The Illusion of Control

15th September 2023
Read time: 3 mins 18 secs

What are you really in control of?

Think about the thing that you are anxious about right now.

Go on, whatever it is, think about it. Have you got it? Good.

For me, it’s hoping people like this weeks email. Is it going to be good enough? Will someone be offended? Will someone think it’s the worst piece of garbage they’ve ever read? I sure hope not.

For you, maybe it’s a game coming up, or a presentation. Will it be a ‘success’? (depending on how you define success – more on that another time).

Perhaps you’re going on a date. Will they like me? Will I accidentally trip into them. Will I spill hot soup all down myself and them.

The fact is, the anxiety or stress you’re feeling right now likely comes from the Illusion of Control.

The Illusion of Control is the fact that we think we have more control over a situation than we actually do.

It’s why the pandemic was a living nightmare for so many, because we were in the middle of something that we predominently couldn’t control.

When we have something that we think we can control, but can’t, it leaves us feeling anxious, stressed, frustrated, fatigued.

Truth is there’s so much that’s not in our control.

And that lack of control and high anxiety clouds our confidence.

Being in control creates confidence.

Think about a performance that you’ve had before.

A moment when you were at your very best. Untouchable almost. Got it?

Chances are that you would have felt in control in that situation.

When I think to some of my best games I’ve ever played, when I was in the zone, I was in total control and I felt I could bowl the ball wherever I wanted. There’s nothing better. A pure expression of confidence and competence.

What can you control?

Ultimately there’s only a few things we can control.

  1. Our mindset (our attitude, attention, focus, perspective)
  2. What we think of ourselves (our self-worth)

We cannot control what other people think of us or what other people expect of us.

We can only control what we expect of ourselves, where we place our energy and attention, and what we think of ourselves.

Taking back control

How can I take back control and start to feel that sense of confidence?

Flex your Acceptance muscle

It sounds easy, but I promise you this one is difficult.

What we cannot control, we have to accept, as tough as that may be.

But the good news is, you’re stronger than you ever thought you were.

You can do it. You can learn to accept a situation. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and practice to learn how to strengthen the acceptance muscle.

When faced with something that is causing you anxiety or stress, take a moment to ask yourself; “Can I control it?”

If the answer is yes, great! Take action.

If the answer is no, you have to accept it.

If we can’t or don’t accept things – we suffer.

One breath at a time

In a situation that is causing stress, look to find the lowest-hanging fruit first to take back control.

That could be something as simple as taking one deep, controlled breath.

For example, you might be needing to take a game winning shot. The pressure is high, the anxiety spikes, and you start to feel a sense of losing control. You take a deep breath, not only to calm the body, to refocus the mind, but more importantly, you are in control of that breath. It’s starting point. A strong hold for your control.

We’re always in control of our breath, so use it.

Know your Uncontrollables

A simple exercise that I get clients to do is to write down their controllables and uncontrollables.

Controllables are everything that you are in control of (hint: I’ve already mentioned this, but write down what yours are)

Uncontrollables are everything that is not, and boy, this can be a big list. Everything from what others think of you to umpire decisions and the weather.

It’s exercise 7 in chapter 2 in the MindStrong Mindset Course and one of the most transformative exercises I’ve seen for athletes that are looking to let go of what they can’t control and bring confidence to their game by focusing on their controllable.

When we take back control of our efforts, our mindset and ultimately our path, and learn to accept what we can’t control, we not feel far more confident about ourselves but begin to see life in a whole new perspective.

So when you’re next faced with a challenge, anxiety or stress. Being by asking yourself – what can I control?

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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