There are so many things in life that we simply cannot control (as is especially clear right now, around the 10 year anniversary of 9/11), but what about the things we CAN control? As human beings, we have the power of reasoning and choice, both of which give us substantial control over our own life situations… we just need to be reminded of this from time to time. Following is my reminder list of the 12 Most Important Things We All Control:
I am referring here to “acting” as our ability to take action. We all have days when we feel stuck and think there is no way to make forward progress, but we can always take action, even if it is just a small step in the direction you want to go. You also have control of what actions you take: you can take a stand for a cause you believe in and encourage others to do the same; you can refuse to put up with mistreatment in any situation; you can decide to act with integrity at all times.
You can’t control someone else’s attitude, but you can control your own. It is up to you whether you get angry at your customers who give you not-so-positive feedback, or if you choose to see ANY feedback as valuable data and a chance engage with your customer. The same goes for your personal life – are you going to be the person who makes the best of a tough situation, or are you going to have a defeatist attitude, and just give up? You choose!
Commitment involves your heart, which only you can control. That means nobody else has the power to compromise the strength of your commitment(s) or force your dedication to something. When you intentionally give your time, energy, talents, and love to particular projects, relationships and charities, you are in full control of those commitments, and everyone benefits from your choices.
Will you try to first understand, or to be understood? Empathy starts with you and your interest in someone else and his or her experience. You can control the way you approach any interaction – with friends, significant others, customers, or anyone! (Hint: if you empathize with customers, they will notice and pay attention!)
You get to control what you pay attention to, where you put your focus. We forget sometimes with all the information available to us through social media that we do not have to listen to and read everything that crosses our screens. The same goes for the rest of your life – you get to set your priorities and set your focus as clearly as you want. What means the most to you? What do you care the most about? What is most relevant to your work, your customers, and the rest of your life? Those are the things that should be getting your focus.
This is about our personal decision to be a friend… because of course we can only control our own half of a friendship. I learned from my father the value of true friendship, watching him offer his own time and assistance to neighbors with no expectation of return favors, and never “keeping score.” When someone is in need, you control whether or not you will reach out to that person with an offer of help or simply authentic connection.
You can control if you will listen to someone, then how you will listen. When you ask a question, do you pay close attention to the answer? And even if you haven’t asked a question, do you still focus on what someone is saying, taking care to hear their words and the meaning behind them? There is a lot of chatter out there, so it is even more important to keep your listening skills fresh, both in written and spoken conversations.
Hearing, to me, is what you do when you take listening one level further and involve your heart and understanding. When you truly hear someone, you empathize with them, and seek to understand where they are coming from and even what they are feeling. You control whether you give that extra effort or not. Do you find yourself “blocking out” what someone is saying because you either don’t agree with it, or can’t be bothered to understand? Try really hearing someone, and chances are you will find them interesting, wise, and possibly even a great sounding board for you.
Learning happens inside your own mind, and although others may influence it, you still control how open you are to taking in new information and integrating it with your work and life. You can control, for example, whether you let mistakes shut you down or teach you, and whether you will keep up with the latest new research in your field or settle for letting your knowledge go stale (warning: think about what your customers want and need from you!). You always have a chance to grow and learn, which gives you a way to stay excited about your work, your life, and your value. They say life is an open book, so why not choose to learn from all of it??
You might think you cannot control love, but what you do with your heart cannot be decided by anyone else. Will you keep your heart shut, or will you open it so love can come in and go out? When you give love, it makes everything you do more significant and meaningful – for those you connect with AND for yourself. It can be as small as opening a door for someone overloaded with groceries, or as big as risking your life to serve your country. Every act of love matters.
Motivation is about what entices someone. To motivate others, you first need to know their needs, preferences, passions, and even their pain points, so you can offer an incentive (reward) that is completely relevant and valuable to THEM. If you are willing to take the time to ask questions, listen to and hear their answers, you have a good chance at offering them effective motivation for a variety of actions. This applies to your own motivation also. Set goals to help motivate you to take action toward accomplishments, followed by relevant rewards with each goal met.
This one can be difficult to control, but it is still possible. If someone “makes” you angry, it is because you let them get under your skin, not because they had the power to choose your mood for you. This is all about whether you see the glass half empty or half full. This might sound Pollyanna, but it is true… when you control your viewpoint, your mood will follow! Think of all the phrases that apply to this… “rose-colored glasses,” “silver lining to a dark cloud,” “make lemonade out of lemons.” All of these perspectives are in your control, so why not choose one that is more enjoyable for you (and those around you)?
Now that you have read all 12 of the things you can control… take notice that all of them have significant impact on your relationships, whether they’re business or personal. You can’t control each relationship, but you can decide to give relationships top priority in your work and home life. Don’t forget… it really is All About Relationships!
Originally posted at THE 12 MOST
Ted, have you ever read Viktor Frankl’s book – Man’s Search For Meaning? He gives such a good take on attitude and how THAT is all we can control when he relates that attitude was ALL he had left while surviving the holocaust.
Me, the only thing I control is what I eat for breakfast!
I have not read that book… but thanks for the recommendation Bruce.
I absolutely LOVE your post, I agree with the entire point, I try to instill that in my children as well as friends, that no one, no matter how much they do, they can not control the way you act/feel/choose 😉
I make the choice everyday to smile and move on despite the mudslide I may be riding 😉
Hear, hear Lily. Passing this to our children is so very important.
Ted, I love this post. And I love that you mention love as something that we can control. It is so true. We do have control over each one of these things and the more people pay attention to the amount of control they have over these things, the happier they will be. We cannot control what others do or think or say, but look at how much we CAN control in ourselves.
If this post were required reading for the entire world, I think we would live in a much happier and more peaceful place. Very well done. Thank you, Ted. 🙂
Wouldn’t that be nice!
I really like reading a post that will make men and women think.
Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!
My pleasure. Thank you.