What do these five things have in common: earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, and in-laws? They’re all things over which we have no control. Some of the things we worry about—like natural disasters and other people—are beyond our control. Though they’re beyond our control, they’re not always beyond our influence.
That which is beyond your control is not always beyond your influence.
If you’re faced with an “uncontrollable” in your life right now, don’t give up. Instead, read the following three ways to influence the uncontrollable and come up with some creative actions you could take.
- Influence the uncontrollable itself. Sometimes, you can take actions to influence the uncontrollable itself. Take people, for example. You can’t control another person’s behavior—just ask any mother of a two-year-old having a temper tantrum on the grocery store floor. However, it is possible—not necessarily easy, but possible—to influence another’s behavior. Having taught full-day seminars about dealing with difficult people, I know if you take the action and initiative to change your own behavior, you can influence a change in another’s.
Influencing the uncontrollable is an option when you are dealing with someone or something that has the ability to change as a direct result of your actions.
- Influence the outcome. In many worrisome situations, there are actions you can take to influence a favorable outcome. The key is to focus on what you can For instance, imagine you are hosting an important outdoor gathering and are worried the event might be spoiled by rain. Rather than focusing on what you can’t do (control the weather), shift your attention to what you can do. In this scenario, you could create an indoor backup plan, arrange for tents, or schedule an alternate rain date. Taking these actions will influence the success of the event, rain or shine.
In another example, suppose you are worried about getting in a car accident while driving on the highway during the winter. You can’t control the other drivers. You can’t control the weather. What can you do? You can influence how you drive in wintry weather by making sure your car is equipped with snow tires. You can influence how you’ll handle poor-weather driving by taking a defensive driving course and by learning how to better handle your car. While some things are unquestionably beyond your control, you can either be reactive and let the outcome influence you, or you can be proactive and influence the outcome for yourself.
- Influence the impact. In every situation there are actions you can take to influence the impact of the uncontrollable on your life—even if the only action is to choose how you respond. Take Spencer for instance. Spencer lost her mother Lisa (who was also my dear friend) to cancer. The death of a loved one, sadly, is something that is beyond our control. Unfortunately, sad things—like losing people we love—do happen. While we are not always able to control what happens to us in life, we are able to influence the effect events have on our lives because we are able to choose how we respond to those events.
Spencer responded with the desire and determination to make a difference. Turning her desire into action, she began making and selling beaded bracelets and donating all proceeds to help fight cancer. Spencer can’t control cancer or the fact that she lost her mother to the disease. However, through her actions, she can—and did—influence the impact cancer will have on her life and on the lives of others.
Do you know what is remarkable about Spencer? At the time of her mother’s death, when she began selling bracelets, she was 11 years old! It’s even more remarkable that this 11-year-old girl was the senior member of the entire jewelry-to-fight-cancer team. The team—consisting of Spencer, her younger sister Taylor, and her cousins Hannah, Kristie, and Shannon—raised more than $40,000 in less than three years. All proceeds have been donated toward cancer research.
How will you respond when life throws you a curveball? The choice is yours. You can’t control all of the bumps on the journey of life, but you can choose to take actions that will influence the impact those bumps have on you and others. After all, if a group of children can take action to influence the impact of something beyond their control, I believe that each of us can, too.
If you have been worrying about something that is beyond your control, ask yourself: What action(s) can I take to influence the uncontrollable itself, the outcome, and/or the impact it has on my life? The answer to this question can help you move from feeling powerless to powerful. It can replace feelings of helplessness with hopefulness. It can replace inner turmoil with inner calm. Put the power of influence to work for you.
–An excerpt from CALM: A Proven Four-Step Process Designed Specifically for Women Who Worry, Denise Marek