Recently, a woman asked me, "What was the a-ha! lightbulb moment in your life?" I realized it was when I figured out that my thoughts control my whole life—that no matter what hand life deals me, I can always choose my response to it. We are each responsible for our lives and, more important, the thoughts that create them. If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.
I used to think that other people should feel and think the same way I do. Then I realized they experienced me as too controlling. For instance, whenever Stedman drove us home from our farm in Indiana, I would tell him which way to turn. If you turn left at the farm's gate, it's eight miles to the interstate to Chicago. If you make a right, it's 12. Every time Stedman reached the gate, I would tense up. He would always go right, and I would invariably say, "If you turn left, you can save four miles." But he liked to go the other way because he got to see more deer.
For two years, that was our routine. Then one day, we got to the gate, and Stedman said, "All right, which way do you want me to go?" I replied, "Any way you want." He was shocked. I had decided not to think any more about which way was fastest or the one I'd choose but, instead, to sit back and enjoy the ride. It seems like a small thing, but it has made the drive home a lot more pleasant for both of us. And I saw that once I chose to just let people be, my relationships got better.