Have you ever warned yourself out mentally thinking about a person, situation, or change that you ultimately have no control over? Maybe a better way to phrase the question is not how, but how often! Growing through and letting go of those things that you can’t control can be challenging and cause you anxiety, and stress, and can ultimately derail your day, month, year, or life if you let it take too much of a hold on you.
Today we’ll dive into a few reminders of those things that you can not control in order to let them go and move forward in a healthy way.
As obvious as it sounds, you can’t control the past. Nevertheless, others and perhaps yourself will shackle the past to a person or relationship that can become an unbearable burden. Sometimes that may be justified; think of abusive relationships or all-around toxic relationships (Show 205). Other times, you need to move past the past so you can have a better future.
For those that hold the past against you: The other person will always have the choice and power to hold on to your past or let it go. The best that you can do is continue to show how you’ve grown and matured. Be sure to check out our recommended steps for turning around a bad reputation. (Show 174)
If you hold on to the past yourself: Freeing yourself from the past can be extremely challenging depending on the situation. I’ve talked to and coached people who have been recovering addicts, close combat veterans, people who have contemplated and survived suicidal thoughts, and others who have had a really rough path to travel. If you carry a heavy burden, get help through a professional counselor, psychiatrist, or other trusted and certified avenues to help you get back on track. Remember to give yourself some grace and don’t try too hard (Show 136)
Sometimes when we think about the past we focus on what we could have done differently. That’s good to a point. Use that reflection to grow towards the future, but to get stuck at that moment in the past is not beneficial for you or anyone else.
Other people’s actions and choices
I’ll say that this one got me for a good portion of my early leadership days. I struggled with people who I had invested in and given all the tools to be successful, but only throw those tools away and set themselves back through poor choices in both the leadership and life walk.
Giving the person the support and tools to be successful is in your control. How a person uses (or doesn’t) use the tools is totally up to them and fully out of your control. Know that you did your best and remind yourself of the work that you put in to reassure yourself when others make poor choices.
If you still have interaction with a person that falls into this scenario, be respectful and cordial in the conversation. Share your concerns if you have a level of trust with the other person, but don’t carry an expectation on yourself that you have to redeem or restore that person.
What others think or feel… especially about us.
We typically put a high value on what others think of us, even those that we have no relationship with at all. We can hyper-focus on what a person thinks of us or how they feel based on our own insecurities and need to be validated. If you find yourself consumed with thoughts about the other person, ask yourself a few questions:
How much control do I have over the other person liking me?
How helpful is the time spent thinking about this person?
Does all this time and mental effort thinking about the other person add any value back to me?
If you answer no, then think about the things that you can control. What can you do to keep refining to make a better version of yourself?
People love their comfort and safety! There are few things guaranteed in life, but change is certainly one of them. Change is easy to see. Think about the you from a year ago and no doubt you can see change both good and bad that has occurred since then.
Sometimes it just feels like you are just being tossed about during your day or week. Maybe you feel like you are crawling to the proverbial shore at the end of the day as your ship (plan) was wrecked and sunk again.
It’s not difficult to fall into a cycle of despair and even hopelessness as circumstances around you influence your life and well-being. To help you re-establish or reinforce your control over the day, here are some reminders of the things that you do have control over both in your personal and professional life.
What you consume
When people think of the word “consume” they may naturally think of something like eating or food. While it’s true that you have control over what you consume from a nutritional perspective, broaden that thought to other things that you consume on a regular basis. Your regular consumption includes
Interactions with your friends, family, and co-workers
Reflect on the past week. What has been a negative influence or perhaps overly influential on your thoughts and actions? Perhaps the weight of the news is dragging you down or there has been drama at the workplace that has taken up a lot of your headspace. Here are some tips to take back control of the things that you consume:
Find different news outlets to get your information from. Counselors will often suggest outlets outside of your country if you get too worked up by the news. They are more neutral and have no agenda to drive you toward one conclusion or another.
Take social media breaks and see how it impacts your outlook on yourself and your day.
Put limits on the amount of entertainment you consume to allow space for other productive things.
Check your knowledge outlets for alignments with your goals and ambitions.
Some tips to control your mental and physical fitness:
Studies share that you need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigours exercise a week and strength training for all major muscle groups two times a week. Forget that! Do what you can. You can control going out for a 10-minute stroll. Don’t let studies that highlight how you may be coming up short hold you back. Take control of those small moments to give yourself the break and conditioning you need.
Read a book or engage in some mentally stimulating activity. At my current stage, it’s mostly working on art with a little bit of reading. Neither one, do I spend a large block of time on except perhaps the weekend. Take control of small segments here as well. What does that look like for you?
Find reading or fitness apps to help get you started and stay motivated. You can find an endless amount of fitness apps out there. I use Caliber for strength training; it’s free and includes plans and videos based on what you have available at your house. I use Apple Fitness for my aerobic, core, and additional strength work.
Find things that you have an interest in and carve out time to take of both your mind and body.
Your work ethic
No matter what others do, or don’t do, no one has control over your work ethic except for you. For better or worse, the choices you make in how you do your work are yours alone. Need resources to help drive a strong work ethic? Check out:
Your work ethics are your calling card. More than anything, it’s how people know and think of you.
How you approach and deal with people
How do you show up for people that you interact with? Even in those tough circumstances that may rock our day, we still ultimately own and have the power over how we interact with others and come across in conversations. How well do you control your approach with others? Are you a reflection of your day; nice on a good day and distraught during the bad days?
Be mindful to be consistent in how you interact with others. Most times it should be effortless; it’s your authentic self where you (hopefully) want to add value to others. At other times, you’ll need to make the choice to be super intentional to keep steady in all the negative noise of the day. Don’t let your day influence who you are. Let yourself influence how your day is going to be.
If you look more online at the types of things that you can control, you’ll find a myriad of opinions out there ranging from a list of 100 down to an article saying that you can only control one thing. Evaluate your day. What do you have influence over that you perhaps don’t give yourself enough credit or power over right now? Get a solid grasp on those things you can control as you get ready to let go of the things that you can’t control.
I think all good leaders deal with guilt on occasion in their leadership and life walk. It shows that they have at least a decent moral compass, and while carrying guilt certainly is not fun and can impede your long-term effectiveness if it lingers, working through guilt can be a positive leadership exercise.
Guilt from all directions
Guilt can come from all directions in your life. Friends, family, co-workers and even you yourself can be an area that you feel guilt around. Guilt, at its core, is a feeling of sadness or unhappiness. You feel sad about how you treated or interacted with someone. Maybe you are unhappy with yourself for not connecting with someone close to you for a long time. Some common areas for guilt to manifest are around
Prioritizing between work/academic life and your personal life
Saying something or acting in a way that is hurtful to others
A feeling of letting someone down
Acting in a way that is contrary to your moral compass
Failing to meet your own high standards
Moving past the guilt
Think about the times that you felt guilty and later resolved the situation. It’s likely that you felt a proverbial burden lift from your shoulders. The result is that you positively impacted your own well-being and likely had at least a slightly positive impact on someone else’s well-being too. Here are some steps to take to help you begin to move past your guilt.
1. Think about the origin of the guilt that you are feeling. Where is it coming from? Could it be from making a choice in competing priorities or somewhere else? Is the guilt based on reality or a story that you are telling yourself?
2. Hindsight can impact how you feel guilt based on information that you learned after the situation. Acknowledge that at the time, you made what you thought was the best decision or option.
3. Take ownership of how the decision or situation impacted others. Determine what you have ownership and control over to take action.
4. Connect with team members, family, or friends and sincerely apologize. This is a critical conversation as approaching the other party with authenticity and empathy can go a long way in the right direction while coming in confrontation or defensive will only set you back further.
5. Sometimes the other person will refuse to forgive you. This gives them quite a bit of power in the dynamic of the relationship….if you let it. Be ok with their position. You can only control how you act and react and have no control over the other person’s stance.
6. No matter how it turns out, be proud that you took steps in seeking reconciliation and that you learned from the situation.
Avoiding guilt should not be the goal
When I started to get back on track with my personal health, I began taking mindful cooldown exercises after a workout. At the end of one of those sessions, the instructor had us sit down and quiet our thoughts. He then had us think about the things that were occupying too much time in our minds that day. Once we did, we then mentally acknowledged it and then let the thought go.
It really stuck with me, as I thought about those situations that were taking up too much real estate in my head at the time. I pictured it almost like a train station. The thought comes pulling into the station, you wave at it, and then off it goes. It was a powerful exercise for me to gain awareness of just how much certain interactions and thoughts were holding me back.
The point is not to bother trying to avoid guilt. It’s inevitable. Instead recognize it in yourself, acknowledge it and move on. Guilt can actually be a good place to visit as you grow as a leader and person. It allows you to keep yourself accountable and learn from mistakes and circumstances. Living in guilt, on the other hand, is not healthy and can end up destroying your effectiveness as a leader and significantly impact your quality of life.
Most leaders are harder on themselves than others. Think through the topic or situation that involves the guilt that you carry. If someone else was in the same circumstance would you judge them the same way? Remember that it’s ok to feel guilt and learn from it but in order to be your most effective you have to learn from it, put the work in to resolve it to the best of your ability, and then let go of the rest.
I can honestly say that I have been blessed with some amazing friendships over the years. My closest friends have been there to celebrate the great times and to support me during the hardest times of my life.
Great friendships always bring out the best in you and the other person. They are the funniest, generous, and caring, in their own way, with those friends that they are closest with. Here are some tips to fuel great relationships.
The first step could be the most powerful and likely the largest hurdle to any friendship; time. Friendship takes time and for many adults, time can be in short supply, especially without good time management skills.
In order to build a friendship that lasts, it takes a time investment. One study estimates that it takes 40-60 hours with someone to turn that person from an acquaintance to a casual friend. Invest a total of 80-100 hours to elevate the casual friendship into something else.
The time gate is also the reason you find many of your friendships where you spend lots of time anyway like, work, school, church, and extracurricular activities. Sometimes that time investment is over a long period of time, think about someone you may see during your extracurricular activity (softball, soccer, volunteer, etc) vs someone that you became fast friends with because of life circumstances.
If you want impactful friendships and relationships it will take some kind of time investment on your part.
Typically as you get older, your social circles begin to settle and tighten. Routines aren’t a bad thing and you are actually being exposed to more future friendships than you may realize.
Fueling new friendships takes paying attention to your environment and discovering new friendships in unexpected ways. It’s now a normal occurrence to hear stories of people becoming friends in online games and becoming best friends in real life. Look in the online forums that you frequent. Who have you bumped into while on your errands and out and about in your town? Perhaps there is someone in a different department at work that you find interesting. There are lots of places that are in your normal routines for that next friend.
Neha is a great example of that for me. We initially met a few years ago as we volunteered at the Atlanta Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. At first, that time investment was slow, but it sped up as we got to know each other more and discovered several shared interests. Now she’s celebrating a year and a half as our podcast co-host.
Don’t limit your situational awareness to just new connections. Look around at some people who perhaps have entered your circle of influence for a little while now. What connection may be good to take to the next level?
Time and awareness hold little value if you don’t take action to advance the friendship. Action does take a dose of courage. You need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone at times to put yourself out there for the other person. The beginning stages of a strong friendship can seem a bit like dating. You see something in a person and you may need to step out to make a connection to get things started.
Not all action is created equal at the beginning of a friendship. Some may just easily happen with a little extra effort. I’ve made lots of friends by being paired up with people in both military and civilian training environments. The action hurdle is lowered when you are together morning, noon, and night.
Outside of time, action may be the hardest part of keeping a strong friendship going. Friendship can be work. It takes thought, intentionality, and effort. All that effort may seem hard or discouraging, but remember the joy and connectedness that you, and the other person, experience as a result.
Friendships won’t grow without action, and that’s ok for a large population that you encounter. Nurture those relationships that you want to have in your personal and professional life. The benefits of friendships include:
A stronger sense of purpose and belonging
Reduced stress and increased happiness
Higher self-confidence and self-worth
Support systems during challenging times
Guardrails during major life choices
Bonus Tip – Reconnection
Perhaps you’ve had strong relationships in the past and for whatever reason, you both drifted away. This is a natural part of life and is a natural conclusion for some friendships as the dynamics between the two change. Other times there is an opportunity to reignite those friendships.
A years-long pandemic certainly impacted many relationships across the world. I was not immune to this and found many of my friends that I used to spend my time with were not as close anymore, because of the isolation caused by the heights of COVID-19. I would encourage you to not give up on those relationships if you feel like there is still value in the friendship. Reinvest some time, and take action to re-engage.
Next week, we’ll continue to look at the ways to fuel your friendships by talking through grace, imagination, and cadence.
Have you thought to yourself or said to someone else, “I just need to get out and do something?” I know I do at times! Micro-adventures are a great way to get away, reset, let go of some stress, and learn a little along the way.
While there is a lot of value in those big getaways and moments you’ve saved up for or have been working or training towards, micro-adventures are a great way to keep the benefits of going out and discovering new things a part of your regular schedule.
Small impact on your wallet
One of the great advantages of micro-adventures is that they can have a very minimal impact on your wallet. Sometimes we get hung up in creating these epic, memories-of-a-lifetime, adventures. Don’t get me wrong those are great and have their place as well. I’ll always remember my time going hang-gliding over the Appalachian mountains or scuba diving in the Georgia Aquarium, but we shouldn’t rely on those big tent pole moments and have boring lives in between.
Look for new adventures in your surrounding city that can be a good getaway for you and friends/family members. A few places to look to get you started may include:
Local parks, nature areas, and reserves
Low costs adventures like letterboxing and geocaching
Check your local community calendars for events
Visit area museums and historic places
One of the reasons that my wife and I fell in love with the city of Atlanta, is that we are regularly going on adventures to that explore the city’s culture. Some of my favorite adventures that we’ve been on this past year include a record store crawl, hitting all the major stores and many lesser known stores in a day. We visited a major outdoor art festival and purchased some local art. We’ve also attended many musical events. Our goal is to see a show at every established music venue in the city.
Get creative and find some new ways to go on a micro-adventure.
A great way to relieve stress
No doubt that your work/school life and personal life stack up. Sometimes stress builds up because of a large work project or deadlines and other times stress can build up due to drama or other factors in your personal life. What’s worse is when those seasons from both aspects of your life collide at the same time!
Micro-adventures are a great outlet to get out of your normal routine and give yourself some much-deserved stress relief. The key to helping these small adventures have an impact is in how you approach them. I typically leave all the junk that I am dealing with back at the proverbial door or parking lot. if you choose to bring your baggage with you, you’ll certainly not be as engaged or have as much fun on your outing and the stress relief benefit could very well go out the window.
Be mindful to be fully engaged in your adventure. Fully take in this new experience that you have gifted yourself with. Remember that you can always pick up the baggage once you are done, (or not) but it’s your choice whether it goes with you on not.
Micro-adventures can be a great learning opportunity
Sometimes intentional, and other times by happenstance, it seems like I’m always learning something new on my own micro-adventures. On a recent hike up a local mountain with my cub scout group (Which only cost me $5 to do), we had so many learning moments. My wife has a plant identifier app on her where we learned that grapes grew at the top of the mountain. We learned from our scouts what they had been doing over the recent school break and once we descended, we lucked out and got to experience a war re-enactment. The kids got a chance to ask questions about the time and how the area was different at the time of the battle.
I’ve heard people share great stories in record shops, learned about the history of the community in museums and festivals, and got a better understanding of my city during the many racing events that I’ve done.
Be on the lookout for those teachable moments as you go on your own adventures. Some will be obvious based on the experience that you choose, while others will be much more subtle. What looks interesting around you? Who looks interesting to you? Take your time and soak up the environment around you. There are likely many learning opportunities all around you just waiting to be noticed.
Micro-adventures can be that bright spot you have during those rough times, or something great to look forward to in the good times. Be intentional to set aside time to break out of your normal routine and explore your local area. You’ll be glad that you did and you may just pick up something along the way that makes you a better leader.