Focus on What You Can Control and Less on What You Can’t

March 05, 2021 4 min read

Focus on What You Can Control and Less on What You Can’t

How much better would you feel if you didn’t worry about what other people thought of you or how someone reacted to you? How much better would you feel if you only focused on what is in your realm of control?


The concept, “Focus on what you can control, and less on what you can’t” might come off as incredibly obvious and simple. But because we are all human, it is inevitable to fall into a behavior of wanting to gain control of everything and everyone around us.


Have you ever brought up something sensitive and personal to someone and they reacted poorly and not how you wanted them to? Their response could have upset you and made you sad or angry and you wish they reacted differently.


What’s important to remember is that they are responsible for their actions and reactions. You are only responsible for how you respond. When you’re faced with a situation like this, stop and pause for a moment and say, “I am responsible for me. I am responsible for how I show up and uphold myself. I’m not in control of anybody but myself. How they reacted was a representation of them.”


When you finally realize that you can’t control what other people do and instead shift your energy to learn how you react, you will be happier.


Dr. Steve Maraboli, a life-changing speaker, best-selling author and behavioral science academic stated this concept perfectly, “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”


There are two types of people. Those who have an inner-locus of control and those who have an outer-locus of control.

Do you have an inner-locus of control or outer-locus of control?


Take a test provided by Psychology Today to see what your locus of control orientation is.


Inner locus of control is the belief where a person believes they are in control of their lives. This outlook is the belief that one controls their destiny. People with an internal locus of control feel responsible to take actions to shape the outcomes of their life. They then become accountable for the outcomes of their actions.

For example:

  • If I study hard on this test, I will get a good grade.
  • I got this job because I am hardworking.
  • I take accountability of how I react when my partner does something that annoys me.


An outer-locus of control is where they believe that their success happens to them and that things are out of their control. This outlook is dominated by external factors. Outside factors happen to those with an external locus of control. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, they have no control.


For example:

  • I got a bad grade on the test because my teacher is terrible.
  • The only reason I got the job was because of luck.
  • I grow frustrated by my partner and blame them for my negative feelings.


So how do you gain or regain what you can control? Write a physical or mental list.

Brainstorm a list of what is in your control. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  1. Your breath
  2. Self-Talk
  3. Attitude
  4. Goals
  5. Physical Fitness
  6. Diet
  7. Sleep
  8. What we are doing in our free time
  9. How you react
  10. How you respond


Then brainstorm a list of what is NOT in your control. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  1. Family members
  2. Friends
  3. Your teachers or bosses
  4. What body you are born into
  5. The weather
  6. What your friend says to you
  7. The economy
  8. How someone else reacts
  9. How someone else responds
  10. How someone treats you


This will help you be mindful of what is actually in your control, because life can be overwhelming at times and you might forget in the moment. When you find yourself in a state where you are powerless, empower yourself. Think of your list of what you can control, and if it’s not in that list don’t drain your energy on it.


A nationwide survey conducted by University of Michigan reported that 15% of all Americans claimed they felt “in control of their lives” also enthused about feeling “extraordinarily positive feelings of happiness.”


Real talk: Even though you might not like the situation you are in, you can choose to accept it, because that is what is within your control. Once you learn to accept what it is, you can focus on your inner-locus, thus you have mastered this state of mind.


Additional resources to help you gain control of your life:

When you’re focusing on what you can’t control, such as your family, your best friend, or your boss, it starts to weigh you down. When you drift into spaces and ideas where you have no power here are some additional resources to focus on what you can control, and less on what you can’t:


  • Write a life statement, also referred to as your personal philosophy. This is a statement on what your purpose is in life. Why do you exist? Do you exist to help others, to find love, to develop deep relationships? This re-centers your inner-locus of control on what really matters and is personalized to you.
  • Find mantras that resonate with you such as “I’m the author of every next chapter,” and “I determine the outcome of my life.”
  • Inner-locus of control self-affirmations. Talk to yourself as you would your best friend. Some ideas for self-affirmations to remind yourself throughout the day: “You are in control,” and “My hard work is a result of my success.”
  • Our minds are moving at 100 mph at times. Let your thoughts come and go freely by writing them down. You can keep a thought dump journal and write it down when you feel inspired. Or jot down some feelings and throw the piece of paper away. After you write them down, you might feel a sudden weight off your shoulders. Or you might receive some sort of insight and inspiration or empowerment.


You got this!

It takes time and practice to master your inner-locus of control. When you get caught in these situations where you feel powerless, sit back, breathe, and remember this, you can only control you. STAY kind, STAY mindful, and STAY positive!

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