Focusing on the things in your control will change your life

Nobody wakes up and decides to become a reactive boss, but it happens when you aren’t intentional about where you focus your energy.

There are two places for you to put your energy and attention:

  1. Things out of your control
  2. Things in your control

Your ability to navigate between these two has a trickle down effect on your team. Like we talked about last week, your actions have ripples. Focusing on things outside of your control creates anxiety and stress. The energy you give off as a leader is going to be felt by your team and impact their ability to be at their best.

And stress at the workplace is a major issue:

  • 63% of US workers are ready to quit their jobs due to stress.
  • 35% of respondents said their main source of stress at work was their boss.
  • 54% of workers report that stress from work affects their life at home.
  • 60% of workers have left a job or would leave one over a bad boss.

Your role as a leader is to challenge yourself to make an impact. 

The stoic philosopher Epicetus once wrote, “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”

Concentrating on factors within your control is empowering. It positions you at the helm and sets a precedent for your team on how to tackle challenges.

Cultivate proactive problem-solvers.

Metaphor time!

You can’t control the weather, but you can choose your attire.


A story about concern

“There’s nothing I can do.”

Famous last words of a leader on their way out.

The stress that comes with focusing on problems compounds. Matt was getting attacked from every angle–employees were quitting, the owners were unhappy, and the product wasn’t selling.

“The owners just won’t listen to me. The sales team won’t listen to me. And it doesn’t matter what I do, people just don’t want to work right now.” Matt explained.

The owners had multiple businesses. The sales team was a mess. People were leaving for other jobs–they wanted to work, just not with an always stressed out Matt.

“What do you want to happen?” I asked.

“I want the sales team to figure it out! They haven’t hit their goals in months and everytime I talk with them I hear nothing but excuses.”

“What changes have you made in how you support them since they stopped hitting their goals?”

“I don’t have time to hold their hands. I have my own problems to deal with. They need to figure it out themselves.” Matt sighed. His body language was tense. I could tell he was trying to get control of his breath to help slow down his heart rate.

I could see Matt’s perspective, but there was a vital lesson he needed to learn. “Matt, let me tell you something that might help. There are things you can control, and there are things you can’t. You need to focus on what’s within your control and let go of the rest.”

He looked at me, skeptical. “What does that even mean?” I pulled up this image on my phone and looked at it with him.

I explained, “For instance, with your sales team, you can’t control their every action, but you can control how you support and guide them. Instead of getting frustrated with them. I wonder what specific actions you can take to help them succeed. These are the things that are in your control.”

Matt thought about this for a moment, then nodded slowly. “I guess I’ve been so overwhelmed with everything going wrong that I haven’t focused on what I can actually do to make a difference.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Now, let’s think about the owners. You can’t make them listen, but you can make sure you communicate effectively, present them with solid ideas, and back them up with data. Focus on that, and you’ll be doing your part.”

Over the next few weeks, Matt began to implement this new mindset. He started by setting up weekly meetings with his sales team to discuss their challenges and brainstorm solutions together. He provided them with additional training resources and encouraged them to attend industry conferences to improve their skills. He even brought in an expert sales consultant to help identify areas for improvement and create a tailored action plan for the team.

Matt also made sure to celebrate their successes, no matter how small, boosting their morale and motivating them to work harder. He introduced a new incentive program to reward top performers and promote healthy competition within the team. The sales team began to hit their goals, and the owners took notice. People wanted to work with Matt again. His stress levels decreased, and he found himself enjoying his job once more. He had learned that by focusing on the things he could control, he could make a real difference.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit

Leave a Comment