Choice vs. Control

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

At various points in my life, I’ve had a, well-deserved, reputation for being a bit klutzy. In my first three months in a new job at McMurry University, I slid down a short flight of cement stairs on my shins in front of my new boss. Then I came back from a waterskiing trip with the campus minister’s family sporting a black eye. (Lovely way to greet my first class of incoming students.) I joke about being banned from UT Austin’s Recreational Sports program after returning from a trail ride with a broken wrist. The ban isn’t true but the wrist was definitely broken. At least that was a good story as I was thrown from a spooked horse, unlike this round of silliness. Last week I mentioned my fall and it turns out I didn’t sprain my ankle, I broke it. So, I’ve spent the last week learning how to manage a knee-high boot cast and crutches.

Since I often figure out what the newsletter is going to be about during my morning walks, I got to Tuesday afternoon a bit lost for topics. But there was a theme in my two coaching calls today and it fits with my past week. So here it is, something we all know, but speaking for myself, it helps to be reminded of this every once in a while.

We can’t control what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we respond.

Once we realize we can choose how we respond, we find we have a variety of choices. We can even pick more than one, simultaneously or sequentially. In fact it may be healthiest if we do make multiple choices. Sometimes we need to vent and rail against those who made the decision, life’s circumstances, or our own klutziness. It’s natural to be frustrated about all that is happening around and to us right now and sharing, vocalizing, even shedding tears is healthy. But then we need to move on and choose another option. Sometimes we need others to help us see that there are multiple options. Sometimes, we need to help others see that they have choices. We may not like the choices we have, but it is rare that we have none.

It’s always true in an organization that there are times when we have to implement or live with decisions we don’t agree with. It’s often true that we wish the decision-makers had our perspective and experience when they made ‘those’ decisions. Sometimes we are those decision-makers. But no matter our position or seniority, there are always circumstances and decisions that are outside of our control. If we didn’t know that before, the pandemic experience is teaching us now. We don’t always have control, but we do have a choice. How are you choosing to respond?

Best of luck in these challenging times!

Take care,


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