ep.002 What You Can Control

There’s a lot going on right now. There’s a lot that’s been going on throughout this year, 2020, and well before then. And even if you’re listening to this in the future, I’m sure there’s still a lot going on then, so this episode still applies to you.

You might feel like events from this year have taken control of your life, taken your control from you, and taken away things or even people that mean a lot to you.

School isn’t the same. And plans you were looking forward to — events, activities, competitions, festivals, trips, vacations, celebrations — those were modified, postponed, or cancelled. Your day-to-day looks different than it did a year ago. And I’m really sorry about that.

And on top of all that, there are a bunch of other things in life that are simply out of your control:

  • You can’t control how people treat you, to your face or behind your back
  • You can’t control what others think or believe
  • You can’t control people’s choices
  • You can’t control rules or restrictions
  • You can’t control winning or success
  • You can’t control the weather or natural disasters
  • You can’t control the past or what’s already happened

Sometimes when things are out of our control, we feel it. We feel sad, scared, or even mad sometimes. I want you to know — it’s okay to feel.

It’s actually better that you acknowledge your feelings rather than stuff them down and pretend like they don’t matter. Because your feelings do matter.

It’s okay to feel. It’s healthy. It’s human.

Learning to deal with change and let go of things that are out of your control is a skill you will use throughout your life. So let’s focus on some tools to help you with it.

First tool: This is what’s going on. Acknowledge what’s happening that feels out of your control. Like the really sad picture I just painted about our current circumstances. In my life, in my family, with my friends, in my community, in the world: this is how things are right now.

Next tool: This is how I feel. Identify your feelings about what’s going on. I feel disappointed, discouraged, afraid, confused, frustrated, worried, hurt, angry — give your feelings a name. There is clarity in identifying how something is affecting you. Naming it helps you work through it so you don’t have to feel that way for too long.

Final tool: This is what I can do. Recognize what you can control. I have control over how I respond. The saying goes, “You can’t change the winds, but you can adjust your sails.” There are certain things that are overall beyond your control, so empower yourself by letting go of what you can’t control, and focusing on what you can control. Here are some examples:

  • I can’t control others’ decisions, actions, or behavior. I can control my own decisions, actions, and behavior.
  • I can’t control how others treat me. I can control how I treat others.
  • I can’t control others’ thoughts. I can control my own ideas.
  • I can’t control winning or success. I can control my preparation and giving my best effort.
  • I can’t control whether others forgive me. I can control offering an apology.
  • I can’t control whether others apologize to me. I can control forgiving them anyway.
  • I can’t control getting sick. I can control taking precautions to reduce my chances of getting sick.
  • I can’t control what others ask of me. I can control my own boundaries.
  • I can’t control others’ beliefs. I can control my own beliefs and values.
  • I can’t control whether others are my friends. I can control how I am a friend to others.
  • I can’t control past mistakes. I can control my future choices and try to make things right.
  • I can’t control if others help me. I can control asking for help or for what I need.
  • I can’t control what others think about me. I can control what I think about myself.
  • I can’t control what happens or my circumstances. I can control my perspective and how I respond.

There are some things in your life that you can have complete control over: setting goals, practicing self-care (how you take care of yourself), practicing mindfulness and breathing, thinking positive self-talk thoughts, practicing gratitude, etc.

And for the most part, you have some control over how you spend your time, how you spend your money, how much sleep you get, what books you choose to read, what shows you choose to watch, how you move your body, how you fuel your body, etc.

We will discuss these topics more in future episodes. But I wanted to point out that there are some things that you have some or even complete control over.

And as a bonus tool, I’d like to add that talking with someone — a friend, a parent, a trusted adult, or a counselor — can also be very helpful. You may feel like you’re the only one going through something. But after talking about it with a person you feel comfortable opening up to, I think you’ll feel a lot better, and you might discover you aren’t alone after all, and that person can relate. Empathy and feeling understood is really comforting. It helps you learn to deal with change and let go of things you can’t control, and instead, focus on what you can control. 

When life’s changes seem out of control, help yourself take back some control by remembering these tools:

Say what’s going on.

Name how you feel.

Focus on what you can control.

Bonus: Talk to someone.

To help you remember, I created an “I Can Control” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

Here are few of my favorites that illustrate what you can control:

Book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
Book: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
Movie: “Inside Out”

If you have favorite books or movies to add, I’d love to hear from you! Ask your parent’s permission to share your favs by sending an email to [email protected].

Share these cards with someone who needs some kindness, encouragement, empathy, support, or a reminder that someone cares.

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