What’s in Our Control?

A few weeks ago I drew a big circle in my work notebook and titled the page “Scope of My Control.”

I put

  • my actions
  • my decisions
  • my behavior

in it and

  • The weather
  • Others’ thoughts
  • Others’ feelings
  • others’ behaviors
  • others’ decisions
  • others’ actions
  • my thoughts
  • my feelings

outside.

Today, I added “the outcome” to the outside too.

A few hours later, when meeting with my new manager, I happened to open to that page. He started reading it upside down and it started an interesting discussion.

He disagreed with what was out of my control. He thought my thoughts and feelings are under my control. So we talked.

We discussed.

I don’t think either one of our minds changed.

And it was wonderful.

His point was that people shouldn’t feel hurt when they know the other person’s intentions are not to hurt them. My point was that people can’t help what they feel, what they can help is how they respond to that feeling. People can decide to act in a way that assumes the other person intended to hurt them. They can also decide to act in a way that questions their feeling. They can wonder, “why would this person intend to hurt me?” or “why would a kind person say something hurtful to me?”

I think more controversial is that I believe my thoughts are out of my control.

And as I write it again, here on this blog, I believe it even more. Our brain is on all the time. It’s constantly thinking and reacting to things. Many of my thoughts are my brain finding a pattern and thinking that something similar must be happening. I truly don’t think I can control this process. But again, I can choose how I act in response to my thoughts. I choose whether or not I believe those thoughts. Whether or not those thoughts should pertain to a decision I’m trying to make.

For me, the key to disconnecting my thoughts and feelings from my actions, decisions, and behaviors has been self-awareness.

I have spent the last year (at least) learning what my stories are, my common stories, the one my brain always tries to explain things through. I’ve told you guys some of these stories here on this blog.

Being aware of them allows me to question them. Allows me to take control of the things I can take control of, instead of following them blindly and wondering why I feel totally powerless to relive the same story over and over again.

Know what you can’t and can control. Figure out what works for you. Follow your beliefs to find the stories you tell yourself. Learn yourself. Develop this awareness. And as always, see what happens.

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