There are events and issues in life that can be destabilizing. Filtering out what is not in your direct control can provide direction and even peace of mind. Take a moment to examine what’s on your mind and run it through the control funnel.

  1. Is it something that no one can control?
  2. Is it something that someone else (other that you) can control?
  3. Is it something that you can influence or empower someone else to control?
  4. Is it something that is within your control?

If no one has control or could ever have control of what’s bothering you, like the weather, you must put it behind you. But be careful here. If the issue that’s plaguing you is happening on a massive scale, for example homelessness in the U.S., don’t dismiss it as something you have no control over just because of its size. Dig into it by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is the issue something that someone can have some control over?
  • Are there things that you can do that could make an impact (even in a small way) on this issue?
  • Are there elected officials or other highly influential people you could urge to address this issue?
  • What could you do to empower or influence other people to make a difference?
  • How could you educate yourself or acquire powerful skills so that you assume some level of control over this issue?
  • Who can you learn from to better understand this issue and how to affect it?

Consider issues at work where you are overburdened with tasks that are not your responsibility. Where does this problem fall in the control funnel? You might be able to train the person whose responsibility it is to perform those tasks—empowering someone else with control. When you are able to empower someone else with control, you not only give that other person the power she deserve, you also free up your capacity so you can focus on those issues that you do have control over. Certainly there may be political obstacles or difficulty finding the time to do the training, but in each of those cases you must again determine the proper layer of control. Run it through the funnel to determine what exactly is in your control, so you can take effective action.

Situations where we do have control are deceptively problematic if we don’t take the time to realize what exactly is within our control.  If we don’t articulate what we can control, we can become consumed with frustration even though we hold all the power to fix it. It could be a job that we don’t like or a toxic relationship. Maybe it’s just a messy home. Whatever the case, it’s essential that you stop and own that situation. Take control.

It’s just as important to explicitly recognize those situations where no one has control over a situation. When we do this we are able to let go—at least to some degree—so that we can refocus our attention where it will have some effect.

Understanding where control lies is a filtering process. That’s not to say it’s easy. Far from it. Nor is filtering control the answer to solving all your problems, but understanding this practice will help you focus your efforts where they count.

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