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Controlling the uncontrollable

Do you ever have those days where you do nothing but react? Days where all sense of control is lost? Do those days sometimes bleed into weeks, months and even years?


It’s exhausting, both mentally and physically.


The more this happens to me, the more I realise this 'runaway train' affect is one of the root causes of my stress.


And it doesn’t take too many days like this for the problem to accelerate and for those moments to amplify. As our sense of control slips away, we become increasingly agitated, pessimistic and even angry. It often leads to increased self-doubt, sleeplessness and sometimes, a spiral into a deeper level of anxiety.


One of the most dangerous elements of this lack of control can be a loss of perspective. It becomes harder for us to contextualise and rationalise situations and as a result, we succumb to the idea that we are victims at the mercy of circumstances, fate or even the whims of others.



Currently, we're living in deeply uncertain times; changes are happening at an exponential and unpredictable rate especially with technological advancements. As a result, we're constantly in fight or flight mode, poised to deal with yet another new development.


Change isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, we're not yet equipped to deal with the ever-changing landscape and the result is people are becoming increasingly anxious, depressed, angry, fearful and polarised.


And the truth is, the world is not going to slow down so we need to find new ways to help us feel back in control.


I recently returned to the work of Martin Seligman, an American psychologist and the founder of the positive psychology movement, who recommends you ask yourself six simple questions to help you feel more in control of ‘uncontrollable circumstances’. I like them for their simplicity and thought I’d share them here.


When dealing with a challenge ask yourself;


· What is the worst thing that can happen?


· What is one thing I can do to stop the worst thing from happening?


· What is the best thing that can happen?


· What is the one thing I can do to make the best thing happen?


· What is the most likely thing that WILL happen?


· What can I do to handle the most likely thing, if it happens?


I think today we spend a lot of time afraid of acting, we over think, we fear outcomes, we are scared of the change, however, I find that by taking action, no matter how small, I start to feel more in control and less like a victim of circumstance.

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© Richard Gerver