Control Is Often An Impossible Goal
As a consultant, travel is the name of the game. A few weeks ago, my Monday started much like other Mondays – a planned drive to the city with a flight out to my destination. En route, I double-checked with the airline to ensure the flight was on time—big red letters: CANCELLED.
My mind raced to all the meetings I needed to reschedule later that afternoon. I hate inconveniencing colleagues. As I texted my clients to update them on the change in arrival time, I received one text back that jumped out to me: “Please don’t apologize. It’s completely out of your control.” The grace and gentle reminder caught me by surprise; up to that moment, it felt entirely within my control. After some reflection, I realized she was right. I can control many things, but the time the plane decides to take off isn’t one of them. Admittedly, without her reminder, I would have spent the rest of the day (perhaps even a few days) feeling anxious about the inconvenience to others.
As humans, we’re often our own harshest critics. We set high expectations for ourselves, and when we don’t meet them, we feel disappointed and frustrated. In these moments of self-doubt, it becomes easy to compare ourselves to others and feel like we aren’t stacking up (“everyone else would have made the flight”). These confidence-killing emotions are a slippery slope into negative self-talk and self-criticisms – the anxiety-fueled narratives we get so great at telling ourselves. We often forget to grant ourselves the same levels of understanding and compassion that we would share with others.
A colleague gave me an unexpected gift that morning – permission to let myself off the hook. From this gift, here were my biggest takeaways:
Only seek to influence what’s in your control. We can control two things: our actions and our responses to others’ actions. If the situation you find yourself in doesn’t align with either of those, let it go. It’s not your burden to carry; your time is better spent in areas you can influence.
Seek out a friend, colleague, or coach. When you’re too inside your head to see the situation clearly, it can be helpful to seek out a trusted colleague or friend to bring objectivity to the situation. A five-minute phone call or quick text exchange with a respected outsider can create the space to step back and see the situation more clearly.
Treat yourself with compassion, kindness, and understanding. Life is tough enough, and we don’t need to add negative self-talk and self-doubt to it. When confidence-killing emotions rear their ugly heads, fight back with positive reminders, a few moments of deep breathing, or another restorative practice. We must become our biggest cheerleaders.
I’m grateful a canceled flight turned into a few lessons learned. It’s a great reminder that there are bright spots everywhere if we seek them out.
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