Focus on what you THINK you can control

Sep 12, 2020
 
A few years ago, there was a great commercial that of a child wearing a Darth Vader costume.  The child repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to control the world and the people around him using the Force. 

 
Near the end of the commercial, the child attempted to start the family car.  To his surprise and delight, the car started and Vader raised his arms in triumph. 

The commercial is still really entertaining to watch even today.  But it also does a good job of showing how a can-control mindset could influence our daily lives. Research has shown that by focusing on what you can control improves an individual's psychological and physical well-being.  Implementing a can control mindset supports improved problem solving, optimism, and resiliency to challenges and setbacks.
 
There was a bit more to the commercial that is worth highlighting. As the viewer, we also get a cut scene to the kitchen where we learn that mom and dad had used the car's remote start feature. No surprise, the child's force powers were in fact not strong enough.  The parents are still in control, but the child does not know it.

It does not matter that the child can not use the force. What matters is the belief that he can use the force to control his world. The same applies to us. We still benefit from adopting this mindset, even if the control is just an illusion.
 
Unfortunately, the research on learned helplessness shows that a perceived lack of control, even if we DO have control, can be detrimental to our physical and psychological well-being.  The effects on well-being have been found to last for months after the actual events. 
 
Perceived control was the most powerful predictor
of whether or not someone would benefit from the control mindset
 
Another interesting finding is that a can-control mindset was more influential than even a positive mood.  So, you can do this even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or before you have had your first cup of coffee or tea. You don't have to be happy about it for it to work.
 
Coaching Tip:
A couple of times a week include this a part of your daily review. I recommend that you include this a part of your morning ritual. Try to think of your most important projects or relationships. Find at least two ways that you believe that you could positively control or influence. Perhaps, you could come up with strategies for addressing potential challenges or obstacles that you might you encounter. Could you provide extra resources or support to help ensure that the objectives are met?

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