The Thing About Control

The Thing About Control

Learning What’s Behind It So It Doesn’t Control You

“If only I could control what happens outside of me then everything would be ok.”

~ Said by just about everyone at one time. ~

Imagine if you could control how people respond to you and how things operate around you? Imagine if you could have things exactly the way you want them? Imagine if you didn’t have to deal with this thing called ‘uncertainty’. Ah, what a world that would be?

I know as you read that last part, a part of you was daydreaming for a brief moment about what that would be like. And although that might sound nice, there’s a reason why we need this sense of control and why it’s so emotionally disarming when we feel like we’re losing control.

So what’s behind this need for having control?

And why is it, that for some of us, there’s a stronger need to have it, than for others? If we could understand what’s behind it, perhaps then, we could find a healthier way of functioning where we only focus on what we know we have control over. And perhaps even beyond that, if we could find out what having control gives us that’s even more important, then this need for having control gently slips into the background of our lives, slowing losing its grip over us.

If we take a closer look at control and what it gives us, let’s take a look at what’s beneath the surface of it, that thing it seems to be protecting. It’s as if control was this rigid framework or scaffolding we carry around with us, on the outside, that protects our more vulnerable and fragile ‘self’ underneath. I see this ‘self’ as a kind of emotional operating system that was created by us from the time we were born until now. This emotional operating system consists of beliefs and behaviours that we developed in response to the events of our past. And these events can be positive, negative or more likely, a hodgepodge of positive and negative experiences from which we’ve designed a way to keep ourselves emotionally safe. The more we feel the need to protect our emotional operating system, the thicker that scaffolding or framework will be on the outside. For some, this framework may even be lined with a shell (thin or thick), shielding themselves from the outside.

This is where it starts to get interesting.

A question I love to ask my clients is ‘what is it that having control gives you that’s even more important?’ And then I probe a little deeper ‘And just suppose you had that, what’s important about that for you?’

So ask yourself this question in an area of your life where you need to have the most control:

What does having control give me that’s even more important?

What I find often comes up is stuff around safety – physical safety, emotional safety and avoiding vulnerability and emotional exposure. Because if we go back to this idea of control being this framework or scaffolding around the outside of us, it makes sense that it’s there to protect us, to make us feel safe.

Okay, now what?

We now may be starting to understand what’s behind control and the purpose of it. But how do we stop it from controlling us? How do we stop control from having a negative impact on our lives?

Some may say, so what, I like having control and I don’t want to change that. But here’s the honest and direct truth, that I say from a place of caring personally and pure commitment to your growth and success:

You’re either pissing people off, sabotaging your own success or both.

You’re pissing people off because you have to have control all the time. People don’t feel heard, respected or empowered around you. You avoid discomfort and stand in the way of collaboration and teamwork.

You’re sabotaging your own success because you have to have control of the outcome, and when you don’t, you stop. You stop taking risks, you stop being vulnerable or emotionally exposed and you stop stepping out of your comfort zone. You avoid your growth edges and essentially stunt your own growth

So how is control showing up in your life and which one are you?

Whichever way it’s showing up in your life, and if you’d like to change some of the negative behaviours that come with it, the next step is figuring out what’s underneath it and what it’s giving you that’s more important, as I talked about earlier.

If you can figure out what control gives you at a deeper level, then go get more of that. Go and focus on what you do have control over, which is developing yourself.

If it’s a need to feel more emotionally safe, then work on strengthening your personal boundaries so you know you can protect yourself regardless of the situation you’re in. If it’s a need to feel more confident and build your self-belief so you can take more risks, then go and do things to build your confidence. Whatever the deeper need is, go and bring attention to getting more of that, developing yourself and bringing more of that thing into your life.

There’s a win-win situation here, a double benefit if you will.

First, by focusing on what you do have control over, it actually makes you feel like you have more control again.

Secondly, as you go and get more of that thing that underlies your need for control, control will loosen its grip on you. And that rigid framework that exists on the outside of you, needing to protect you, will lighten. If there was a shell, it may even disappear. And what you will notice is, that as this framework and scaffolding lighten and the shell disappears, you begin to let things in towards you, things that you may have been blocking all this time.

If you’re at all a believer in the universe, which I am, you’ll start to see that the universe will start to bring you the very thing you needed all along, just by lightning the framework, dissolving that shell and letting go of the need for control. The universe will bring you the very thing you’ve been blocking.

What happens now?

You’ll feel emotionally safe because now you know how to protect yourself through healthy boundaries. You’ll feel confident and competent to go and take risks because you’ve taken the time to invest in yourself and develop that confidence and competence. From this place you will act more courageously, you will dare to be vulnerable and you will risk stepping outside of your comfort zone more often, towards your growth edges.

And now, the need for control has no purpose, it’s actually irrelevant because you’re actually getting what you need. Now, control no longer controls you.

Embrace The Discomfort, Make It Your Friend

Embrace The Discomfort, Make It Your Friend

If you want to have a real cutting edge and a serious competitive advantage, learn how to embrace discomfort and make it your friend.  And if you have an organization,  then teach your leaders to do the same.

As you read this you may be wondering, are you serious, how does that have anything do with my position in the market and the advantage I have over my competitors?

It has everything to do with it.

Your ability to embrace discomfort, and your attitude towards it, impacts how your respond to change. And change is everywhere. Change occurs both externally and internally, both in the market and within your organization. And how well you respond and adapt to change will determine your ability to be sustainable and grow.

So what do I mean when I talk about discomfort?

It’s that uneasy feeling you get when you know you have to talk to a direct report about an incompetency in their performance but you choose to put it off because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. It’s that pang in the pit of your stomach during a meeting when a decision has been made but you don’t agree with it, and choose not to speak up. It’s that feeling you have when you know a member of your team has toxic behaviours that affect the rest of your team but you choose not to deal with it in order to avoid the conflict. It’s that horrible feeling when your manager or boss pulls you aside and tells you about a behaviour you do that others don’t like and negatively impacts the team. And even worse for a leader, it’s that feeling after a 360 review when you learn the truth about what your direct reports think of you and their critiques of your performance. How about when one of your subordinates tells you that they completely disagree with your idea and how you’ve been handling the project and offers their own solution?

These examples are just at work and in your professional life. In your personal life the list goes on and that will be an article in itself!

So, back to work, it’s in these critical moments when you have two choices: embrace the discomfort or run from it. And your choice will determine whether you are contributing to the growth of your organization or its demise. Your choice will either inspire trust, healthy debate, collaboration, buy in, accountability and a focus on results or the exact opposite of all these.

The choice is yours.

So what’s it going to be? Embrace the discomfort? Yes, I was hoping you’d say that! Because the other choice leads you down the slippery road of an unhealthy organization that either finds a way to barely exist or eventually implodes.

So now what, how in the world do I embrace discomfort and make it my friend.

Here are some points that I’ve learned along the way, on my journey of overcoming tremendous adversity where the only choice to survive was to embrace discomfort and turn it into an opportunity to grow.

Accept the Discomfort

With discomfort comes a flood of various different emotions, some more extreme than others. And for some people, discomfort may take them back to a time in their past that may be more traumatic than for others, so some may feel it more intensely. You may feel anxious, angry, irritable, annoyed or withdrawn and quiet. As you read this, you know what it feels like for you and what comes up. And so as those feelings come up, just take a moment to acknowledge them and say ‘hey, ya, this is uncomfortable and I don’t like it so much’. Because the reality is that you’re not alone in not liking it, discomfort is not supposed to feel good. But the part you need to know is that discomfort serves a very important purpose, it means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping into your growth edges. And this is very positive. So just hang on and stay with your discomfort.

Tap Into Your Courage

This feeling of discomfort I describe above is what I call the Courage Space. It’s that space of leaving the known and entering the unknown. It’s that space between leaving certainty and moving into uncertainty until you find certainty again. It’s that space between leaving the old and creating the new. It’s like being in the open ocean without a life raft, between an old familiar shore and a new one that you’re swimming towards. And it’s in this space when you need to draw upon your courage, the most powerful force you have. It’s the force you have within you that’s directly connected to your intuition that will propel you into action. And it’s in this place of discomfort when you need to be connected to your intuition because it will guide you like a compass, through the rough seas ahead.

Take Action From Your Intuition – The Courage Space

Now that you’ve tapped into your courage, it’s like your fuel source, and you need to act from that place regardless of how you feel. There’s a famous saying that goes ‘Speak the truth even if your voice shakes’. So, you’ve accepted the discomfort and the feelings that come with it. Ask yourself are you still ok? Have you died? Have you lost a limb, an organ or have you been taken out by a giant mudslide that crashed through your office door? My guess is no, none of that happened and you’re still ok. So now that you’ve accepted that the unpleasantness of this whole thing is just a bunch of emotions and you’re physically still ok, it’s time to act. Your intuition will tell you what the right thing is to do. It knows. And you know it knows. The question is, do you listen to your intuition? Do you trust it? Do you give it the respect it deserves? So, now go and do that thing you need to do and watch what happens. Tell the truth while caring personally and being direct and accept the truth while putting your ego to the side and embracing humbleness, all for the greater good of your organization.

Acknowledge Yourself For Your Bravery

I know that at this point after taking action from a courageous place you’ll be standing back reflecting on the situation and most likely feeling relieved and, even though it was tough, you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself. It’s a massive thing you just did and you should be proud of yourself. You should be proud that you were brave, as corny as that sounds, and you should acknowledge yourself that you embraced the discomfort because it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not for the faint hearted and that’s why it’s rare. But it’s deeply important in so many ways and in so many aspects of your life. It’s really one of the critical elements in relationships, which ultimately affect the quality of your life. So give yourself a pat on the back because you deserve it.

Make Discomfort Your Friend

So now that you know how to embrace discomfort, how do you make it your friend? Well, you look at discomfort the same way as you do that close and long term friend that has annoying habits but you manage to look past them and live with them because you deeply care about that friend and that friend deeply cares about you. Because all that discomfort is, is a signal or warning bell letting you know you’re stepping into your growth edges, you’re expanding yourself and you’re growing. And as you grow you connect more authentically with those around you and you inspire others to grow too.

Imagine an organization where individuals are encouraged to embrace the discomfort and there’s an opportunity to work through it. Imagine the authentic feedback, the truthful conversations, the healthy debates on important topics, the accountability within team members, the capacity for innovation, the buy-in on ideas, the commitment on projects, the focus on results, the possibility for rich collaboration – all stemming from a culture of embracing the discomfort. Imagine the competitive edge this organization would have. Imagine how resilient and adaptive to change this organization would be knowing it’s internal structure was healthy and robust.

How I Learned to Quiet My Limiting Beliefs

How I Learned to Quiet My Limiting Beliefs

“You’re not enough” “You’re not worthy” “You don’t deserve it”

Do these sound familiar? Maybe a variation of these is more yours instead, like ‘You’re not smart enough’, ‘Who do you think you are?’, ‘You’re not good enough for this?’, ‘You don’t deserve him/her’.

We all have this voice, this gremlin, this demon or limiting belief that sends us illogical messages based on our past – either someone from the past, or an experience from the past. The truth is that it originates from way back in time, to a time we often can’t even remember. But a message was imprinted on our brain that says we’re not enough.

This might even be uncomfortable to read, because we don’t like to talk about it. Most of us have shame around this and think that if anyone knew or found out, then it would push people away. So we hide this thing, this inner voice, the inner critic. We hide it, try to contain it and go about our daily lives, at home, at work, around friends. And trust me when I say, you’re not the only one with these thoughts. We all have them in some way or another.

But we were born enough.

We were born perfect, worthy, loveable, capable, deserving and enough.

For me, it was ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re not smart enough’ and ‘you’ll have to hustle for worthiness’. And so I did. I hustled, and I hustled and I hustled for my worthiness from others until one day I found myself married to someone who loved the game and toyed with my worthiness like a cat toys with a mouse that he’s about to eat.

It was in that moment, which became my defining moment, that I said, f*%# this s##*, I am worth more than this. It was in this moment that I stood up to my demons, those nasty voices inside, and said, ‘no, you’re wrong, I deserve better than this’.

Shortly after, I left my husband, pursued a massive career change and started my new business while being a full-time mom. And through this most recent journey I learned how to quiet the demons inside, those negative voices that kept clawing at me, trying to convince me that I wasn’t good enough.

It was in the falling down, hitting the bottom and finding my way back up that I built my own worthiness, I grew my own confidence and developed an unshakable belief in myself.

How about you? What does your demon or gremlin say to you? How much does it affect your life, your business, your job or your relationships? How would all these areas of your life be different if the voice was just a quiet one that you would know how to respond to and quiet when you need to?

I share with you 5 steps that fundamentally changed my life and that I now use when working with clients who want to overcome their inner obstacles and their inner critics that are holding them back from the happiness and success they want.

1. Summon Up Your Courage To Face the Bully Inside

Just like standing up to a bully, you need courage to make a stand for yourself. So reach in, dig deep, grab hold of your courage and tell yourself the quote by John Wayne ‘Courage is being afraid but saddling up anyway’. And then just hang on tight, don’t let go and stand strong.

2. Tell Someone Exactly What That Inner Voice Is Saying To You

I know this sounds so fear inducing, but hear me out. Shame cannot exist in the presence of empathy and compassion. (Wise words from Brene Brown). So when you shine light on these thoughts, when you tell someone what this voice says and it’s received with empathy and compassion, you no longer feel alone, you no longer feel the need to hate this part of yourself. You’re acknowledged for having an irrational thought, like everyone else. The power that this thought once had on you falls away as you realize that it’s just a thought, it’s not reality or the truth. When someone says I get it or me too, then you can begin to offer yourself empathy and compassion, you can begin to be gentle with yourself and love yourself instead. This simple act will be the catalyst in turning from and walking away from that gremlin or demon inside.

3. Look Your Gremlin In The Eye And Have A Conversation With It

As if you could almost sit down with your gremlin, your limiting belief and have a conversation with it, what would happen if you asked it to say what it needs to say. So, you’re about to meet a new group of people, or pitch your new idea, or present your business to someone new, what is this voice saying to you? It might be saying, ‘they’re not going to like you’, ‘they’re going to find out about that thing about you, and then they won’t like you’, ‘they’re not going to like your idea’, ‘do you honestly think you’re good enough for this?’. So if that’s what the voice is saying, what if you could ask that part of yourself, that’s saying these words, what do you want for me that’s positive? Or, what are you trying to protect me from? Every behaviour we have has a positive pay-off or some benefit that is simply there to keep us alive. It’s our emotional framework or structure that we have in place to protect us, to keep us emotionally safe. So ask yourself again, what do you want for me that’s positive and what are you protecting me from?

4. Get Resourceful And Go Out And Get What You Need

Once you’ve been able to answer the question, what do you want for me that’s positive, then go out and find a way to get that from another source in order to build you up. Tony Robbins always says, it’s not about a lack of resources but more about a lack of resourcefulness. So, start thinking of ways, tools, people, anything that will help you get what you really need in that moment. For some, they may need the voice of a loved one saying, ‘you can do this, you know you can’. For others they may need to refer back to a time when they found a way through a familiar obstacle before and ask themselves, what worked then, how did I find my way through that? For some it may be reading or watching an inspirational story or talk. For some it may be hiring a professional, like a coach or mentor that can help them challenge these negative limiting beliefs and empower them to get what they really need and what they’re wanting at a deeper level. For some it might be meditation, exercise, music, or something that makes them feel good and changes their state so they can think more clearly and access the visual and ideas centre of their brain. Whatever it is, go out, take control of your life, and find other ways and resources to help you get what it is that you are really needing. When you discover that you have the power within you to make a change, a world of possibility opens up.

5. Take Action and Create Evidence That Challenges Your Limiting Beliefs

This is the step where that critical voice inside is replaced with creating something new and something positive instead. A friend recently shared with me that an important part of his journey was that he decided he wanted to create a different result in his life. I thought it was so powerful and captures the essence of this important step. Focus on creating a new result and create actions steps to get it. When you bring your attention on this new thing you want to create and when you align yourself with your values and your personal vision, you create actions that stem from what’s important to you. And when you complete these actions, your confidence grows, your self worth grows and those demons and limiting beliefs quietly slip away. In fact, you won’t even notice them getting silent because you’ll be so caught up and feeling empowered from this new thing you’re focused on and creating. As you continue with this process you’re constantly creating new evidence that challenges that critical voice inside, evidence that proves that voice is wrong.

So keep taking action, keep moving forward and keep creating evidence that you do have worth, that you are worthy, that you are smart enough, good enough and simply enough. Because you were born that way and nothing has changed.

Custom photography by Angela McConnell

Courage: The Magic Ingredient in Change

Courage: The Magic Ingredient in Change

When you’re deep in the thrusts of change or you’re about to embark on a new journey, the challenge is always finding stability in instability or certainty in uncertainty. The very nature of change brings about more stress and anxiety than any other human experience.

Most of us try to avoid change for the pure purpose of avoiding the, sometimes excruciating, discomfort it brings. But some change is unavoidable, sometimes coming suddenly at us like a storm in the night or creeping up slowly like a rising tide.

However it comes upon us, either way, we must find a way through it with no guarantee how things will turn out when we get to the other side.

But one thing we can choose and be certain about is how we approach change and the intention we set going into it or while amidst it. You have three choices:

  1. You can fall down, stay down and become a victim of your circumstance.
  2. You can fall down, get back up and survive the experience.
  3. You can fall down, get back up, and thrive through the experience by using this moment in time as an opportunity for massive personal growth, new awareness and positive change.

If you go for choice number three, there is one magic ingredient that you will need for all the stages in this arena:

Courage

-and there is no gluten free, vegan or dairy free substitute. Just courage, 100% pure and straight up!

So how does courage displace or do away with the discomfort and sometimes sickening feeling of uncertainty and instability that comes along with change? How does it ease the grief after losing a loved one or a marriage? How does courage allow you see a brighter future when all you see in front of you is the mess you’re in? How does it help you feel in control of your life again?

It doesn’t, but hear me out.

Just over 4 years ago I embarked on a period of change in my life that I didn’t believe I could survive. The events during this time were so big, so emotionally consuming and heartbreaking and demanded every fibre of my resilient soul to respond to and keep going. Just to paint a picture of what transpired during this time, my dog was killed in a car accident, I moved back home after living across the world for 8 years, I separated from my husband, I became a single mother, I moved 4 times and my father passed away.

I lived every day in uncertainty and instability became a familiar friend.

But looking back now, 4 years later, it was being brave and courageous that got me through each step and created who I am today. In fact, after not only surviving but thriving through my recent change and adversity, being courageous is no longer an option. Being uncomfortable is no longer an option. Being vulnerable is no longer an option. These are all now necessary for moving forward, for my personal growth and for healing from the past.

So getting back to courage as that magical ingredient in change, when do you need to dig deep and find your brave to move you through the stages of change? When do you need courage as that platform from where you stand when the ground where you once stood is no longer there? When do you need courage as that oxygen mask that drops down to you in your seat to get you through to the next moment? And when do you need courage as that fuel to push you towards taking the next step?

I’ve broken it down into some easy steps, steps to help you identify when you need to pull your courage super hero boots on, tap into your brave and move through the stages of change.

Step 1 – Accept What Is

The first step in change and often the most important is to have the courage to accept and face to truth of your situation and your reality. Perhaps you have to accept that your marriage is over. Maybe you have to face the truth that you’ve lost your job and no amount of getting upset will get it back. Perhaps you have to accept the changes happening within your organization, even if you don’t agree with them or struggle knowing how to deal with them. Maybe you have to listen to your inside voice saying you’re not happy doing what you’re doing and that it’s not aligned with who you are. Whatever the truth may be, the first and most important step is to summon up the courage to face the truth, look it in the eyes and accept it however much it hurts and brings you discomfort or pain. For this will be the foundation from where you stand and take your next step.

Step 2 – Reach Out

Once you accept what is, there may be a flood of discomfort and difficult emotions. It’s important that during this time you have the courage to reach out and find someone you can talk to, get help from, act as a sounding board and offer you empathy and compassion. This can either be a friend, a family member, a coach, a counsellor, a mentor, a support group or anyone that will support you along the ride It’s here as well to seek out any resources, such as books, websites, or TED Talks that may support youl. It takes courage to reach out and ask for support but we’re wired for connection and designed to thrive when we receive it.

Step 3 – Let Go

When you’re ready and you’ve done steps 1 & 2, it’s time to let go of the old, what was, what you’ve just come away from. It’s going to feel like a loss, and it may hit you quite differently depending on what you’ve just come away from. But when you have the courage to let go, you then give yourself permission to move on and create something new. By letting go you make space for a new future and new possibilities that you may or may not be able to see yet. The important thing is that the space is there and you are ready for what’s next.

Step 4 – Step Out Into The Unknown

Once you let go of the old you enter unchartered territory, a place often called the Neutral Zone. These are the roughest waters and where most people get hung up. Some turn around and go back to familiar land but the strong, resilient and determined push on and eventually find their way to the other side. It takes tremendous courage to move through these waters, to fall down and keep getting back up, to risk looking a fool and be unknowing, to feel like you have no control and to keep going even though you can’t see the land on the other side. This is where another essential ingredient comes into play, which is self-belief, and without it you most likely won’t make the journey.

Step 5 – Reach Out And Hold Onto The New

Once you’ve made it through the neutral zone there is this amazing thing that starts happening, opportunities start popping into your life in the most unsuspecting ways. They may be small or they may be big, but they start coming in. It’s here where you need to be courageous to respond to these opportunities, grab hold of them and go for the ride! It might feel like you’re hanging on to a wild roller coaster at first, but hang in there, these opportunities came your way because you created a space for them, you were down in the trenches building your resilience, your strength and gaining wisdom from your experience. So go for it and enjoy it, you’ve earned it.

Step 6 – Move Into The New

The last step in change is to really step into your new reality and the new opportunities that have come your way. It might feel strange at first and there may be some resistance from your old self, the inside voice, those pesky self-limiting beliefs and maybe even people around you. But push past them and place your feet firmly on the ground. This is your new future, this new thing you’ve created whatever it is. You’ve done the hard work so be grateful for how far you’ve come and give yourself a pat on the pack for what you’e accomplished.