How often do you ask yourself “what’s within my control?” If you find yourself frustrated and stressed-out often, you might want to start asking yourself that question more routinely. As humans (and you can multiply this for leader-humans), we tend to spend a whole lot of time and energy focused on things beyond our control.
Don’t get me wrong, leaders need to be able to recognize a problem. We need to see it, even anticipate it – whether it is within our scope or paygrade or not. Recognition is a good thing, yes. It’s what we do with the information that too often trips us up.
Of course, we all feel better when we have things under control. It’s great to have the security of knowing we have the resources we need – or at least know where to get them – to accomplish what needs to be done and fix what needs fixing. But what happens when the weather shifts? What if we don’t get outcome we wanted, our idea isn’t adopted, or the problem isn’t resolved to our satisfaction?
Well, when a situation is out of our control, we’re likely get agitated, frustrated, angry, and stressed. To soothe the pain, some resort to micromanaging (wielding power), complaining (creating sides and building their “team”), or shutting down (taking the proverbial ball and going home). While each response is normal, none is effective. Each actually adds to frustration and stress.
So, what is the more effective path? It’s so delightfully simple and so often overlooked:
Determine what is within your control and start there. If you don’t have the authority to MAKE the decision, what action can you take to positively influence it? How will you choose to respond to it?
Before I go on, I’d like to be clear: I’m NOT using the word ‘control’ in a “yielding power over others” sense. Rather, I mean possessing the ability to self-regulate, then determine and initiate your own next-best-step. Not an emotional reaction, an intentional reponse.
Here’s a fun fact re: control…My executive coaching clients often enter a session frustrated. They have different specifics, but share the same underlying theme: They are trying to control something they simply don’t have ultimate control over, and they’ve hit an emotional wall.
The source of their extreme frustration is their ability to see a problem and know the remedy, but the person(s) who need to buy-in to their solutions aren’t buying.
Have you been there? I know I have. It’s like being caught in a tornado of disappointment and irritation, with no apparent (good) ending in sight. Or like the old “bang-head-here” sign. Right? But it’s only my head that gets hurt when I bang it against what is.
So, what’s the answer? How do we find the comfort of control, when we aren’t the ultimate decision maker?
I’m sorry, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this. There is, however, a sure-fire process for finding the right solution. As you might imagine, it begins with identifying what is within our own control.
The next time you find yourself in angst and fighting against “what is”, try this:
1. Remember what is 100% within your control: (Hint: Each begins with self-awareness.)
a. YOUR thoughts: Your thoughts determine your mindset and drive your emotions.
b. YOUR words: Are they helpful or harmful? Forward-looking or stuck in the past? Are they problem-solving or stuck in the swirl of the tornado?
c. YOUR actions: Are you modelling who you want to be known as?
2. With regard to (insert situation here) what is within my control?
a. Could I learn something that shifts my perspective? How?
b. Could I initiate action that will correct the course? What? When?
c. Could I invite others into finding the solution? Who? When?
d. Is this something I should even spend time on? (Or, is my energy more wisely invested elsewhere?)
3. Relinquish attachment to a specific outcome. We can control our input, but often not the result. An interesting note to keep in mind: The ultimate outcome is often better than the initially desired one. 🤔
As leaders, things are not always going to go our way.
Decisions will be made we don’t agree with, mistakes will be made, and things will be done we would have done differently. However, investing our time and energy on what is within our control becomes the difference between spinning in a damaging tornado of negativity, and enjoying the calm breeze of “I’ve got this.” “This”- by the way- is influential, goal—achieving leadership. Mmm,hmm. That’s right.