When her sister would pick fights with taunting words or when she was nervous before a big test, her mother would remind and reassure with this sentiment. At times, this familiar response did not seem helpful. I know I can control myself, but I want to control OTHER things, she’d think.
Frustrating as such a response can be to hear, I am pretty sure that Susanne’s mother is correct. Every single day, I am reminded that I can control no one else but myself. Yes, as a leader, I can influence, persuade, cajole, restrict and even prohibit others, but I cannot control anything or anyone other than myself. In my industry, there is a tendency to believe that, with the right training and enough money, you can prevent problems.
You, however, cannot make sure that your colleague places the report on your boss’s desk, and you cannot select the words that a client uses in a telephone conversation. On certain days, after the printer breaks, your partner goes home sick and your phone deletes its contacts, it’s easy to feel like there is little in your life that you can control. From coworkers’ personal habits to current weather patterns, your life is heavily influenced by things outside of your control.
In any situation, you can only control how you react. You can choose to be encouraging, and you can choose to hold fellow workers to a high standard. You can administer undeserved forgiveness, and you can remedy the issue with extra effort. What a great responsibility it is! To chose to speak thoughtfully! To decide to put forth the effort to be exceptional! To select the action most appropriate!
So tomorrow when you feel your blood boiling and sharp words float to your lips, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Use a moment to pause and then respond. Because after all, darling, you can only control your reaction.