How many of us are guilty of trying to control every facet of something we are working on or towards?
We plan out every day, hour and minute so that we can guarantee our path to success.
And while this approach, in its purest form, can create powerful results, what happens if our best laid plans are blindsided by the unexpected… by something completely out of our control?
How do we handle… or control... that?
We live in a world of constant change.
Change which creates a growing number of opportunities and a wide array of challenges.
Some of which we can see coming or anticipate, and other changes that we cannot.
“The only constant is change.”
Living in this world of constant change makes it imperative that we are able to tell the difference between what we can and can’t control.
If we continue to try and control all the variables then we will be doomed to frustration, setbacks and less than desired results.
However if we embrace what we can’t control and instead focus on how we can better adapt, we can build a resilient mindset and flexible state of being to call our personal audibles and continue moving the ball down the field.
This idea of control is really resonating with me as of late – mostly because I’m realizing that my recent focus is trending more towards all the things that I can’t control.
Because of this focus, I find myself thinking about all the reasons I won’t be able to do something or why a particular approach won’t work out rather than identifying all of the options that can work.
Furthermore, I’m finding that my personal routines and habits are becoming increasingly rigid, so that if they are disrupted, I end up frustrated and out of sorts – not the best way to show up in life…
I’ve worked hard over the years to build my awareness in order to differentiate what I can control versus what I cannot, and I’ve made great progress.
Yet, there are still times that I get knocked around by traffic, a commute, the kiddos waking up in the middle of the night, or organizational challenges disrupting a project or effort I am trying to drive.
And while most of the time I know that I can’t control these forces, I still fall into the trap of thinking through how I can.
And even when I’m at peace with what can and can’t be controlled, I fall into another trap of over-focusing on the things that are out of my control – not in the sense that I’m trying to control them, but rather that I’m dwelling on them and letting them create the doubts and barriers which prevent me or slow me down from taking the next action.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, how can we do better?
When it comes to control, both of these traps need to be at the top of our minds if we are going to drive things forward – they can’t be ignored. So what can we do about them?
The Internal Battle for Control
In our ongoing battle between what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of our control, how can we put ourselves in the best possible position to thrive within the constrains of our environment, remain flexible, and ensure our energy and mindset remain focused downfield?
Let’s first walk through a few steps to differentiate what is in our control versus out, and then talk about how we can be laser focused on the things that we can control in order to continue our forward momentum.
Differentiating between what is in our control and what isn’t:
Identify the point of control (or lack of control)
The first step is to identify the moment or event that we need to analyze.
It seems overly simple, yet this is critically important because when faced with a sense of no control, we can often become so overwhelmed by a situation that we aren’t able to pin point any one thing that is derailing us.
Rather, we remain stuck in a state of overwhelm – a mindset that is tough to get back out of or be effective in.
Take the time to pinpoint what specifically sent you down this path.
Understand the source of the unwanted result
Now that you know what happened, understand the source.
Using a very simple example, if a storm disrupted a specific event, then the source could be considered mother nature. Or if you were about to launch a new product and were hit with a legal dilemma, perhaps the source would be a certain law, statute or required standard.
Be clear on what exactly was the cause of the event so that you can begin to understand what you could or couldn’t have done differently.
Ask whether you could have seen this coming
Now this is when things get interesting, and sometimes, it just depends.
Taking our weather example, was that storm something that was being tracked in the 5-10 day forecast, or did it just hit despite the weather report showing 100% chance of sunshine.
In our legal example, did you have lawyers do their due diligence on what you were bringing to market? Were there a unique combination of circumstances that created this legal situation for you?
Regardless of the situation, ask yourself whether or not you fully understood your environment and what constraints or risks existed around you.
If you could see it coming, could you do anything about it?
For those occurrences where you saw the potential for issues (i.e. the 5-10 weather forecast), what could you have done?
No, you can’t control the weather.
However, could you proactively move the date of the event? Find a different location? Switch to a webinar versus an in person gathering?
Understanding what you can control in an uncontrollable situation, did you take the appropriate action precaution?
And finally, if it is something you just can’t control… accept it, and refocus on what you can control to move the situation forward.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Now that we understand whether something is or was in our control (or not), how do we maintain our focus on those things that are in our control so that we can keep moving the ball down field?
Pick yourself up and refocus downfield:
Address your thoughts and conversations
As I described above in my struggles, when your mindset or conversations steer you towards the things you can’t control, it becomes too easy to focus on the negative and remain fixated on what is out of your control.
And keep in mind that these internal and external interactions will suck the life out of you!
Focusing too much on negative outcomes or uncontrollable situations will destroy our motivation and momentum.
Rather, acknowledge the thought or conversation for what it is, and quickly dismiss it.
Rewire the conversations or thoughts to something more productive and controllable, and begin to rebuild your motivation and momentum. There is always the next play.
Adjust your defense
While we don’t want to burn time thinking about what we can’t control, we can take stock of our defensive strategy to identify opportunities to minimize the likelihood of what can’t be controlled from happening again.
While understanding you won’t be able protect against it 100% of the time, do what you can do to build confidence that you’ve done all you can do it mitigate the risk, and then repurpose that mental energy back on forward momentum.
Maintain an aggressive offense
Now that your mind is off the uncontrollable, double down on what you can control and keep driving the ball forward.
Use all that energy you saved by not dwelling on what you can’t control and invest it in all the areas you can.
Not only will this create a positive foundation to play your game from, but it will also create the results and success you are striving for!
Discussion Question: What is one thing that you keep trying to control that is out of your hands? How can letting that thing go improve your mindset and life?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."