Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at you. Everything might going fine and all of a sudden…WHAAM! All of a sudden your car is totaled, you break your foot playing indoor soccer, your bike is stolen, or your dream job isn’t exactly what you expected it to be (totally not personal examples at all….).
What do you do? Scream, yell,, curse, get pissed off, pout, whine complain, or ask “Why me?!”
I’ll even admit some of those just feel so right when everything is going wrong. But what are you actually accomplishing besides blowing off some steam? Not a whole lot.
We all might have different reactions to the stresses we encounter in everyday life, but if we’re not dealing with them in a positive manner, stress can lead to significant health problems like depression and anxiety.
How we manage our stress can compound or reduce the effects of stress we feel. According to the Mayo Clinic,
Stress management starts with an honest assessment of how you react to stress. You can then counter unhealthy ways of reacting with more-helpful techniques.
– Mayo Clinic
So let’s be honest, is how you’re dealing with you life’s biggest stressors healthy?
It’s ok if not, the first step is recognizing there’s an issue. From there we can address the issues and make the changes necessary to cope in a healthy manner.
Control the Controllable’s. It’s not a new concept, but you might have heard a different version. What it all boils down to is this, there are certain things you can control in life and certain things you can’t. Focus about the moments in your life you can control, the rest is part of the Grind of life.
Upon graduating college and preparing for the NFL, I was exposed to a new culture of athletes and coaches. One of the first pieces of advice I got from an NFL coach was at the East West Shrine Collegiate All Star Game. Brad Childress, former Vikings head coach, was the head coach of the West squad that I played for. One day after practice, we were watching film as a team. Even for an all-star game, our practice wasn’t all that great that day. Coach Chilly, as he was known to the staff, paused the film after a few consecutive plays filled with loafs and missed assignments.
“Men, this is the big leagues. In this game, all you can do is control the controllable’s and right now, that’s what you put down on film every day in practice. Don’t worry about the scouts and interviews, while you’re on that field, you control your play.”
Although I had heard the saying before, for some reason, it kinda clicked this time. I had been stressing all week about talking to this scout, or why this team had or hand’t talked to me, instead of focusing on the real reason for being there, to play football.
Throughout my professional football experience and really to this day, when stresses hit or there’s some outside pressures starting to build, I can take a step back and focus on what I can control.
More recently, my bike was stolen in broad daylight right off of my porch. I was shocked and irate when I realized what had happened. Stomping around the house, cursing up a storm, and tempers were flaring. I called my brother to see if he had borrowed it. He said no. And when I said I thought it had gotten stolen, his response was, “Dude, that sucks.”
At first, I was ready to yell at him! No shit that sucks! How pissed would you be if you bike…. blah blah blah. But before I let the words out, I realized he was right. It does suck, but what can I do?
Take action! I could file a police report. Check! I could put a notice on Facebook and ask for people to keep an eye out. Check! I could start checking Craigslist and the pawn shops to see if it turned up. Check!
After doing all those things, and understanding that was pretty much the extent of what I could do given the circumstances, my anger was gone. I was still bummed that I wouldn’t have my bike the next morning for my usual ride, but I wasn’t mad. I even changed the Facebook post from a pretty aggressive anger message on the original post, to a more neutral/bummed tone.
No matter what situation you’re in, there’s no point focusing on things outside of your control. That sounds easy, but it’s not. Humans are volatile creatures and our reactions a lot of times are influenced by emotions. Think you’re alone in struggling with stress management? Think again!
For those of us that are more visual learners, see the flow chart below.
Catherine Goldberg, of Greatist.com, has some really great tips on focusing on The Only 7 Things You Can Control in Life.
Entreprenuer.com contributor, John Brubaker, explains how golf’s best and being an entrepreneur requires focusing on what’s in your control. Don’t Waste Your Focus on Things You Can’t Control, compares Jordan Spieth and golf great, Hale Irwin, as well as the lessons learned from the PGA that applies in business.
At the end of the day, the controllable’s in life are vastly outweighed by those that are out of our control. Our happiness and success, being co-dependent to some extent, can’t be affected by outside influences beyond our control. To let that happen can be costly and unhealthy.
Although it won’t always be easy, I challenge you to focus on what you have control of in your life. When life throws something unexpected, remember what you can control and move on.