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Are you in control?

On a number of occasions this week I’ve ended up talking about this topic of being in control (or feeling out of control). Some people might find the word ‘control’ a little uncomfortable or maybe even negative, so an alternative to consider while reading this is thinking about taking accountability.

I had a conversation with a talented individual that I used to work with and have coached on and off over the last 10 years. He’s going through a tough time with his current employer with lots of change happening in his company, which has really demotivated him. As we talked through the situation and what it would take for him to get out of the low he was feeling, it became obvious that he’d slipped into a position of being a victim of the situation. The knock-on effect being that he was feeling quite paralysed and couldn’t see a way forward. We talked about what it would take for him to stop feeling demotivated, which was a step needed before becoming motivated. Once he understood what it would take, we could explore the things that he could control to progress him forward. Immediately he realised that he had been giving up his power and while he can’t change the changes happening in the company, he could control what he does about them. Having that sense of accountability and a way forward naturally lifted his mood.

The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything – D Clegg

Why do we allow ourselves to slip into these situations? Is it related to our fight or flight triggers, which for many people falls on the side of flight as we typically don’t like conflict? Is it because we allow things to build up inside of us and by the time we recognise the impact of it, we feel too overwhelmed to address it? Or is it just taking the easy way out as that alternative of taking accountability takes effort and focus?

From my perspective it is very individual, and I feel also very situation specific. As I look back over the last few years for me personally, I know there have been times where I’ve fallen into that same trap. I was mentally tired, and it was just easier to push the blame onto other things, rather than look at myself and challenge what more I could do. There were three main things that helped me get through some of those tougher moments:

- Having someone to talk to; Whether it be a friend, a therapist or a coach, it is very hard to break out of a cycle like this if you don’t verbalise it.

- Having a purpose; I talk about purpose a lot as it’s so important. Whether it’s a reason for being or a light on the hill your aiming towards, reminding yourself of your purpose helps put the situation you’re in into context

- Focusing on what you can control; The title of this article. Asking yourself, what can I do about this? Being clear as to how you can respond to a situation, even if it is out of your control

Taking ownership and accountability for your actions in a situation is easier said than done, especially when you find yourself in a low place. One thing that I believe can also help is looking for early signs that you’re starting to feel that way. It could be anything from your mood, your level of energy or overall attitude. Take some time to reflect back on previous situations and see whether you can spot any patterns to your behaviour leading up to feeling low. Then once you’ve identified them, find a way to make them more visible for you, almost like laying out some marker posts. It could be as simple as checking in with yourself each morning as to how you’re feeling or using things like images as reminders. The earlier you can recognise those feelings building, the easier it will be to take action.

I’m enjoying writing my weekly blog and I hope the topics are, at a minimum, thought provoking for you if not helpful. If there’s a particular topic you’re interested in, please let me know and I can make it a focus of a future post.

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