We Have More Control Than We Think

There are numerous things you have zero control over. You can’t control the weather, the economy, or the actions of others. Yes, you might be able to exert some influence, but this is different than control.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hidesy, Image #2680448

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hidesy

Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about these things. It’s a complete waste of time. Worry does nothing to change them. It only makes us miserable. It also turns us into victims.

But you and I have 100% control of the one thing that is the most important to our success: ourselves. We can control our attitude, our thoughts, our words, our emotions, and our behavior. This is what makes us human. We are not automatons. We have a choice.

This power is more important than you can imagine. Some people are aware of it; most are not. Frankly, it is easier to sit on the sidelines and whine about the stuff you can’t control that to own up to what you do control. (I’m preaching to myself here as well.)

But the courageous thing to do is to jump into life with both feet and take responsibility for your life. Decide to be happy. Decide to be productive. Decide to make a difference.

We have more control than you think.

Question: What about YOU are you going to control today?
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  • Colleen Coble

    Amen! I hate hearing people play the blame game and blame everyone from their parents to their co-workers for making them the way they are. It's time people take responsibility for their actions and their attitudes.

  • http://www.chaplainandrews.com chaplainandrews

    This is huge! In Iraq, I see many Soldiers who have issues that occur back home. They simply can not stop what they are doing and jump on a plane to go fix what ever crisis has hit them and/or their family. But they still have control of so many things–in a time when everything seems uncontrollable. Thank you for these thoughts.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jasondtaylor Jason Taylor

    I was working through a journal entry in Walking With God (Journal) by Eldredge today. The thought was taking captive our speculations and imagination. With God's grace, today, I hope to keep my imagination sanctified. I have some level of control over what I allow my mind to mull over and speculate on. if it's not helpful, and positive, then it won't be something I spend time on today.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/TheBigHenry Henri LeGrand

    "We can control your attitude, our thoughts, our words, our emotions, and our behavior."

    You can't control my attitude, unless you're my wife.

  • http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/ LynnRush

    NICE! I echo what Colleen said…it's so true.

    Let's see, today, I'm going to chose to have a great day. Attitude is a choice, a decision, so there you have it.

    Great post, today. Thanks.

  • http://www.marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    I'm on prescription meds for face pain, and my girlies are all home sick from school. BUT I'm going to choose joy. And do something to encourage someone in a worse situation than me.

  • little i

    Great post, Michael!

  • http://www.jillboydsplace.blogspot.com Jill

    Things I can't control are knocking me for a loop right now, so I guess I'll focus on my attitude–which I can control. Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://faithfictionfunandfanciful.blogspot.com/ Lynn Squire

    Hmm. First thing that came to mind was Romans 7:19 'For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." On my own, I have little control over my sinful nature. But Romans 13:14 says "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." That being the case, I'll spend some time today with my Lord, making sure my thoughts are trained on Him, thereby not allowing myself to focus on the wrong things that will cause me to make bad decisions and commit sin.

    I can't be good enough on my own, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can overcome.

  • Michael Sandifer

    One of the most important decisions I've made in my life was 20 years ago, when I decided I would be happy, regardless of circumstances. That decision has paid dividends over and over in my life, taking the power away from circumstances to control my sense of joy and well-being. That decision has been an anchor in my soul. Thank you for your subtle but significant reminder that the decision is ours.

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    Just what I needed to hear today, Michael. I'm struggling with controlling my passions, especially regarding food and drink, having just begun the Lenten fast. And also with laziness concerning my (renewed) commitment to exercise. How good to be reminded that while I can't control the past–things that happened to me that might increase my struggles with certain behaviors–I can, with God's help, embrace the present with hope. One day at a time. I'm off to the gym to workout!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KarlaAkins KarlaAkins

    I love the picture of you and your darling lady! And I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the encouraging word!

  • http://www.publishedauthors.net/robsargeant Rob Sargeant

    This post reminds me of what Sir Winston Churchill once said, "Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday."

  • http://www.rinconcristiano.com Priscilla

    This reminds me of what I was reading last night in Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. That boundaries are what we can control about OURSELVES, not what we can control about other people. Like we can say, "No I don't want to do that" or say, "If you keep talking to me like that, I will walk away." Its what we do, not what we make others do. I think this is very powerful.

  • Judith

    Thanks, Michael. A good reminder … and a timely one for me.

  • http://www.trishlawrence.com/blog Trish

    Great post, Michael. Today, I can control my choices and that's all that I need to do for right now. Love the new blog format. Very nice!


  • Matt

    As the Sister Hazel song goes,
    "If you wanna be somebody else
    if you're tired of fighting battles with yourself,
    if you wanna be somebody else,
    change your mind."

  • Jenny Burr

    Very honest and very true. I don't think God wants to hear us whine any more than our friends, family and neighbours do, so it's better to put things into perspective and ask God to help us change ourselves and our attitude.

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.com Tiffany Stuart

    I've learned to think positive and be thankful. It wasn't easy but oh so worth it. Worrying is such a life sucker. I've lost too many years thinking about the worst case scenerios. Time to stop that and really live. Joy follows!

  • http://www.faithbarista.com FaithBarista

    The last fruit of the spirit listed in self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23).

    One area I am taking control of is letting go. We like to control what happens to us, when and how. So, the first thing I want to work on is surrendering to God's timing and not my own. My path may look common place to others, but to God it's the perfect place to be: with Him.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DerekDRobertson DerekDRobertson

    I needed this. Thank you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/philgroom Phil Groom

    If only it was true, Michael, if only! But you and I both know full well that no one has 100% self-control, no one has 100% self-determination. We are — whether we admit it or not — subject to our environment, subject to chemical imbalances in our biological make up, subject to the whims of those around us, subject to so many other things.

    Yes, we may well have more control than we often think. But 100%? Dream on.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DerekDRobertson DerekDRobertson

    This can be a big pill to swallow but it is the truth. Thanks for that encouragement.

  • Ron Estrada

    I can control how many words I write, how much effort I put into editing my work, my research, everything that involves the keyboard and what little talent I own.

  • http://www.activeministries.com Dan Lagden

    Thanks for this, however it is not always this simple. One in five people suffer depression and like me it is not ever diagnosed. Combating depression is very often more than deciding to be positive. I battled this for most of my life and it is like riding a bike up a steep hill every day of your life. It is very tiring and after many years hopelessness sets in. There is no relief. Why? Well it is a medical problem of imbalance. It can be treated with medication. I wrote the book 'How I Quit Being Angry' and also a course from the book. I wrote this before I knew about my diagnosis of depression. My journey has been a long and difficult one but I do have victories. However as much as I am in control now, I still get a day when everything goes haywire and I loose control. I could not understand why. A councelor friend of mine who also works with us in our ministry suggested I go and have a test for depression. Bingo!

  • Dan Lagden

    Medical intervention is the only way to go however deciding to choose positive mindsets is still necessary. But the driving force behind the depression is being rendered impotent now. A great relief, I am in the process of getting the balance right with medication and I know that soon 'I wont know myself'. 57 years of this and I feel I have been cheated of life. Check out http://www.beyondblue.org.au if anyone reading this is interested or suspect either they or a friend may be suffering from this terrible condition. There is information and a quick self test available on the site. Get help, you don't have to suffer anymore.

  • http://www.themotherlode.wordpress.com Theresa Lode

    Bravo, Bravo! I've been musing about this very thing all morning…especially after watching "Good Morning America" this morning and listening to all the victim talk. I don't know what's more pathetic…the politicians who think they can change things or the people who are looking to them to change things.
    My recent post What ever happened to self reliance?

  • William

    Don't know if you see comments to old post but just read this via re-post tweet. Too many people don't take control where they have it but settle for less or blame something else. One added note: One has diminishing control over actions, thoughts, and emotions. Try this: move your fingers (total control of action), think of the only the color green for 10 seconds (almost total control, may have thought "frog" or "money."), now get mad! (Not much control here, but if you change your actions and thoughts, usually your emotions will follow.) As always, thanks for great information and insight.

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  • Eric Schmidt

    There must be a connection in what the Bible says about worry and being in control. Worry adds nothing to our lives and worrying will cause us to lose control. Intentional action, on the other hand, has potential to add great value to our lives and the lives of others. Looking out for ol #1 is a saying worth consideration everyday.

    • Elizabeth Staeheli

      What Bible are you reading? Looking out for others is the major principle in mine. Looking out for #1 comes AFTER looking to God and helping look after others who need help more than you do.

  • http://www.davidtrotter.tv David Trotter

    GREAT reminder – I have the choice to embrace my true identity and make an impact today!

  • http://www.therextras.com BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

    I heartily agree, Michael.

    I habitually try to control what I eat and how active I am (for burning calories). Unfortunately, I can be influenced toward lesser choices in those two areas.

    My most constant 'controlling'-self thoughts are around how to use my time. What to do first, next, when to stop or delay.

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  • http://www.vickisprayerstuff.com Vicki Tillman

    You bet! I work as a counselor and I tell folks this every day! We cannot change anyone else in the world, but we can control how we interact with them. We cannot control many things in life, but we can choose how we react to them (and we can pray).

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  • Eric Oleson

    Love the clarity of this.

  • http://mutatingmissionary.blogspot.com/ mutating missionary


  • http://www.theselfempoweredinvestor.com Tim Butt

    I chose to take control of my life and make a difference in the lives of others on January 24th, 2010. That was a defining day in my life when I answered ‘His calling’ on my life. Christ revealed my life’s purpose; to use my spiritual gifts to passionately serve and help others. I accepted without hesitation  and now allow my Lord to direct my steps. Praise be to God!

    • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

      Woot Tim, where have you been taken by the Lord?

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyhenderson jeremyhenderson

    I think we have the ability to control our attitude, thoughts, words and emotions, but all of these are usually a result of the way we see the world.  Covey would call these our paradigms.  Without a change in paradigm, we will just fight to change our circumstances.

  • Kent Faver

    I have difficulty differentiating between worry and stress.  My stress level is typically quite high – running a business, being a vice chair at church and two kids in college equals alot of things I really can’t control.

    • Jwhite


      May I encourage that you look into FCCI, Fellowship of Companies for Christ International http://www.fcci.org. I have been in it for over 15 years participating in weekly groups as well as leading them.  Our vision is to transform our world through Christ one company leader at a time with our Mission: in pursuit of Christ’s eternal objectives, we equip and encourage company leaders to operate their businesses and conduct their personal lives according to Biblical principles. I would welcome talking with you. Jim White

      • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

        Kent, is FCCI like C12?

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  • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

    Speaking from experience, we do have a lot of control
    – there are two specific passages that I turn to:1)    Shows that we can renew
    our thoughts (Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but
    be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern
    what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect)2)    Shows
    that we can wash out mind of the
    previous filth we put into it (Ephesians 5:26 (ESV)26 that he might sanctify her,
    having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,)As always, still loving your blog Michael…Blessings RichAs 

  • http://www.beardsforbreastcancer.com Adam Martin

    Thank you for the reminder!

  • Lubna Malik

    Nice article…You know I have complete control over recurrence of same thoughts again and again… Today’s topic was not new for me because I have been experiencing it for a few years. My question is: Why do our parents and elders teach us about this? Looking forward for your smart answer!!!

  • Jacobse

    This is very true. And often the struggle even to change your thinking and attitude is what makes new ways of doing and approaching things apparent. No victory comes without sacrifice.

    One thing I’ve found to be important: Talk to people who get the concept outlined in the article. Friends don’t allow friends to wallow in ruts without gently calling them on it.

    A rule I apply to myself and others: you only get 45 seconds to whine. After that it is time to move on.

  • mtgosnell

    Great post! Attitudes and behaviors are what make all the difference in our success but we struggle with so much.I wrote something similar last week entitled Choose Your Attitude, Control Your Life.

  • http://twitter.com/roccoadeleo Rocco DeLeo

    Working on staying focus on my master plan. Execution is key and not getting too far ahead of myself. Michael, the idea of self awareness and self control has fascinated me for years. I find much frustration in only myself when I don’t achieve my goals. Is ignorance bliss? I know way too many “victims” who are happy in mediocrity.

  • Kevin Bemel

    While I agree we can control our words, behavior, and attitude, we cannot control our thoughts or emotions. Try this test: decide you are not going to think about an elephant. What can you not avoid thinking about? It is precisely because we cannot control our thoughts and emotions that it is so important when learn self-control of or speech and actions.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m sorry, but I disagree. I think we can absolutely control our thoughts and emotions. We may not want to, and that is fine. The choice is ours. But, with practice, we can control them—if we want.

    • CShulamite

      I control my thoughts and emotions by choosing to think other thoughts (when I recognize something unproductive or undesirable); and, by what I say to myself (either out loud or in my mind).

    • Fr. Hans Jacobse

      I can decide if I want to think about the elephant or not. Your suggestion not to think about an elephant presents me with a choice about whether I will or not. Nothing more.

      Thoughts are like airplanes. They fly around here and there but we decide which ones are going to land.

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  • http://nonprofitinsuranceblog.com/ Brett

    Sometimes I think i can control my actions and thoughts better than my emotions. If I feel sleighted by someone, I can act in such a way as to assume the person meant no harm even if I can’t stop myself from feeling taken advantage of. I can think through my responses. I can think through and act on taking the high road, even if my feelings. Over time (I suppose this is part of the point), my emotions will start coming into line with these actions, but sometimes it’s awfully hard to control our gut emotions when we’re hurt, betrayed, etc. But we can train ourselves to not allow those emotions to rule us.