The Only Thing You Control Is You | Gagen MacDonald

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The Only Thing You Control Is You

Jan 23, 2015

Letting go is a challenging task in a world that forever changing. It’s human nature to give ourselves over to fear or anger, and seek ways to find comfort and reassert control when things around us are chaotic.

I’ve been in a few situations where these feelings are so overwhelming that leaders (myself included) become immobilized and end up feeling just as weighted down as the group they’re trying to facilitate. It was these moments that inspired me to figure out how I can lead in a way that is empathetic to team members’ realities while empowering them to find a way to move forward. So far, I’ve discovered two ideas that I have helped me on my journey.

1. I control my thoughts.

These thoughts inform how I behave, and that behavior gets me a result. Therefore, ifI don’t like the results I’m getting, all I need to do is change my thoughts. Now, this is an oversimplified version of a concept that Stephanie Pace Marshall talks about in her interview, On the Power to Choose. What makes it hard is that we all have learned behaviors which cause us to have immediate reactions to situations. When that reaction is negative, how do you change your thinking? The only way I know is with intention. You must be aware of what you are thinking and feeling, separate that from the situation, and choose to think with optimism, which will in turn shift how you behave. This change in behavior will start a chain reaction, hopefully, causing others in your group to shift their mindset as well.

2. My core values serve as my internal compass.

No matter the situation, you can always be true to yourself and your core values. The tough thing is determining what those values are, which Kevin Cashman talks about this in his book, Leadership from the Inside Out. The first step to authentic leadership is spending time getting to know what is important to you. The next step is practicing—making decisions and behaving in accordance with those values on a consistent basis.

I find when I follow these two principles I feel more peaceful, happy, and balanced. I can bring neutrality, energy, and positivity to my client’s situation. And, by focusing on exerting control in my life in this way (versus trying to exert control over others), I am a better leader. Not only do I model the behavior I hope to see in others, but I also create an open, transparent and engaging where team members can bring their gifts to the table.

What guiding principles have you learned that might help others along their journey?

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