The Resilience Series: Focusing on What You Can Control 

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to my series of podcasts that will help you to navigate those inevitable difficult events that can occur at work if you’re a business owner. 

Today, I want to talk about why focusing on what you can control will improve your resilience and your chances of business success. 

In your life and in business, do you believe that your actions are responsible for your success or failure, or do you think that it’s out of your hands and external events determine the ultimate outcome? 

If you agree with the first option, you have an internal locus of control. You believe that you’re the captain of your ship, and you’re willing to take credit for your success and also admit to your mistakes. 

If you agree with the latter, your locus of control is external. You think that circumstances, luck, fate, or whatever higher power you believe in is in control of what happens. So when something goes wrong, someone or something else gets the blame. 

The term locus of control was first used by a psychologist in the 1950s to describe the extent to which people believe they can control things that affect them. 

Here are some of the characteristics that someone with an internal locus of control would have.

See if you recognise yourself: 

  • You believe that you’re responsible for what happens, whether good or bad
  • You’re independent and focused on achievements 
  • You’re not particularly prone to anxiety and depression because you feel that you’re in control
  • You see failure as an opportunity to learn

Now, here are the characteristics you would have if your locus of control is external;

  • You believe that luck or fate determines what happens 
  • You think negatively and tend to give up when faced with a problem or setback
  • You don’t feel resilient in the face of stress

Which set of characteristics is better for a business owner and leader to have? 

You might think that the answer must be that it’s best to have an internal locus of control, and many business owners do. They believe that they can make things happen, and they persevere in the face of challenges and setbacks. But in reality, if you have no external locus of control and you don’t take into account the effects that outside circumstances or events might have on your business, you won’t be as flexible or responsive as you need to be. 

The ideal mindset for a business owner would be that they believe that they are in charge of how things turn out, and they celebrate their successes, and learn from mistakes. But while it’s true that your actions can lead to one outcome or another, a fact that many business owners find hard to accept is that many things in life are beyond our control. 

That’s not to say you should throw your hands up and think, why bother trying? The key is to focus your time and energy on what you CAN control. 

Do you micromanage? Do you find it hard to delegate tasks to others and end up spinning your wheels? Do you think that trying to control situations and people will stop problems and setbacks from happening? 

All of this is wasting your time and energy. Here’s how you can learn to focus on what you can control. 

First, work out what you can control. Rather than worrying needlessly about something, think about the things you have control over. For example, you might not be able to stop a problem from occurring, but you can control how you react to it. You can learn to react less emotionally and stop yourself from turning a molehill into a mountain. Think about where you want to put your energy; do you want to focus on worrying and the fact that there’s a problem, or do you want to focus your energies on finding a solution?

Next, think about controlling your fear. If you take a risk in business, do you usually think that it won’t pay off and everything will go wrong?

Do you assume that the worst-case scenario will happen?

And by the way, what is the worst-case scenario?

That your business fails? Instead of thinking ‘I can’t let my business fail’ think ‘if my business failed, what would I do? This is a more productive way of thinking because it gears your energy towards finding solutions. 

Your way of thinking has a lot to do with your beliefs about whether you’re in control of things or not. Thinking about a difficult conversation with a client or supplier that happened last week or imagining what’s going to go wrong in the future won’t solve any problems. You need to focus on finding actual solutions to your problems. It might help to give yourself a break and go for a walk then you might be able to focus and think more productively once you’ve had the chance to clear your head. 

Speaking of giving yourself a break, feeling stressed and overwhelmed can make you feel like you’re not in control of anything. Looking after yourself is a great way to reduce stress and make you feel in control again. Exercise regularly, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and find what other stress-relieving activities work for you, whether it’s meditating, having a hobby, or spending time with good friends. Taking care of your mind, body, and spirit is more important than taking care of your business. 

Finally, one of the biggest things we can control is what we tell ourselves. For example, if you say something like, ‘I really hope we don’t lose that client,’ it makes you focus on what could go wrong. In fact, from that statement, it seems as if you’ve decided that the worst is probably going to happen. Why not tell yourself instead, ‘Even if we lose that client, we can deal with it, learn from it, and find another opportunity.’ It’s easier said than done, but focusing on the uncontrollable is wasted energy, and it causes unnecessary stress. Believing in your ability to handle things is a big step towards becoming more resilient. 

Do you need help with business or employee issues?

I help company Directors like you feel confident in their team and content with the way their business and team run every day. My goal is to create a less frazzled life for you by offering you and your team mentoring and workshops tailored completely to your needs. 

Book a call to find out how I can help you.

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