What's in your control?

We discuss in this episode what we are in control of and how we truly do not control much at all.

January 19, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. JJ, we recently as you know, partnered with a corporate client with the self awareness journey,

JJ Parker  0:24  
you know, and super fun. It has

Melissa Albers  0:27  
been super, super fun and unexpected for us, because we weren't, we weren't planning on it. Anyway, we have done that. And it's in the two or three weeks of rollout now. And we got this great request from one of their amazing employees to have a podcast about strict control and stress, like trying to when do you figure out what you can control and not control? And then how do you get rid of the stress that is accumulated in that whole experience of control?

JJ Parker  1:03  
Yeah, yeah, I like, I like that topic. Because so many of us just think that we control a lot of the things around us. When, in, in my experience, we don't really control that much.

Melissa Albers  1:22  
No, we actually really do not control that once. Yeah. And there's all sorts of negative stigma around the world. Word control even isn't there? It's like, yeah, you don't ever hear anybody say, oh, wow, you're so good at controlling. It's more like you control you're a control freak. I usually hear that word associated.

JJ Parker  1:46  
Yeah. For some reason, I thought if like someone on a first date, like, oh, tell me about yourself, you know, well, I'm very controlling.

Melissa Albers  1:54  
Oh, wow, cool. Where are we going on our second day?

JJ Parker  2:01  
Like, if you're in a job interview, tell me some of your strengths. Well, I'm extremely controlling.

Melissa Albers  2:08  
And I carry number we have about a mile, an unbelievable amount of stress as a result.

JJ Parker  2:15  
Well, so obviously, all joking aside, it is not. Usually when someone says that they're controlling, or you say somebody is controlling, that's not a positive. Yeah, not a positive thing. However, people don't like to feel out of control. Right? There's a little bit too to two separate things. It's like controlling external things. Right. And then controlling your internal being, right. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  2:49  
yeah. And maybe I'll even change the language to not so much controlling internally, but just allowing more being, I think it's the difference between, like controlling is more of a constriction, right, it's like a harder energy that you're trying to hold in or push, where the opposite of that would be more of an allowing, right, which to me is a lot more expansive, and lighter and easier. But Wow, it's so much easier to go to that controlling piece if there's any level of stress or expectation associated.

JJ Parker  3:24  
Well, let's talk about like, the external heart first. Yeah. And then let's talk about the internal part. Oh, that's good. Okay, because I think separating them will be easier for us to talk about instead of like,

Melissa Albers  3:38  
well, one's more of an action and one's more of a reaction, I think.

JJ Parker  3:42  
Yeah, well, maybe like in our job, right? If if we're at work, like we want projects to go well, right. We want to deliver high quality work. We want to hit our schedules, we we have all these things. We want to hit our quotas. We want to hit our manufacturing stations, we have all this stuff. Yeah. And we want to apply control. Yeah. For our systems and our processes and our people. So the whole machine works, right?

Melissa Albers  4:12  
Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

JJ Parker  4:14  
And when parts of that machine don't do what we want, don't do what we expect or have a little hiccup. We wait, we get upset? Because our control was not applied. Effective.

Melissa Albers  4:31  
Yeah. Yeah, it's true. And and, you know, I think like a lot of the times when you're talking about in the workplace, if you're an employee, you have your own set of expectations and things that you want to control. If you're a leader, it's even more because you're you're not only controlling your own outcomes, but you're trying to control the outcomes of an entire ecosystem. Yeah, whoever your department is. And I think to like it would be important to say that a lot of times, you know, we're talking about control and You know, there's a negative connotation to it. But I think that it's also really important to recognize that it comes from a good place. Oftentimes, you know, it's like, we don't go out to, we don't say we're going to control something with the intention of being, you know, like a world dominating evil. Right? Right.

JJ Parker  5:20  
Yeah, a lot of times at work, we have controls, because we don't want people to get hurt, because we're working around machinery that could kill Yeah, because we've got a right, right, right. There's very, really good reasons for it.

Melissa Albers  5:33  
Yeah, yeah, exactly. But then their head, then there comes a time like in the workplace, one of the often questions that come up during coaching, I honestly hear it probably at least once a month. And people will ask about, like, let's say they're having an employee issue, like they're having troubles with a particular employee, the level of responsibility that a leader will take on for someone else's output, sometimes goes way out of whack. So like, if they're like an employee isn't performing. Oftentimes, once a month, somebody will say to me, I feel terrible, like, they're not doing their job, you know, they've been written up, or we've given them a lot of examples, but they're just not performing. And then the question is, well, then what needs to happen for you to be able to release them? And what happens is all this guilt and shame about it, like they feel like they have to control more of the outcomes that they haven't done a good enough job, like the leader says, Well, I just, I worry that I'm not giving it giving them enough chances. I'm not giving them the right opportunities. I'm not training them enough. I'm not being there for them enough. Even if they have, they're just trying to control the outcome so much that they've lost that perspective.

JJ Parker  6:51  
Mm hmm. Yeah, I would say, one of the things I've learned in my role as CEO of the company, is, but I have very little control over anything. Like, I'll talk to some, you know, business leaders, and and they have this, this thought, this concept that, that they're sitting on top of the pyramid, and they've got control over everything, below them on the org chart. And yeah, to me, that is just a delusion. Like, is there's no way I mean, you could have sort of a high level influence, ego, you can set culture, you can do some things that have big impact. Yeah. But the idea that you have control is, is an is absolutely an illusion.

Melissa Albers  7:47  
Right. But you know, lots of people aren't thinking about it like this. So they're not openly choosing to evaluate themselves, or assess themselves. And so they don't realize that they just are layering on more and more expectation on themselves and trying to control outcomes more and more to the point where they get sideways. Like they they literally behave in a way that is like, wow, that they're way out of base. They're way off base.

JJ Parker  8:14  
Here. I got this, I just came up with this awesome business analogy. It's fresh, it's fresh, it's fresh off the top of my head. Okay, let me slow down. It's like you're running a chicken farm. And you got a whole bunch of chicken coops, right. And you're putting all the chickens in the little boxes, right? You're trying to control where all the chickens are? Uh huh. But in reality, you have like a free range chicken farm and the chickens running everywhere. Right? My companies, I have free range employees, and they just like some people are trying to run like the chicken farm with like all the little boxes and getting the employees all in little chicken boxes

Melissa Albers  8:56  
with little knit sweaters. Okay, and we're getting off topic.

JJ Parker  9:00  
So well.

Melissa Albers  9:03  
No, but I think you know, I think that, here's the other thing that I found really interesting, depending on your personality style, you can try to control things in really different ways. Like people that are really detailed, if you look at it just from a personality assessment perspective, so no judgment, but people. It's just more observation and it isn't his thing. People that are more detailed, appreciate more structure. People that are highly detailed are more often risk averse, and they like things to be really buttoned down. They don't like to take unnecessary risks. They like to behave in ways that are very predictable. And so that can cause a ruckus when something is trying to change or evolve or grow this level and need to keep control of the way things are because it feels safer, is very well intended. And it's just a natural byproduct of a personality type. So it may not Not even being necessarily a decision that they're making, it's almost more like it's just in them. It's inherently how they respond. And then the level of stress that can be created as a result of that internal stress. And also people around you can feel a lot of stress, depending on how big that control piece becomes.

JJ Parker  10:20  
Yeah. And like I like you said, it's just an his thing. And the fact is, like, as a community, right, as a as a species that collaborates and works together in a cooperative way. We need all these different personalities, right? Make Yeah, be to make this magic work, right? Yeah, we need people to be thinking about the detail and thinking about the what could happens, right? And planning for it. And we need the higher level thinkers or like the more broad stroke thinker, the 20

Melissa Albers  10:56  

JJ Parker  10:57  
but you know, until I present them, right, it could happen over here, right? And so we need all that mix together. And I think what you're saying is, hey, if if you are a detail planner, kind of person, and I was looking out for maybe what could happen or what bad thing could happen. That's not bad. That's like one of your strengths, right? It's,

Melissa Albers  11:26  
yep, it's just an overuse strength becoming a liability. If

JJ Parker  11:29  
you go too far on it, and apply that to things you simply cannot control, then that becomes really stressful,

Melissa Albers  11:37  
right. And then, like the opposite personality style, that one that you're just describing, their variety of control is very different. That more global strategic, big picture, give me 20%. And I don't care if I'm wrong, let's charge ahead. Forget about the 80%. We don't care about what we've done in the past, let's just go like this is how we're going to do it. That also that kind of control is very different. But it's still the same thing. It's still trying to control. The way that that control comes off is is like, stop worrying about the things that you worry about. And let's just ride who cares, we'll worry about it later. And that that control can also cause a lot of a lot of ruckus if it becomes overused or unchecked. So I think depending on the personality, it's

JJ Parker  12:24  
like a yellow group like yellow was LEDs go

Melissa Albers  12:27  
yellow, the yellow, green, yellow. Yeah, but isn't it interesting, because I think if we don't have a real understanding of how we are and what things we try to control internally, it comes out in how we interact with people. And then it can cause a big pile of issue in our interactions.

JJ Parker  12:47  
Yeah, yeah. So on a person on a personal front, you know, I've got three kids. And I've read a whole bunch of parenting books in order to just be a better parent, or get through the journey of parenting. And I read this one book, and it, there was a, there's a quote in there that really stuck with me. And it was, you are not responsible for your children. They're talking about the actions of children, right? Like what kids do. So you're not responsible for the actions of your children, but you are responsible to your children, for your actions, right. And I like that phrasing. You're not responsible for your children, you're responsible to your children.

Melissa Albers  13:41  
Yeah, that's really I like that, too.

JJ Parker  13:44  
And so when we talk about things that we can control, a lot of us have a parenting experience, right? Where I made from, from probably when they were very little up until now, when my kids are teenagers. You know, we can't really control that. So, no, you probably

Melissa Albers  14:09  
want to

JJ Parker  14:09  
Yeah, like they're having an absolute meltdown and target. And all we need to do is get the cart 30 feet to the checkout. So yeah. We have no control over their reaction. At that point. We only have control over ours, which is usually not the

Melissa Albers  14:29  
best. And it's hard though. Now. Yeah, because something happens that makes you really upset and now you're trying to control your own reaction in your experience. Do you know what like, as you said, the target thing I just have to tell you last year, I was at Target at night, and there was a mom there with a must have been about a two year old son. And that kid was screaming bloody murder. I could hear him across the store. And she had spent all this time she had an overflowing car. And it was like all necessities stuff like groceries and diapers and, and all she was trying to do is pay for those things. And this child was causing such a ruckus. She could not get her hands on him. He was squirreling around in the cart, he got out of the cart, she was so close to the checkout, he was kicking and screaming on the floor, and keeping herself so composed, I wanted to just hug her. She went and picked him up, couldn't get ahold of him, because he wouldn't let her get ahold of them. And finally, she got it. I'll never forget the visual, upside down by the waist. And he was flailing his arms and legs. And she had him in the best wrestling hold I've ever seen in my life. And she just left the card exactly where it was locked out of the stall. And I was so sad.

JJ Parker  15:54  
That's heartbreaking.

Melissa Albers  15:55  
Yeah. And I just thought, Boy, I hope there's no one in this store that's judging this woman because she's having one of the worst times of her life and look at how she's staying. So, on top of it, I was so proud of that woman. It was unbelievable. But it's true, though, you know, and and you could say that for leadership, you could say that in the workplace as well. There's a lot of times where people act out and you feel responsible to try to control what they're saying or doing. And really, what I, I always think about is, we can create the conditions and the circumstances, for things to go, right. But we can't make them go, right. And it's just like that, with the parenting with that quote, it's like, you can create the conditions and circumstances for your children to recognize consistently how they're supposed to act in a family unit. But you can't make them.

JJ Parker  16:49  
Yeah, no, yeah. Yeah, it's

Melissa Albers  16:51  
really interesting.

JJ Parker  16:53  
And the more that you The more you try to make them act in a certain way, especially if you've got teenagers, the more they act in exactly the opposite way.

Melissa Albers  17:06  
You know what, some employees do that too, by the way, they're like, Oh, really, Boss, boss, lady, really? You're gonna be like that. Okay, watch this. Did you just see what she did? Let's just ignore that. Like, she's a terrible person. Why does she have to be like that? Yeah, it totally, it totally backfired. And that creates a lot of stress. Because now, you know, the other thing that we haven't even talked about, but once you sit in this space of trying to control something that you cannot control, and then you feel the stress of it not working. What you then will often do is carry yourself away forward in the situation and go now this is what's going to happen next. And what about this? And what should I do then? And what happens when this happens? And now you're in full boat? anxiety? Yeah. So it's a pattern, right? It's a pattern. And it starts with what do you actually have to control? And what is in illusional control?

JJ Parker  17:55  
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think that probably is coming to that, going down that line of thinking, you probably need to sit with that for a little while, because sometimes it's not really super obvious what things you can control and what things are outside your control. Because I think that that's true, whether we call it control or a looser way of it, of describing as influence, right? There's things we can influence. Yeah, go a certain way. Yeah, I wouldn't call that control. Because control kind of says, like, I'm going to apply, you know, something, and I'm going to get an expected result. Right? Yeah. But thinking about like, what things can we actually control? Like? Yeah, like, can I control the things in the world? No, can't control the whole world? can I control the things in my state? in my city, in my house? in my, in my home office here

Melissa Albers  19:08  
in my kitchen sink?

JJ Parker  19:09  
Yeah. What is the circle of influence? That I actually have and, or even circle of control? And when I started thinking about that, I start realizing that it's pretty small. Yeah, might be as small as like, only me.

Melissa Albers  19:26  
Yeah, I'm, I am a self proclaimed proudly self control, control freak, trying to get over myself. Like I really am. That is something that I've had to work on my whole life is letting go of this notion that I can control all these outcomes. From the time I was really little, just I have a strong personality. And I would try to control a lot of things and it does cause a tremendous amount of anxiety. And it doesn't actually make you feel better, even if you control something and the outcome works, if you put a lot of energy towards it, and it isn't really actually the best, it actually doesn't make you feel any better. Yeah, you don't, you don't feel good when you control an outcome. And it actually happens in the sense that we're discussing it right now. So you're right. I mean, what sits in you, I think, is something that's really interesting, like taking your inventory. And when you feel that energy come up, that just wants to like, or like, take over. Notice it in your body, like, that's what I do is I notice it in my body, it's like, oh, I can feel like, I'm like my job, it's tight, you know, like, I can feel like, Oh, I want to just take that over. And I think it is just having a relationship with yourself, where when you recognize your feelings, you recognize your sense of really, truly wanting to make something, okay, so you feel like you have the responsibility to do it. Because a lot of times control in my experience has been being too, having too much obligation or responsibility, like trying to take too much responsibility. And then feeling like I have to control the outcomes, because I'm so responsible for it when I'm not.

JJ Parker  21:20  
Let's talk about self control. Like, really simply, like, there is a bot, you know, there's a little bowl of sweet candy treats over there, and you don't want it, you know, you shouldn't eat the whole thing. And five minutes later, they're all gone.

Melissa Albers  21:43  
And you're refilling. Just in case, you're gonna practice not controlling it again, not having self control, again,

JJ Parker  21:51  
like we talked about. So we talked about, like, all this external stuff, we talked a little bit about internal stuff. But yeah, but I think the idea that Yeah, you know, whereas we can control things, like we can control our own actions, even that we might be need to think about a little bit. Because there are some things that Yeah, maybe we can control. But they are really hard. Like really, really hard. Like, yeah, diet in exercise, like, things like that. And, and when you don't do them the guilt and shame you feel, yeah, when you Miss, Miss those little points that control over and over and over, really start adding up.

Melissa Albers  22:40  
Yep. And then you have a lot of the guilt again.

Unknown Speaker  22:43  
Mm hmm.

Melissa Albers  22:43  
Why can't I ever do this? And the shame? Why am I such a terrible person? Other people seem to be able to not have problems with this. Why do I? And it puts you into a whole spiral, doesn't it?

JJ Parker  22:56  
Yeah. So. So self control. There's also some some illusion there. Because, yeah, you think you think it would like a lot of us think it should be way easier? Right? Like, that

Melissa Albers  23:12  
is an illusion, right?

JJ Parker  23:13  
Yeah. And it's not easy. But

Melissa Albers  23:16  
no, it's not easy. But I think, you know, in our journey with the self awareness journey is teaching us all the time that it seems like you have more opportunity to choose for yourself what you want to be in the moment when you have a high level of self awareness.

JJ Parker  23:34  
Mm hmm.

Melissa Albers  23:34  
It seems like when you're not practicing having high self awareness, you're much more reactionary. And that's when that self control really flares up or doesn't.

JJ Parker  23:47  

Melissa Albers  23:49  
So having the awareness of your feelings inside and your motivators, like what's motivating me to act right now, and why does that matter to me so much that I cannot control? What I think say or do. Yeah, yep. That's really interesting.

JJ Parker  24:05  
And there's like, a lot of things I you know, I've done like, me and my, my climbing buddy have done like some, like we did the whole 30 diet as like, kind of a trading thing once. The hardest part of the whole 30 diet was was like not drinking any alcohol. Because like, yes, they I mean, for a lot of us, weather. I don't know if we want to admit it or not. It's like that's a chemical addiction. Right. All right, your brain gets a little dopamine hit like Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that one's actually really hard to break. And, like, I found myself, it was easy. It was like, Oh, it's, you know, seven o'clock at night. I just kind of want a drink and without being mindful Or without having any self awareness. Right? It would be so easy to just go do that habit, right? Mm hmm. Yeah. Um,

Melissa Albers  25:08  
yeah. These days when everybody's sitting around at home Oh,

JJ Parker  25:10  
yeah, it's really hard. Yeah. Nowadays for sure. Because it's like literally nothing else to do. Yeah. But being aware that, okay, my body is going to have a physical response of physical like a craving for that and just say, oh, yep, there's that feeling. Like, there's that there it is. And sitting with that. And then my trick was always to replace that reward with something different, because it was like, really the only way I could get through it. For me, it was like, okay, there's a feeling, I'm gonna go get a hot tea and like, sit and feel the warmth of my teacup? Which, when she was kind of a weird baby, but like, No, it doesn't. It was, it was like the way I can only get back to like, being present and not,

Melissa Albers  26:07  
and you're centered space.

JJ Parker  26:09  
Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  26:12  
Yeah, I think that that there's, boy, we've given people a lot of stuff to be thinking about right now, in this conversation, just the way that they are on the external and what the drivers are, what are some of the drivers that cause you to act the way that you do? And what are the drivers that make you feel? I would almost say overly responsible, so that you become in that control space? Yeah. What are those factors? And how did they get there? Like, I mean, I think that's the first part is not to feel bad about them or not to guilt yourself for them. But just recognize these are mine, like everybody has him. He's just happened to be mine. He's happened to be my feelings of obligation and responsibility and control. These are just the ones that I can't seem to shake. And so rather than turning away from them, it'd be really interesting to reflect on them. Reflect on that a little bit and step into them when you sense they're hopping up for you inside like, oh, there it is. And rather than running or avoiding or trying to become an externally controlling. What if we just like, Huh, that's interesting. I'm feeling like that. What's behind that? Why am I Why am I feeling like this so much? What's the real source?

JJ Parker  27:26  
Right? Yep. I like that. It's just putting is just remembering to think about it for just a moment before you act. Yeah. And that's such a, it's it. It sounds simple, but it's hard. But we get lots of opportunities to try that every single day.

Melissa Albers  27:45  
Yeah, yeah. Welcome to being a human

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability
to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of
building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have
is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and
has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker),
Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to
name a few.

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