Study the above graph and consider the three concentric circles.
The small circle represents things we can control, the large circle represents things that we cannot control, and inside the dotted circle are things we cannot control but are concerned about and desire to influence.
We often spend too much time and energy thinking about and trying to manipulate things that we cannot control. Doing so is ineffective, frustrating, and potentially damaging. Instead we need to focus on things we can control.
Identify things you can control, take responsibility for them, and be proactive in controlling them.
You may be surprised to discover how many things you can control. You can control your:
- attitude (are you a pessimist or an optimist?)
- character (do you have a good work ethic; are you honest, punctual, flexible?)
- career (are you satisfied with your choice of career and are you aggressively pursuing it?)
- friends (are you a good friend to others and have you chosen friends that positively influence your life?)
- finances (are your finances under control; do you have a financial plan?)
- thoughts (are your thoughts constructive and beneficial?)
- speech (have you learned to filter your words before you speak?)
- discretionary time (do you waste or wisely spend your unrestrictive time?)
- hobbies (do you have hobbies that bring you joy and help you be a better person?)
- exercise and diet (are you overweight; do you have a healthy diet?)
- time (do you waste time or properly manage it?)
Identify things you cannot control but you often try to, and stop trying.
- If you’re married, you can’t control your spouse.
- If you have children don’t try to control them. You may have some measure of control over your children when they are infants, but as they get older your control is minimal.
- You can’t control the weather, global events, or the economy.
[Basically, after you’ve identified things you can control, everything else goes in the “I can’t control” category.]
Identify things you cannot control but are concerned about and want to influence.
There’s an infinite number of things I cannot control but I’m not concerned about most of them. I can’t control the GDP of Iceland, the weather, the stock market, or the rings around Saturn. But there are some things that, though I cannot control them, I am concerned about them. I am concerned for my spouse, children, friends, global warming, democracy in the United States. The only tool available to impact these areas is to attempt to influence them. There are some concerns I can directly and strongly influence (spouse, children) but many that I can only minimally impact but I should do what I can (I can help minimize global warming by recycling my waste; I can vote to elect good governmental leaders).
Learn how to influence things you cannot control.
Learn the fine art of how to influence. It’s difficult to do, but effective.
Control and influence are vastly different.
- Control is direct; influence is subtle and nuanced.
- Control can be quick; influence is slow and ongoing.
- Control is decisive; influence is suggestive.
We can influence through example, mentoring, coaching, and love.
Be proactive towards things you can control and areas you want to influence.
I enjoy the concept of being proactive. It is a gift. It implies that I can create or influence a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. I admire people who are proactive and take initiative. Focus on things you can actually do something about, make plans to do so, and work your plan. Don’t worry about and waste time on things you have no control over.