, What are your controllables?

What are your controllables?

May 31st, 2021 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching

I first came across the circle of control/circle of influence model well over 20 years ago. It’s an interesting concept that is often suggested as useful during times of crisis or when trying to perform under pressure. You know how it goes… write down those things that are within your control, those things you can influence and those things that are outside of your control, now go and focus on those things within your control. The problem of course is that when we’re in a crisis or under pressure and we try to think logically about these things, we’re going to fail miserably. During these times the limbic system tends to take over and, in a lot of cases, unceremoniously shoves logic and forethought out the door.

So what are your controllables? These fall into two different categories. Firstly, there are those skills you can practice before you need them. For example, if I know I’m going into a high-stakes negotiation my controllables might include preparation, thinking about a good outcome for both me and the other person, determining my BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), and practicing calm and measured communication skills. It’s important to be aware of your controllables in high-stakes environments to achieve good outcomes. How can you practice the required skills so they become second nature to you during times of crisis or when you’re expected to step up and perform in a high pressured environment?

But these types of scenarios are rare and while they are important they are arguably less important than those situations in life that occur more frequently. The types of things I’m talking about are those little things that add up to a big difference. For example, if you’re hungry do you go for a chocolate bar or an apple? That’s under your control, right? What about when you’re feeling stressed and your go-to is a glass (or two) of wine. Under times of stress it gets harder to make the right decisions but what if you don’t bring wine into the house… that’s controllable, right? What about practicing different coping mechanisms (healthy ones) to deal with the stress? That’s under your control too.

Here’s an interesting turn of phrase, “take offence”. Do you take offence when someone is rude or says something you don’t like? Do you choose to “take it” or “leave it”? Again, another thing that’s in our control. If you want to change something in your life ask yourself, what are my controllables? What are those little decisions that make a difference? Exercising, spending time with loved ones, eating well, practicing emotional regulation… all these things increase (through use) or decrease (through lack of use) the quality of life but they do so in such tiny increments we don’t even notice it until we feel we’re out of control.

Start now! What are the areas in your life and career that you want to change? Now, what are your controllables? What are the things you can focus on to achieve the outcomes (long or short-term) you want for yourself?

I hope you find this useful. Please remember this… at the very least, we can always control how we respond to things.


If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.

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