Tune into Episode 17 – Controlling your controllables right here in your browser, find it on your favourite platform (head here for the links) or keep reading for a transcript.
Hi, hello and welcome to this episode of the Rules Are Made Up.
Today we are going to talk about controlling your controllables and what that means and what that can look like and essentially what it refers to is to focus on what you can do or what you can control.
And it sounds so damn easy, right, so fucking easy to say but it is a lot harder to actually implement or to live that saying we had to really embody it.
And I’m saying that as someone who has had her fair share or situations where I’ve needed to control my controllables and I’ve needed to focus on that instead of letting my brain run wild with the stuff that it wanted to, you know, going down all the rabbit holes it actually wanted to go down.
Because my brain and you may or may not be able to relate, but my brain is one of those brains that absolutely dislikes ambiguity and uncertainty and like if you told me, “Oh Neens, just wing it” I’d be like “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Like there’s a reason I like planning things, there’s a reason I like spreadsheets and productivity apps in the sense that I like writing my lists and knowing where I’ve got things and organizing things, my brain loves that shit.
OK, my brain loves knowing what’s going to happen, it loves knowing that there’s a plan but half the time I don’t just have a plan, I’ll have a Plan B and a plan C, maybe even a plan D.
Come to me for all the plans. I’m sure some of you might be able to relate to that.
But I just cannot deal with a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty.
I’m actually to be fair, I will give myself some credit here and my therapist – I am a lot better than I was a few years ago and that is due to therapy, I want to credit that and the work that I’ve done, like I know, don’t just go and congratulate my therapist I have to congratulate myself here and own that win.
But still, to this day uncertainty and ambiguity and shit that I can’t control messes with my brain OK.
I love being in control, I like having structure, all of that fun stuff right, that is me, that is me.
It’s hard to accept or to realize and then to accept that I can’t control everything and even just saying that now, so it sounds so like “Oh good saying Neens”
It is so fucking hard though to really accept and understand that you cannot control a particular situation.
Right, and even to talk about it is one thing, then to live it in the moment right, because even in the moment you’re still going to want to control it as much as you can, even if you cognitively know you can’t, you and your brain and your thoughts will still try and make you think that you can take control.
Now, let me give you a very personal example over the last couple of weeks: I’m navigating quite a bit of pain because I’ve reinjured my back several weeks ago.
And we think it’s a herniated disc, I haven’t had that confirmed, but it sounds likely because I’m getting a lot of pain travelling down the back of my butt and into, like down the hamstrings into the calves, and even sometimes into my foot all on the right side.
And it’s a lot of fun, living with that right now.
But the point being is that as much as I want to, I can’t actually directly control what my body is doing, by which I mean the fact when it wants to send pain signals, like the nature of this injury is such that the same exact same movement like walking or standing on one day can be absolutely fine and the next day it’s like the worst zappy kind of stinging pain I’ve experienced that week.
It is really hard for me to actually accept that no matter what I do or how I position my body, or you know movements I avoid or focus on – I can’t control how the pain occurs.
I also can’t control the fact that I have two more weeks (ish) to wait for specialist appointment with an orthopedic surgeon just to get it fully checked ’cause it’s been a few weeks.
I’ve made the appointment that was basically, that was the thing that I could control, but right now I have to wait right and I can’t control that it’s going to take two weeks.
I can’t control whether or not someone might cancel, in which case maybe I’ll bump up the list I can absolutely not, I have 0 control over that.
But what I can control, as in my controllables are how I manage the pain when it shows up?
Right, I can make sure I use a lot of hot water bottles on my back throughout the day, like I’m literally leaving against one in my chair recording this podcast. I’ve actually – my chair, I only had that for a couple of days because I went and bought a new office chair because my old one was like a lovely in $100 locked down special that I got over two years ago, and while it was pretty, it wasn’t very functional.
So it’s horrible to sit on, it wasn’t very comfortable, and so I figured, well, actually, if I’m you know, I’m working from home quite a bit these days, so let’s actually get a proper office chair that has some good solid support.
Right, that’s another thing I could control.
I’ve also got a TENS machine which sends tiny electrical currents through, you know, little pads that you can hook it up to and I’ve been using that on my back and I’m not sure if it’s really helpful and I’m not here to debate the efficacy of those kinds of machines, ’cause that’s debatable anyway and that’s not what we’re doing on the show, but for me it’s worked a little bit, and especially because the big part that it does is it literally just distracts my brain from the pain because of my brains registering another sensation and it can only process so many things at one point in time, right so?
Even if it isn’t really working, it’s a good distraction machine, OK?
The last thing that I can control is how I view the situation, and that’s probably a big part of what I want to talk about today.
Because I could let myself wallow in self pity and complain about all the shit that I’m currently not able to do like lift heavy or run.
And I could most definitely go down a guilt trip of why did I do the movement that I did several weeks ago, which is likely what caused me to reinjure this because if only I hadn’t done it, you know, I wouldn’t be in this situation.
I can totally see how doing all those things can be helpful, And I’m not sitting here or I’m not going to try and sit here and tell you to not do those things.
Because there can be really helpful in the moment. It actually is incredibly helpful to let yourself feel those things right to let yourself be fucking frustrated that you can’t lift heavy because it’s what you love doing and right now you can’t do it.
That just fucking sucks, OK? And no podcast, book – nothing will take that away.
You can also totally go down a short spiral of guilt-tripping yourself, because yes, if I hadn’t done fucking stupid dumbbell deadlifts 7 or 8 weeks ago or however long it was when I injured myself.
If I hadn’t done that movement, I likely wouldn’t be in this situation.
So I am totally allowed to be angry with myself for that. 100%. I can be frustrated and angry with myself.
Because if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be in this pain, I wouldn’t be, you know, sitting here like an old lady with a hot water bottle on my back chucking painkillers every day, hoping they’ll work.
If I hadn’t done those fucking dumbbell deadlifts, I wouldn’t sit here, OK?
Those things can be true and absolutely 100% should we let ourselves feel those things and not suppress them AND I also argue that from there, you can look at OK, that’s OK, I can be frustrated and I can be angry at myself AND I can look at what are one or two things that I can do that I can control?
Because both of those things or multiple things can be true at the same time.
Right, I can be angry at myself for doing a movement that I clearly wasn’t ready for, that my body was like, you know, actually Neens it was a bit stupid, right I can be angry at myself for doing that, and at the same time I can look for movements that I can do right, movements that I’m able to do pain free or almost pain free.
And I can wallow in self-pity and cry about how this just fucking sucks AND I can figure out well, aside from figuring out movements I can do – what else is possible for me here?
Is this may be an opportunity to work on uni things a bit more and or a little bit more on content writing and gaining more clients because I’m not in the gym as much – because maybe there’s a bunch of movements that I cannot do without pain, so instead of doing those movements maybe I’ll spend a shorter amount of time in the gym, which means I have more time for other things.
And this isn’t about finding the bright side and positivity and everything either – ’cause that’s not what that’s not what I’m saying.
But it may be helpful to focus on the things that you can do.
That won’t always be possible. But if you’re someone like me who worries a lot and gets caught up in all the shit that I could have done or the shit that I just cannot control, but I wish I could – focusing on what you can do can be really helpful.
Now I tend to want to give you something tangible or something actionable in these episodes, so for today I’m going to briefly walk you through an exercise that my clients do as well and that I do myself.
Which is called the circles of control and you may have heard about it already in which case feel free to fast Forward, or you know, mark this episode as played or whatever, and if you haven’t heard of it before then stick with me.
But basically what you’re going to do is, ideally, you’re going to take a piece of paper and a pen, but you can also do this on your phone, if you have a big enough screen, you can actually draw the circles or you can just write headings in a note app.
The headings you want to use are in my control/total control, I can influence/partial control and can’t control/0 control. You get my drift.
If you have a pen and paper or you want to draw this, you literally draw two circles that are partially overlapping in the middle.
And then one part of the bigger circle is what you can control, the overlap is what you can partially control or influence, and the other bigger part of the circle is what you cannot control or 0 control.
Use labels that you want to use.
And then you are going to set a timer and take, I mean you can take as much time as you need, but often given yourself a deadline can help so set your timer for five minutes or whatever.
And literally write down in the respective area or underneath the respective heading:
What you can control?
What you are able to influence or can partially control.
And what you can’t control at all.
And the point of doing this exercise is mostly for you to actually get it out of your head, what you can and can’t control because it will actually help you think about what you can partially control or can’t control ’cause your brain will try and tell you that you can control a lot of things when actually you probably can’t.
And so getting this out of your brain removes it from, you know it others those thoughts from you and it gives you a different perspective on those thoughts, or on what you think you can and can’t control or what you can influence and it just gives you, it gives it to you…
It turns it into something tangible, right, ’cause you can think about it in your brain but until you see it in front of you, it’s sometimes hard to actually believe it right, and so if you have those circles in front of you, it is a bit easier to see “Oh yeah, actually I can’t control that thing, that that makes sense”.
And I would caution you, to really make sure what you can control is really 100% in your control and what you can’t control is really shit you cannot do anything and then over the next week, days, months – now I said that in the wrong order, doesn’t matter…
Over the next we while, really work on focusing most of your efforts in terms of thinking time, but also actual, you know actions on the things that you can control. Focus most of your time there.
Focus a little bit of your time in the in that overlap right – because there is a point to influencing certain things, like influencing you know people having certain conversations for example.
But also start to work on accepting that what you absolutely cannot control – iss just that it is out of your control. And again, me telling you this right now, sounds so fucking easy and it’s hard to do it but I want you to start practicing.
At the end of the day a lot of this stuff a lot of this mindfulness, mind management, inner work is about practice. It’s about putting in the reps and it is about starting somewhere and maybe today for you that is drawing a couple of circles that overlap, and putting some words in them.
If you do want to work on this with a bit more focus and having that person in your back pocket, that gives you perspective and/or can give you a little bit of accountability or tough love or gentle nudges depending on what you need – then check out my website.
I have three client openings at the moment and I’d love to help you out if I can, and if that’s right for you at this point so the shownotes will have all the links as per usual.
I’d love to connect with you, let me know if this resonated wherever we’re connected on social media or flick me an email. Again, all the details are in the show notes and I hope you are having an awesome day, stay curious!