Focus on what you can control

Time is always in short supply. This is true for everyone and especially those in leadership positions. So many things demand our attention. At the end of the day we often feel like a stray dog at a whistler’s convention. We’ve ran here and there and feel like we’ve accomplished little. To make it worse, we know the next day will probably be a repeat.

One of the things we have to learn is to spend our time doing the things we value. These will be in line with our priorities and the goals we’ve set for ourselves or our organizations. During the course of the day we can expect many people to want our time and attention to the things they value, but we cannot allow ourselves to get sidetracked. We must learn to say no to many good things so we can concentrate on accomplishing the best things.

We also have to learn to focus on those things we can control. There are many things we can’t control. We can’t control the rude driver that cut us off on our way to work. We can’t control the competitor who moved into our area. We can’t control nasty bosses and customers. We can’t control those employees, friends, and even family members who disappoint and hurt us. We can’t control the stock market. If we focus attention on these things we can’t control we will be wasting our time and energy.

We can take steps to address these challenges. We can provide excellent customer service so that new competitor doesn’t take away our customers. We can control how we interact with a nasty boss and customer. We might even decide to fire the customer if he or she is a repeat nasty person. I once had a customer who complained about the bill every time he called us for service. One day he came into our office and screamed at my office manager that he would never do business with us again. A few weeks later he called for service. I told him I understood he didn’t want to do business with us again. He laughed, uncomfortably, over the phone and said he didn’t mean it. I responded that we would be glad to service his equipment again, but if he ever yelled at anyone in our company again he could find another service provider. I didn’t waste time thinking about or focusing on the matter; I just explained how things were going to be in the future. He could accept it or reject it. He accepted it, and we never had another problem with him.

Obsessing over things you can’t control not only robs you of time and energy, it robs you of peace and joy. Being a leader carries with it a lot of responsibility, but it doesn’t mean that you are sentenced to a life of misery. If being in a leadership role is drudgery you’re doing it wrong. You need to step back and take a look at how you’re functioning. It may well be that too much of your time is spent on focusing on things you can’t change which is going to lead to a lot of unhappiness. Why not spend the majority of your time on the things you can do something about that will have a positive impact on your organization and your life?

You have 24 hours a day. No more and no less. There’s nothing you can do about that. However, you do have the choice of how you will spend those 24 hours. You alone decide what will be your focus for each of those 24 hours. Don’t waste a lot of it on things you can’t control.


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