What’s Under Your Control? | Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health
March 31, 2020

What’s Under Your Control?

In sports, and in our work with athletes, we talk a lot about controllables vs. uncontrollable. We want athletes to learn how to pay attention to, and focus their energy on, the things over which they have some control (and can do something about). Great athletes understand that things like their focus/attention, their attitude, their effort, their mindset, how they practice, and their preperformance routines, to name a few, are under their control and thus they make sure that these are where they put their energy. Sometimes though, athletes, even great ones, can get caught up in the uncontrollables…things like a "bad call" from the ref, smack talk from an opponent, or a bad shot/play…and when they do, they often end up distracted, frustrated, worried, and just not playing at their best.

So how can this help you? You can apply this idea of "controllables vs. uncontrollables" to your life right now as you navigate work, school, training, physically distancing (but socially connecting), being with your family and friends, getting groceries, managing your thoughts/feelings…and as you do, keep in mind what is under your control.

To start, make a list of the things in your life that are fully (or at least mostly) under your control…things like the effort you put forth in an activity, how focused you are when doing a task, the energy you bring to your training, what time you choose to go to bed, and so on…go on, make your list…

Now, think about times in the last couple of weeks when you have felt worried, frustrated, stressed, sad, angry, etc….what was happening in those moments? Were you getting caught up in what was uncontrollable? If so, how could you refocus yourself to something that was under your control? Think about one of these times…what specifically was under your control in this situation and on what could you have refocused your energy and thinking?

For example, you might have been feeling angry because you had to work at home or you had to take classes online. Unfortunately you cannot control (or change) the reality that these are part of your reality right now. But, what is under your control is how you think about each one! Instead, you might think "Working from home means I don't have to be in my car so much so I'll have more time to watch my favorite show" or "With the class being online, I can easily take advantage of my teacher's online office hours and ask questions so I really understand what we are studying in class." Such a shift, to what you can control, may help reduce your anger (and likely your poor effort and performance).

So, with every situation you encounter, ask yourself…what' under your control?