01 May Controlling What We Can. Letting Go of What We Can’t.
Skater Dan Jansen, seeded first in the world for several years between 1984 and 1994, failed to win it in 3 consecutive years. His coach suggested he focus on “being technically correct, aggressive, fluid, and to have fun. With little pressure to win, he skated like a champion, stayed focused on the process, and won the gold medal in record time in 1994. He exemplified the notion of letting go of the need to win in order to be victorious” (Lynch, 2001, p. 198). In anything we do, we possess only a limited amount of control over the outcome. Jansen’s coach knew this and now I want to help you know it too (as well as how to use this knowledge to help you tremendously in your daily life). Here are some examples:
- Athletes have partial control over winning. They can exert notable control over their skills, strategies, attitudes, and thoughts. By doing so, they can put themselves in the best position to win, but can’t control whether that results in a victory.
- When you’re on a date, you have partial control over its success. You can control the outfit you wear, the confidence you exude, and the things you say. So, you can put yourself in the best position to have a great date, but you can’t control whether that results in a successful date.
How to do it:
- Decide what you want and need to focus on the controllable aspects: Make a contract with yourself to diligently and consistently concentrate on things you can control while letting go of those things you can’t control. When you continually remind yourself of anything, you’re much more likely to strive in the direction towards that thing.
- Praise and reward yourself when you predominantly attend to the controllable elements: When you reward yourself for anything, you’re reinforcing it, and are, therefore, much more likely to continue to engage in it again. Find ways that you like to praise yourself (such as having a relaxing afternoon at the beach or going out for some drinks). When you succeed in focusing on controllables (such as effort, motivation, and a hopeful perspective), reward/congratulate yourself.
- Reframe failures as guides to improvement: Loss can be viewed as a chance for feedback. There are always reasons for failure, so as long you’re open to viewing loss in this way, you can learn from it. When you shift your perspective in this way, it’s much easier to let setbacks go, and concentrate more on the controllable factors (the things that put you in the best position for success).