My story, and influences
"You Can Only Control What You Can Control"
By: Tiffany C. Hammer
Last weekend my boyfriend and I were talking about some current worries and anxieties. They can pile up, and if you're not present, all of sudden these seemingly small problems become an avalanche. Unacknowledged stress is a source of many mental and physical ailments. The preoccupations can derail us from accomplishing our goals and leave us stranded, paralyzed by the unknown. One way to alleviate the stress is to change our attitude, our perceptions, so that we can tackle what we can handle and resolve, letting go of the rest. "You can control what you can control is a powerful mantra to help reframe and regain control of what's happening in your life."
I have had my share of paralyzing anxiety in my life, and if you have ever been anxious, worried so far about what might happen that you end up feeling beyond stuck and powerless. For me, this particularly happens when I get preoccupied about all the details, present drama or the worries of my colleagues, friends, family, etc. I fall into my own patterns of being an emotional sponge--absorbing the emotions and feelings of those around me, whether or not they are even conscious of them. This mantra saved me in a big way a few years ago. I was in job in which exceeding expectations was the minimum and a senior manager who "motivated" by instilling a fear that nothing would ever suffice, and small, easily rectified mistakes were belabored. Over the course of a few months, my own manager, a gatekeeper of the unpleasant feedback, began to become crippled by fear and anxiety. She had newfound health problems and appeared to be in a relentless pattern of never being good enough. I would sit in my one-on-one meetings with her listening and finding myself increasingly absorbing this crippling stress. I felt hopeless to please our senior manager, and that our team was predestined for failure. Between my manager and myself, we weren't making any progress.
Outside of work, I was cultivating a deeper spiritual practice for myself. I began meditating regularly and learning about the power of affirmations. After success with "I choose to be happy", and turning this affirmation into a belief, I decided I needed to come up with a way for me to reframe my current professional situation. How it started was by listening to the never-ending negative feedback from my boss, and asking her: "what can we do?" If the feedback was something that we could address and prevent from occurring next time, we then would come up with troubleshooting action plan. This left me feeling capable and knowing exactly where to start to resolve the present situation. If it was feedback regarding something beyond our control, or dependent on variables that we couldn't fix or improve, I tried to stay objective and discard the stressful trickle down worry. After practicing this in every meeting, and reflecting about it in meditation: "You Can Only Control What You Can Control" became explicitly worded and I carried it closely in my personal space. I transcribed this phrase on a post-it and taped it to my computer monitor, and I would repeat it when I would become incensed with panic or fretting about the details I had no control over. It helped me start focusing on the parts of the project I could do well, communicate what I needed, or find solutions in arising problems. Another great benefit for adopting this mantra was that I stopped absorbing the stress of my boss which clouded my perspective. I couldn't thrive in a fear-based environment, and this mantra helped me stay level headed and logical.
Have you ever been told that you can be your own worst enemy? This can be very true when we are worried about the pieces of the puzzle that are beyond our control. That stress inhibits our ability to see clearly what is directly in front of us or the pieces of the puzzle that we can easily tackle. It also helped me reframe my boss' preoccupations over time and improved our own communication dynamic becoming a more effective team. When we are in a fear state of mind our reality becomes distorted and we easily mess up the little things or avoidable problems happen because we are too wrapped up or busy-minded about the "what ifs" or the worry that we aren't ______ enough. Using a mantra like "You Can Only Control What You Can Control" can help us take a pause, a deep breath, and then gain a clear focus on what's directly in front of us. It's a powerful tool to remember your participation in the situation, to objectively look for a solution from all sides of the problem, and to find a favorable, do-able outcome or resolution.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, give this mantra a shot. I guarantee that after using it daily for a week or two, you will start to remember the undoubtable power you have to troubleshoot and create the right answers. Phrase this mantra in your own words and carry it with you. Write it on your bathroom mirror, on a small slip of paper and carry it in your wallet like Karl does with his affirmations, or simply repeat five times when your mind is trying to race away from you. Remember you are a person of value who can easily create a solution. You got this!
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