Things You Cannot Control by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

In General
Nov 21st, 2013

Just as part of being productive is taking control over those areas where we can exert some control, so too is letting go of those areas where we can’t. Here are some examples of areas where we squander our productivity by spending time and effort trying to control something that isn’t controllable.

  1. Traffic. You can certainly make choices about how you travel somewhere as well as the times you travel by car, but you cannot control the traffic itself. Let it go.
  2. Weather. Railing against the skies when the weather isn’t what you “ordered” makes you look more than a bit silly.
  3. Airline schedules. After 9/11, I calmed right down. It’s not that I’m not disappointed sometimes when my plane is cancelled or delayed, but, I recognized that these events aren’t in my control. Having a good book or a charged up cell phone is in my control so I try to use these times well.
  4. Our in-laws (or our own parents!) HA! Better learn this one.
  5. Other people’s beliefs. You can influence others but you cannot change anyone else’s belief system.
  6. Other people’s attitudes. Your attitude can affect others but you can’t change their attitudes.
  7. Other people’s ethics. Ditto. If someone else’s ethics are causing you great distress, then figure out how to get out of the situation, fast.
  8. Other people’s emotions. Good communication can help you find out what others’ emotions might be, but you can’t *change* them.
  9. Other people’s parenting. Watching other people make mistakes as parents is just part of life…and again, you can influence some people but most others you are observing are not particularly interested in your feedback….so just do the best job you can with your own children (or nieces & nephews).
  10. Other people’s politics. As never before, this seems to be an area where we can’t change anyone. We need to do our part to vote our beliefs and our politics and effect change that way. We sure can’t control anyone else’s politics.

Do you notice a pattern? The last 7 in particular are “other people.” The best you can hope for is to influence other people, but controlling them is out of the question. For some of you reading this, you can regain hours each week by letting go of worry, time, and effort trying to control any of the ten items listed above. Print this out so you have it for a handy reference.

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