Control vs. No Control

Everyday we have situations, circumstances, people, and events calling for our attention. Some are exciting, some are scary, some are confusing, some are frustrating. The list of possible reactions to the innumerable circumstances are endless. So how do we decide what to focus our efforts on, and what to let go?

First, it is important to realize that there are some things that we have control over, and some that we do not. You can most likely control what you eat for breakfast, where you choose to shop for a new outfit, and whether to return a phone call. Some things that are outside your control may be traffic, the choices of other people, and whether your favorite sports team will win the championship.

When we spend our time and energy focusing on things that are outside our control, we can become frustrated, worn out, and anxious. Oppositely, when we learn to focus on the things that we do have control over, we can stay focused, confident, and capable.

Let’s imagine for a minute that all your current stressors were written out on a sheet of plain paper. The list may include anything from finances, to your relationship with your spouse, or a child that you are concerned about. It may have daily stressors such as figuring out schedules, getting chores done, and making time to spend with your family. Add to that list stressors with work, family, and friends. It is easy to see how these could all stack on top of the other and result in feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and exhausted.

Now imagine going through with a red pen and crossing off the things on your list with an “X” that you don’t have control over today. Next, circle the items that you DO have control over. For example, can you immediately change your salary, probably not, so put a giant red “X” through it. Could you decide how to budget your money, absolutely. So go ahead and circle it. Can you control that your co-worker doesn’t come to work on time? Nope, put an “X”. Can you control how you manage your responsibilities at work, definitely. Circle that one for sure.

See what we did there? We have set up a game-plan for what is helpful to focus on, and what is not.

When we focus on the things we actual have control over, we are more likely to see success and movement, however big or small. We won’t become frustrated over trying to think, feel, or do something that we can’t actually change.

So next time you’re faced with what to do in a certain situation, circumstance, or with people in your life, try slowing down and figuring out what you do and don’t have control over, and go from there.

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