Span of Control

One of the most important skills we should learn is to understand the difference between what we can control and what we cannot. The difference between the things we can influence and the things we cannot.  The difference between the internal variables within us and the externals variables outside of us.

Almost everything that happens in this world resides outside our span of our control.  It’s our obsession with the uncontrollables that cause most of our negative emotions. 

We cannot control the traffic.  We cannot influence the weather.  We can never make someone love us no matter how hard we try.

We cannot control how our neighbors vote.   We cannot influence how other drivers drive.  We can never change the way someone acts, they must choose to change themselves.

We cannot control how our competitors perform.  We cannot change our height, age, race or our place of birth. 

The world is full of uncontrollables and we know it.  That doesn’t stop us from day dreaming about changing the outcomes.  Wishing that things would be different. And cursing the results.

The more time and attention we spend on the events, situations, and people that we have no control over, the more we enslave ourselves to external circumstances.

When dealing with the uncontrollables, we have two choices:


Ignore them. 

We cannot control it anyways so why bother wasting energy thinking, ruminating or worrying about it.

Let fate be fate. And we be indifferent to it.


Shift our focus to internal goals.

Within each uncontrollable is an opportunity to influence the situation or how we feel about it. Within every event, situation or interaction is something that we do have control over - our thoughts, our values, our perceptions, our actions, and our words.

Example 1: The Traffic

My goal is not to control traffic because this is outside of my control.

My goal is to control what I do when I am stuck in traffic.  I can enjoy the quiet.  I can listen to great music.  I can use the time to plan my day.

Example 2: The Weather

My goal is not to control the weather because I cannot.

My goal is to not complain about the weather, instead go out and enjoy it.  Or use it as an opportunity to do something indoors that I normally don’t get to do.

Example 3: Their Love

My goal isn’t to make someone else love me, it’s not mine to give away.

My goal is to be the most lovable person I can be. Treat them well.  Love them with all my heart. Use the right actions and words to try to win their heart.  This is what I can control.

Understanding this concept allows us to take back control over our own lives and save our own sanity.  

Anything else is just wishful thinking.