Gay Hendricks talks about there being two files: those things we have control over, and those things we have no control over. Our trouble, he says, often comes when we get those two files mixed up.
So, let’s sort what goes into which file. Where do you think these belong?
That one’s easy, right? You control your behavior, your choices, your actions. (Except, of course, for when you are in pure reaction mode–but that’s what getting conscious is all about.) Theoretically, you control what you say and what you do. In other words, you have control over your integrity (speaking the truth, making and keeping your agreements, and taking 100% responsibility).
Other people’s behavior.
Well. That’s a little harder to face into. But take a breath, because it’s true–you have no control over other people’s behavior. Zero. They choose what they do. You might be able to influence them (most effectively by speaking the unarguable truth), but no matter how much you wheedle, whine, or demand, it’s up to them what they do.
Nope. No control. You might do things to not get triggered (like thinking “oh, that comment wasn’t about me,” or “I’ll just breathe right here”), but once the chemicals of emotion get activated, all you can do is ride them out until they’ve done their job. In other words, the best thing you can do is actually put your attention on them and FEEL them, until they’ve been processed through your body.
So, what’s left that we have control over? With practice, we can control where we place our attention. That means we can notice what is physically happening in our bodies, what thoughts we’re having; we can direct our breathe towards our sensations, which will help them to dissipate; we can be aware of our patterns and take steps to shift them.
We can also control creating intentions and commitments. In other words, we can direct our life energy towards fulfilling our goals and living out our values. This can take some spiritual weight-lifting, however, as using intentions and commitments also generally means being willing to pay attention to the obstacles we create for ourselves, that is, becoming aware of our unconscious intentions and commitments.
So, the list of what we can control is pretty short, isn’t it? It pretty much comes down to: Our words and actions; how we utilize the power of our attention; and making conscious intentions and commitments. But here’s the good news: the brevity of this list means that we have the ability to streamline what we do have control over into truly powerful living.