Do you ever feel like everything is out of control? Do you ever feel like nothing is going your way? You lose your job, or you feel stuck in your current job. Something unexpected breaks down and you have an expense you were not expecting. There are problems in a relationship with a significant other or with one of your kids.
These feelings can come about as you watch the news. You know the economic struggles. You know the national tensions. You know the ongoing wars and conflicts.
You may feel as though everything is out of control. You may feel helpless. These are not unreasonable feelings at times in our lives and yet, they almost always are not reality. They are more of our perception of reality than what is really taking place.
You control something.
I want to share with you something that I thought is, well, pretty awesome and yet so simple. It comes from Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge. I want to share with you one specific exercise, again simple, but powerful. In his book, he is applying this exercise in a business setting. It seems like an exercise that can be applied to other areas of our lives too.
First, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page, creating two columns. In column number one, write down all of the things that you have no control over that are making your business difficult, such as the economy, the stock market, your customers’ finances, the banks, your boss, the parent company, the health care cost increase, the company’s overall budget, the board, the elections, the newscasts that hurt your business, etc. Those are the things that you have no control over that truly are affecting you. Get everything in that column that you can think of. (p. 135)
Got it? Have you taken the time to right down everything that you have no control over? Now the next step is important.
Next, I want you to REALLY worry about these items, even as a group. Obsess over them. Ruminate. Dwell. Think it through over and over . . . FOR ABOUT FIVE OR TEN MINUTES. (p. 135)
Cloud is not trying to make light of these issues by calling for such a short amount of time. He honestly wants you to feel for what you cannot control. Know that your feelings are real. Own them.
Next, after you have had your “worry time,” I want you to draw a circle around that time block and stop thinking about that column. Quarantine it. Put a boundary around it. If you find it helpful, put a red STOP sign on it. No more thinking about those things. (p. 135)
You already see where this is going.
Next, and most important, let’s go to the second column. In this column I want you to write down everything that you DO have control over that can drive results. (p. 135)
Now focus on this second list. Focus on what you do have control over. It may be small. It may be something really small. If you are stuck in a spiral of debt, what is one thing you can do? You can take a step and ask for help. You can start writing down everything that you spend to see where it goes. You can choose to buy one thing less today. If you are feeling stuck at work and with no control, you can control how well your work is done. You might not know where this job is going. You might not know if you will have this job a week or a year from now, but you can be the best employee today. You may not be able to control how people respond to you, but you can control how you respond to them. You can choose to do something loving towards your spouse today. You can choose to take the step and tell your children that you love them.
You can control something, something good for you and that can help you. If you get to the second step and you struggle to identify anything that you can control, or what you can control does not seem helpful or good for you, take time to talk to someone else. Ask someone else to take a look at your list with you, and guess what, that is a good step to take, something you can control.