Focus On What You Control. Let Go Of What You Don’t.


December 1, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The average person starts the personal development journey in order to gain more control over his or her ability to make changes in their lives. But, somewhere along the journey they forget that there are certain things we really don’t control.

In fact, there are some things that were never meant to be controlled. By focusing on the things we do control, and letting go of the things we don’t the ride through journey of life and personal development tends to be a lot less bumpy.

The Things That We Control

    • Thoughts
      Whether you realize it or not you do have the ability to control your thoughts. The first step is developing awareness that you do in fact have the ability to control what you are thinking. Unfortunately, advertisers, marketers, and anybody else who has benefited from attempting to exert influence over you, have done a pretty good job keeping you unaware. So how do you choose what to think? It’s simple. Decide that YOU will be the one that chooses the thoughts and images that will fill your brain, not anybody else. Once you decide, then all you have to do is use empowering questions to control the focus of your mind.


  • Emotions
    Emotions are largely a byproduct of what you are thinking. If you learn to control your thoughts, your emotions will eventually be under control. Learning to control emotions is important because they are extremely powerful. If there’s anything that advertisers have learned it’s that associating emotion with one of their products is exactly what you gets you to the next step, which is to take action.
  • Actions
    If you haven’t noticed by now, each one of these builds on the other, and if you don’t control one, then you won’t control the other. In other words if you don’t control your thoughts and your emotions, your actions will occur on autopilot. Have you ever come from home shopping with what is referred to as an “impulse purchase”? This basically occurs because you see something, you have a thought about it, you have the sellers intended emotion, and you take the sellers intended action. Take control and take your intended action. 
  • Reactions
    If there’s any phrase that might make you feel like I’m beating the dead horse of personal development it’s that “Life is not about what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you?”. I know it’s been said over and over again, but it seems be the root structure of this tree we call personal development. How you react to everything that happens in your life is a choice. Setbacks, wipe outs, and the overall obstacles along the road of life are inevitable. But, how you deal with them will ultimately determine the quality of your life.
  • Energy
    The life coach I work with once told me “assume that everybody you are talking to can feel everything you are thinking.” There’s no doubt that you feel a vibe from almost anybody you talk to. You’ve also been in a situation where somebody really liked you right off the bat. The combination of thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions results in energy, and the energy you give off is something you control. By having good energy we attract positive experiences and people.

The Things We Don’t Control

    • Other people’s actions
      Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. As much as we’d like to think we have the ability to control other people’s actions, people will ultimately act according to their own will. Unless somebody holds a gun to another person’s head the action they take is their choice. We may have the ability to influence another person’s action, but we don’t control their action.
  • Other people’s reactions
    Have you ever walked up to somebody in a bar, restaurant or lounge, with a smile on your face and said “hello” only to have them blow you off with a scowl? Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a really obnoxious waiter or waitress? It’s likely that you have and if you haven’t you will at some point in your life. Most people are going through their own world of problems, and how they react to you often has nothing to do with you. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should have no social boundaries and act like an idiot. But don’t take people’s reactions personally. You never know what they’re going through. 
  • Divine Order
    Human nature is to want to force everything. In fact we have continually invented technologies to speed up certain things in our lives, and in the process we often forget that there is a divine order in which things occur. The power of presence is another mantra that seems to be echoed throughout the personal development community. While the fact that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, experiencing exactly what you are supposed to be experiencing, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, may sometimes be disconcerting, it is a fact of life. An attempt to control divine order is an exercise in futility. 
  • Nature
    Let nature take its course. When you plant a seed, you don’t dig it up to see how well it’s growing. That would be completely silly and you would end up starting the process all over again with a new seed. It seems to me that manifesting things into our lives works in a similar manner. Every time we questions where the thing the we asked for is, it’s like digging up the seeds.

Focus your efforts on the things you do control, let go of the things you don’t control, and you will find yourself in a much more peaceful, zen-like state of mind.

Written on 12/1/2009 by Srinivas Rao. Srinivas is a volunteer for the Quality of Life Project. The website shares best practices on getting the most out of life from well known types like Richard Branson and Tom Skerritt to lesser known but equally interesting individuals. The mission of the organization is to help people live more enjoyable, purposeful and contented lives. Srinivas also writes at Photo Credit: Jérémie Janisson

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