Denise and I were getting ready to wrap up our weekly coaching call. She’s been a salesperson for about 18 years and recently took a new position in media sales. I sensed there was something going on with Denise that was getting in her way; some limiting or dangerous thinking that was sabotaging her selling efforts without her even knowing it. We continued our conversation. Here’s how it went.
“It’s addicting if that’s what you mean. You can bet that I’ll continue to keep pushing to get more sales. I’ll just have to do a better job at controlling the process and each sales call I go out on.”
“That’s interesting. Do you believe that a sales call or your sales process is something you feel you can actually control?”
“Well, I’ll certainly try harder to do so!”
“Really?” I paused for a moment, reflecting back to the beginning of our conversation. “You said earlier that confidence equates to control. May I ask, what’s the relationship you have with control?”
“If you mean I’m a control freak, then the answer is a resound yes and proud of it.”
“Are you familiar with the paradox of control?”
“No, please share.”
“To give you some background, the word paradox is Latin for ‘beyond opinion.’ A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may be true. They are a way to test and challenge reality or the limiting or general assumptions we have made that stall our evolution.
‘The more we try to maintain control in our lives, the less freedom we create for ourselves,’ illustrates one of the many paradoxes in life. While we may strive to maintain control over our lives, our careers, even over other people in order to produce certain outcomes, this desire to control creates rigidity or resistance to change. We feel if we control certain things it limits risk and error.
This lack of flexibility creates friction in our lives, especially in the face of adversity.
The result? As we continue to put our energy into preventing change, or staying within what we know what is safe and comfortable, control becomes the very thing that limits the progression, inhibiting the ability to create
or recognize even better opportunities. As we let go of the need to control, greater possibilities unfold naturally.
You can determine if you are attempting to control something that you can’t by asking yourself the following questions.
- Are my efforts and actions enhancing my life
or consuming my life?
- Do I want to continue doing things the way I am doing them now for the next thirty years?
- Is this my agenda or someone else’s agenda?
Do I have an attachment to the outcome?
- What am I afraid of? (What’s the fear?) What am I trying to avoid?
- What am I trying to do or create perfectly? What result am I hooked on achieving?
Paradoxes such as this illustrate how the very actions we take to generate desired results, often slow us down and diminish the quality of the outcome we want to achieve. (Another paradox!)
In other words, consider what would be possible if you responded to the events in your life, both in action and opinion, in the exact opposite manner in which you would normally respond to them? (If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you may remember the episode where George made better, successful decisions by doing the exact opposite thing he would normally do.)
Once explored, these contradictions open up new possibilities by challenging certain beliefs that we may have initially thought of as true.
This exploration into contradiction is evolutionary, since it immediately creates alternative opportunities and paths to travel upon.
The Only Three Things You Can Ever Control
In life there are many things we try to control. Ironically, there are only three things that we truly have the ability to control and have any real control over. They are:
- Your actions
- Your responses to situations and your experiences
- Your thoughts, beliefs or attitude.
That’s it. Everything else that we think we can control, the things we complain and worry about; is an elusion. The irony is, most of us spend our time trying to control the things we can’t rather than focusing on mastering the things we can; these three areas that we truly do have control over.”
“That is so true,” Denise declared. “Hmm. I can’t help but think of the countless hours, days even years I’ve wasted trying to control the things I can’t! Well, today is certainly the start of a new day for me and a new approach to selling. Any other jewels you want to share today?”
“Is that one not enough?” I said, jokingly.
“Oh, absolutely It is! Talk to you next week, coach!”