Focus On What You Can Control

A Close Game.

As the final minute winds down, your team is barely winning. They’re playing well, but it’s too close for comfort. At the last second, the other team makes a miraculous play, and your team loses. No! In a flurry of emotion, you jump up and throw your phone across the room. You can’t even put how upset you are into words. For the next three days you walk around in a funk.

As a sports fan, I understand it’s fun to support teams and how a loss at the last minute crush you. It’s part of being a fan. Letting that feeling linger and fester, however, is another issue entirely. The outcome of a sports match you’re not participating in was never in your control. Not even in the slightest. If we can’t control the outcome, why let an event like that have such a lasting impact on our emotional state?

If you can’t control it, don’t spend energy on it.

In this article we’ll be talking about focusing on what’s in your control. While you can create many opportunities in life, the outcome of some events will simply be out of your control. Focusing on these outcomes can drive you insane as you constantly ask why they weren’t as you desired. Why didn’t he just block the pass? He was standing right there!

If you’re sure you’ve exhausted all your opportunities to influence a situation, it’s worthwhile to move your attention elsewhere. No matter how many times you think about it, that game has already ended. The outcome won’t change. Now, you can always control some aspects of life but if your attention is in the wrong place you’ll miss opportunities to take action.

Examples of what you can and can’t control.

Here’s a few examples of things you do and don’t have control of.

How other people act.

You can control how you treat other people.

You can’t control how other people act toward you.

There are certainly ways you can act that produce more favorable outcomes, but ultimately you can’t control anyone else’s actions. You could ask someone for directions and they could either answer ‘what are you an idiot?’ or ‘sure, here’s the best route to take’. You’ve completed the same action, but they’ve interpreted it through their world lens before reacting.

If we flip the situation around and someone asks you for directions, you’re in control of how you respond to that situation. You can either help them to the best of your ability or ignore them. No matter how they ask you, the response is up to you.

Traffic Conditions.

You can’t control someone cutting you off in traffic.

You can control your reaction to getting cut off in traffic.

Again, you’re not able to control other people’s actions. If you’re driving and someone cuts you off, there’s nothing you can do about it. All you can control is your reaction. Even if you become infuriated, get them to pull over and scream at them. Them cutting you off in the past won’t change. It’s common to hear phrases like ‘That person makes me so mad!’ but do they really? You decide if you’re going to get upset or let it pass through your day. You decide how important each event is to you. How much does getting cut off impact your life in the long run anyway? It’s too late to change. 

Getting Laid Off.

You can’t control a lay off if the company is struggling.

You can control how quickly you look for a new job.

Here’s another situation where you can’t control the outcome, but you can control over your reaction. The more time you spend wondering why they let you go or hating the company for mismanagement, the longer you go without a job. Focusing on your woes and frustration doesn’t get resumes into the hands of potential employers.

Other People’s Success.

You can’t control if someone you find undeserving is successful.

You can control how hard you work to become successful.

Some people become jealous of how well others are doing and focus on it. For example, there are people out there who inherited mass fortunes without doing any work. Another good example are musicians who you don’t think are talented. It’s common to hear people say things like ‘I can’t believe so and so is popular, all their music is terrible’.

Again, the longer you focus on their success and how unfair or undeserved it is, the more time you waste. You could work on your own success during that time. The outcome of their career and the ‘fairness’ of the world aren’t in your control. You do, however, directly control how hard you work and your willingness to execute on new opportunities.

There is a lot in your control.

That should be plenty of examples but I have one last clarifying point. Don’t use this mindset as an excuse to stop achieving. We’ve all run into individuals who think everything is out of their control and are unable to solve any problems on their own. In every situation you will have control of something, even if it’s just your thoughts and feelings.

Focusing on what you can control is pivotal to happiness. Otherwise, you’re left to the whims of the world, which isn’t always friendly. Knowing what you can control empowers you to take control of your life as a whole. As you practice, you’ll improve at identifying what aspects of life are under your control and taking action to remedy them. Otherwise, you’ll waste energy on topics and problems you can’t change anyway.


Write down your own example of a situation in your control and one that’s not.


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