Control What You Can Control (You Have More Control Than You Think)
You should stop and ask yourself what you truly have control over. You may find yourself starting down a path of those things you can’t control, such as the weather and the stock market (at least not by yourself). You also can’t control whether or not other people talk about you, so you might as well give them something good to talk about. If you are part of a large organization, you can’t always control something happening in other parts of the company where you don’t have oversight. All of these uncontrollable factors may impact your satisfaction level, your frustration level, and your ability to make a difference. You need to trust that your teammates will get the pieces of their job done and be a good partner who will be there to assist when the need does arise.
You should focus on your own little world and the sphere of control you do have. Start with just thinking of you. You have control over your attitude, whether you take action, whether you speak up, and whether you want to offer your ideas. You may not be able to control the root cause of your stress and frustration, but you can control how you deal with that root cause.
There are plenty of factors to consider regarding what you do have control over. What is your patience level? What is your acceptance level that you can and will have an impact on the bigger picture? Are you open and willing to put yourself out there when you are not in your comfort zone? What is your acceptance to learning from your mistakes? How willing are you to put in the effort to transform yourself into someone in a better position to impact the things you can control?
I worked for a company in which people were very loyal and were leaders in the industry. As a whole, we were confident and convinced that nobody could run this type of business as well as we could. When the company was bought, it was devastating. Although the buyout saved us from ruin, we still had people walking around saying, “Who bought who?” There was a population of employees convinced that they were better than everyone, though this was just one reaction among many. Some people froze in fear of losing their jobs, while others took a more proactive approach by dusting off their résumés. I personally called a relative who worked for our new company. Her company had been acquired a few years earlier. Her advice was to control what I could control. She even mentioned that with a company this large, I might actually find more opportunities to thrive with a decent attitude. It seemed counterintuitive at the time, but she was right.
How could my small voice control anything in a company so large and that seemed constantly in flux? I began by trying to understand the new company mission and culture. Although this seems basic, the old company had an extremely strong culture. Instead of bringing the best of both worlds together, some people refused to accept the new culture and outwardly spoke against it, and even made fun of it. This type of reaction can cause conflict and limit what is within your own control. I made an effort to embrace the new culture and openly speak about the opportunities in front of us. After a while, if there was still negativity, I took control by avoiding any unnecessary interaction with the cynics.
It was possible to bring over pieces of the old culture that worked, but only after we accepted the new culture and were open enough to adapt. I saw many people leave the company. Some left on their own, while others were caught up in redundant positions and asked to leave. This was not easy to watch. However, many were left in a state of shock and felt as though they lacked control over their destiny. The unknown and unpredictability were scary, and we truly did not know where we would all land. However, we could control the small sphere around us. We could control our effort, or ability to assert ourselves within the new company culture, and keep the best pieces of our business moving forward.
I came to the realization that the old company would not have survived without the acquisition. Although I, too, was loyal and knew we did many things right, I believe I adapted to the new company culture sooner than many others. There were many people from my past in the old company who I felt had held me back or had not given me an objective chance to succeed (perceived or real). Many of these individuals were no longer with the company, either by their own choice or through the new company direction. What did I have to lose? While some others were waiting for instructions, I found myself jumping in with both feet. I decided that I would give it a try and move on if I didn’t like it.
The openness to adapt was a boost in my own confidence because I knew that it was one of the things I could control. I started to enjoy it and stopped thinking about what negative things could potentially happen to me. I started thinking instead about the opportunities I could make for myself. I was controlling my attitude. I was having fun being in this unknown, non-prescribed new world. I was controlling my actions. I had new people listening to my ideas and opinions. I was starting to enjoy this clean slate, and felt like I was making a name for myself more than I had in the previous sixteen years. As the full transition and buy-out was completed, I still saw people holding back and waiting for the next move to be made for them. Almost four years later, I still had conversations with people from the old organization who were still clinging to old habits and laughing at the new company culture. It was almost sad to watch because it was predictable that their success had reached its peak. My message wasn’t about full conformance; it was about belief in a new company that we now all worked for together. Hanging on to the old was not controlling what they could control. It would only hold them back.
I remember a conversation with an executive from the old company with whom I had worked on and off for many years. He commented on how he planned to stay low and do just enough to get by. His premise was that it was easy to get lost in a company that large and he could just hold on tight. I felt as if he had lost control of many things he could influence. He minimized his ability to control his attitude, his ability to lead, and his ability to make a difference. Several years later, he maintained this attitude, and he was let go. That was unfortunate. In the midst of what could have been a disastrous buyout of my old company and my potential long-term career, I found confidence and success because I took control of the things I could control.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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