: Attend Your Life, by Terri Brady, a leadership speaker.

Is Your Car In Neutral?

There are four positions a car can be in – park, drive, neutral and reverse. If you want to go anywhere, drive position is the position to be in. You have a destination and putting your car into the drive will help you to get you where you want to go. If your car is in neutral, chances are, you won’t get very far. you won’t get very far in park position or reverse either, for that matter.

To use the car analogy a life in drive position is much better than a life lived in neutral, park or reverse. We want to move forward with purpose and direction. And, in life, it is fair to say, we much prefer to be in charge of our time, our schedules, and our calendar than have someone else be in charge. We want to have a say in our lives, not just do what we think we are supposed to according to others. Being in the driver’s seat of our life is much more empowering and satisfying than being in the passenger’s seat.

Are You Attending Your Life?

There are different ways we “attend our life” and by attending I mean being an active participant and influencing the outcome of our life.  It is easy and comfortable to coast through life and let what will be, be. The storms hit and the waves toss us and we don’t feel that we have any control over what is happening to us. “That’s life,” we tell ourselves. But “attending” our life or being an active influencer in our life is different. Terri Brady gives the following ways we can “attend our life”.

Attending Our Moral Values

Do we have a compass and a True North? What is guiding our decisions, our beliefs, and our actions?  Having a foundation, a moral compass keeps us grounded and less likely to be tossed about by the winds of change  (social, political, relational or other). We are less likely to be influenced by what is going on around us and more likely to make decisions that keep us on course. Our “car” will drive in the path we have set and not veer off into dead ends and detours.

Attending the Media We Ingest

There is nothing neutral about the media (blogs, magazines, newspapers, youtube or whatever).  We are taking in information when we tune into media, but what kind of information are we taking in? All media has a filter, a bias of some sort. Is it really information we are ingesting or someone’s opinion? In an age where facts can be manipulated and even become irrelevant, how much more important is it to control what we see and hear?

Terri Brady gives the example of her favorite ketchup (Heinz). As long as there is Heinz ketchup in the bottle, what you squeeze out, will be Heinz ketchup. But what happens when the bottle (an opaque red bottle) is filled with mustard and not ketchup? We expect to squeeze out ketchup, but mustard comes out instead.

She uses this analogy to explain that what we ingest in terms of what we watch, see and listen to eventually will be squeezed out when life hits us. So if we have been ingesting negative media, then that is our frame of reference. We can only expect to get out what we have put in. To use a computer analogy: garbage in, garbage out.

Wag the Dog

Terri Brady gives another example of media influence with the 1997 film” Wag the Dog”, which was a movie about using the media to create a fictitious war in order to cover up some “goings-on” involving the president. The media (in the movie) successfully convinced the population that there was actually a real war (distraction) and that the president managed to deal with the war successfully.  It was a brilliant example of how the media can influence entire populations to believe what is not true.

This example begs the question: Is the tail wagging the dog or is the dog wagging the tail? Are we living our life intentionally or are we allowing the media to take a prominent position in our mind and in our life? It also reinforces the need to have a true North, a moral compass to keep our lives on course.

Attending Our Finances

Are our finances driving us or are we driving our finances? Who is in control – us or our money? We need to be calling the shots when it comes to our finances; we need to be overseeing our money – what is coming in, what is going out and where it is going. We also need to check how we think about money and our expectations regarding money.

Do we have a growth mindset or a defeatist mindset towards money? Are we always worried about not having enough and making decisions that reinforce this mindset? What about debt and “easy cash”? Do we use credit card debt to finance our purchases or do we practice delayed gratification and wait patiently until we can purchase what we need?

Are we caught up in the mindset of “needing to have” whatever is new on the block: the latest i-phone, or whatever seems to be “the thing to have”? It is easy to do, isn’t it? But we need to take a step back are decide who is in charge.

It is interesting to note that the vast majority of millionaires (+) come from a lower to a middle-class background, have had to deal with poverty and financial struggles. Most of them do not drive about in the fanciest cars or live in overly extravagant lives. Most live modestly and humbly.

Attending Our Thoughts

What is our thought life like? Are we living our present based on what we lived in the past? Are we still carrying around suitcases of criticisms, rejections, failures, and humiliations from our past? Do we still believe the lies that people spoke about us or to us? Do we still believe that we are not smart enough, capable enough, or valuable enough?

Attending our thoughts means being the guardian of our thoughts, protecting them from the lies. We need to be vigilant about what we allow ourselves to believe about ourselves. And, we should probably stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves about what is true. It is time to begin a new movie about our lives, about who we are and what we can do.

One trap we all fall into is the “if only ______ (fill in the blank) then I would be _____ (fill in the blank)” trap. We blame our misery, our failure and our “bad luck” on outside factors. We shift the responsibility away from ourselves rather than getting to the real reason, which is largely within our control. When we do this, we are letting someone else or something else “drive our car

Attending Our Relationships

Who is driving our relationship car? Who decides how much time we can spend with our loved ones? Is it the overbooked calendar? Is it our work obligations or our sports activities? Maybe the media (movies, the internet, and cellphones) determine how much time we spend with loved ones.

Can our loved ones tell by our calendar and our activities if they are a priority in our life? When we are present with our loved ones, are we really present or just in the body only? Are we just putting in the time, but not the quality? Are we quick to spend time with people outside our family (friends, colleagues) and reluctant to spend quality time with those closest to us? What excuses do we tell ourselves?

Time with our loved ones is precious and they know when we are “really there” with them. No amount of “makeup” time can replace and ongoing dedication to the ones we love. They will see through our excuses. They will see where our priorities really lie. We need to be driving our relationship car intentionally and with purpose. Certainly, none of us wants to get to the point where we realize how much time has passed and that we placed our priorities on things (work, our own pursuits) rather than on those closest to us.

Are We Attending Necessary Confrontation?

Is there smoke in the kitchen? Are we going to do something about it before it turns into a full-fledged house fire? Or are we just going to say “oh well” and bring out the marshmallows to toast over the fire?

Confrontation, as uncomfortable as it can be, is sometimes necessary in order to clear up misunderstandings or brewing resentment. It will be uncomfortable, but only for a bit and it will be a lot more comfortable than letting a problem fester. Having the courage to confront shows that we have respect for the person or people we are confronting. We are showing them that we care and are interested in correcting a certain situation for the benefit of all. So, we should confront where and when necessary with the goal of helping.

Are We Attending Forgiveness?

If we want our drive in life to be relatively straight, it is important to forgive and let go. Otherwise, we may be carrying extra baggage in our trunk that will slow us down. Bitterness will fester up inside of us and breed a whole brood of unpleasantness in our life. It has been said that:


“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”


It is a natural tendency of humans to hold on to hurts, to nurse them and grow them until they take root in our lives and sometimes take over our lives. It somehow feels good to be angry and resentful. But, left unchecked, unforgiveness can bleed all over. It can destroy us and our relationships. In our quest to be confirmed in being wronged, we involve other people, pitting them against one another.

So, if we want to drive smoothly, we will need to throw out the excess baggage of unforgiveness. Decide to forgive and move on.

So, Are We Attending Our Life?

Are we spectators or active participants? Can we say that we are living our lives with intentionality? How would those around us answer this question about us? Would they say that we live out our values and that we “walk our talk”?  Would they say that we are not easily swayed by what everyone else is doing and by circumstances of life? Would they say that we have our priorities firmly in place? Would they say that we are responsible and solid? Would they say that we are “wagging our tail” or would they say that our “tail is wagging us”?

Just some things to think about. We are all on a journey and are travelers together. None of us can say we have arrived. All of these areas to attend are areas I have both failed at and succeeded at to varying degrees. We can all learn from one another and I hope that these points have been helpful to you. I encourage you to consider them as they relate to your own life and hopefully, they will be useful.


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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca