The art of controlling (almost) nothing

On identifying what we can control and releasing ourselves from the rest

When looking at life through a lense of control, there are three spheres:

  • Sphere of Control: Things we can directly control (infinitesimally small)
  • Sphere of Influence: Things we can influence, but don’t control the ultimate outcome (marginally larger)
  • Sphere of Non-Influence: Everything else (infinitely large)

The key to a successful life (both personal and professional) is being able to:

  1. Identify the incredibly small number of things we can directly control or influence
  2. Focus all of our energy on being effective with those specific things (relationships, decisions, projects), and…
  3. Release ourselves from the rest (everything we can’t control)

A great life is the product of countless positive decisions made within a very small sphere of control, compounded over time. The less we control the more effective we can be within the sphere of things we can.

We can massively improve our quality of life by investing the majority of our energy into our sphere of control, being the best input source we can into our sphere of influence, and releasing ourselves from the rest.

Having a clear, realistic understanding of what we can and can’t control frees us from the frustration, confusion, helplessness, disempowerment, overstepping that occurs when we mistake something (a decision, project, responsibility, outcome, etc..) that is within our sphere of influence or non-influence as being within our sphere of control.

Feeling disempowered can often be the result of mistakenly believing you have direct control over something you actually don’t.

For example, if you’re an “influencer” in a decision, but not the “decider” understanding this reality allows you to focus on providing the most helpful input (information, perspective) you can, so the decider can be as effective as possible versus waisting energy trying to convince them of the choice you think they should make.

Another aspect of fine-tuning your sphere of control is giving up control of things that don’t make your life better or bring you fulfillment (eg. hiring or delegating responsibility to others in order to create more free time for the things that bring you the most satisfaction).

It’s exhausting trying to control everything.

A great question to ask yourself is, Are there things I’m in control of that I shouldn’t be? And a great way to tell if you’re in control of something you shouldn’t be is that spending time on that thing deflates you, sucks the life/energy from you. If it’s not filling you up, it’s probably a good sign that you should be giving up control over that domain.

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I send an email several times a year with a handful of the most interesting things I’ve written or uncovered at home, abroad, and on the web.

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