The control box.
A simple exercise for focusing on what matters.
Think about the last time you were frustrated by a person or situation, frozen by a problem and what to do about it, or anxious about a decision to make.
Put yourself back in that moment. Maybe it was today. Maybe it was two weeks ago. Maybe it’s right now. (Wait…is it me?)
Think about the details of the situation - who was involved, what happened, how you felt, how they felt, what tripped you up, etc.
Be exhaustive with it. We’re not trying to linger in the tension. We’re trying to dissolve it.
Now take out a piece of paper and draw a box in the middle.
Inside the box you’re going to write down everything that’s within your control in the situation. The actions you can take. The conversations you can have. The mindset you can adopt. The reframe you can make. The positive things you can pull from it.
Outside the box you’re going to write down everything that’s outside of your control in the situation. The actions others have taken or may take. The things others have said or may say. The inherent realities of your company, your boss, your spouse, your kids, or your friend that you have no control over.
The exercise is simple, if not obvious.
But it’s also incredibly powerful, because oftentimes our natural reaction is to overly focus on the things outside of our control while neglecting the things that are within our control. This exercise draws a literal line between the two, and gives us the breathing room to focus on our three-foot world - the things within reach that we can do about it.
Try it the next time you find yourself in a moment of tension without a clear idea of how to resolve it.
The control box may just be what you needed.
Control the controllables. Forget about the rest.