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What Is Within Our Control

I was feeling super anxious about participating in a strength challenge put on by StrongFirst, an organization in which I highly respect the people, and the principles that they teach. I had attempted this feat of strength multiple times but the anxiety of performing in front of a lot of people made me feel extremely nervous and provoked feelings of anxiety up to weeks before hand. Lots of people wanted to offer me training advice, which was all in good nature, but the best advice I got was about mental prep and changing my mindset around the event. The great part is this mental reframing has now permeated into the rest of my life!

Feeling in or out of control is a big part of feeling anxious. When we feel out of control, or like we are not in the know, we feel like we are not participating in our own outcome and this can often times lead to feelings of anxiety, nerves, and fear. Understanding what we can control of, kind of have control over and have no control over can great help this feeling of being in the driver seat of your life.   

As we go through each category, we will use two different types of life examples to show how we can create these sort of lists. Let’s use the example of running your first 5k and a big presentation you have for work.


Now let’s look at what we can control. It is really important to be honest in this section. If you are any less than 100% certain you can control a factor then is does not belong in this section. Some of the factors that may show up in this section include your preparation, what you might wear, your schedule or timeline, and what you may physically wear during a specific event.

For your first 5k, you can control your training by follow a systemized program, getting a coach, joining a group, reading about people’s experiences, and trust in the process of training. You can control what you wear by mapping out exactly the shoes, socks, shorts or pants, shirt, undergarments (yes or no), head band (yes or no), headphones (yes or no), watch (yes or no) and whatever else you may wear on your body. You can control the food you eat by practicing what food makes you feel most energized and strong during a training run. You can control the schedule of training as well as the location by choosing a 5k that fits your training schedule timeline and is in an optimal location for you. And you can even control the exact music you listen to day of to get you pumped!

Now let’s move on to your work presentation. You can control your preparation for the presentation in terms of the quality of work you put into it but you may not be able to control the time allotted to prepare. You also have control of how you, yourself actually present in terms of posture, language, and tone of voice during the presentation. This type of life situation has a lot of variables and as I said, we only want to put what we are 100% sure we can control in the control section. There may be more aspects within your control but for now I will put a majority of those kind of things in the kind of control category.

After we figure out what we absolutely can control, we want to figure out the things we have some control over but maybe not 100%. These types of things often relate to the day of. Sleep is almost always an aspect you only kind of can control this as well as your emotions day of.



When running a 5k you can include kind of controlling your pace as if you have properly trained, you know about what your pace will be like but other factors may inhibit or increase your speed and change it slightly. Your emotions on the day of the event can vary and when you are feeling nervous, it is difficult to 100% control the emotions, nerves and jitters that come along with doing something for the first time.

As I mentioned before, there are a lot more variable when it comes to a work presentation. All of these things may not relate to your situation, but they are aspects you can think about and place in the correct category. You may be able to control things like location, when you give the presentation, who helps you out with the presentation, who the presentation is presented to, the technology used for the presentation (or lack of), and time you have to present. For now, I will place these aspects in the kind of control category. Emotions also play into this as well. This work presentation may be a make or break moment for you and that can come with a lot of stress and nerves. Sometimes these can be difficult to control.  

Last, we come to the things we cannot control. This mainly includes items related to other people and the external factors around you.

In a 5k, you have no control over the other races around you, their speed, and how they might behave or influence you. You have no control over the weather in which you are performing in unless you picked an indoor 5k. (Is that a thing? Maybe!) And you have no control in the course details. There may be puddles, odd markings to navigate the race path, bottlenecking, and hills to navigate.  

In the setting of a work presentation, the biggest factor are other people’s reactions. What will your boss think? What will other people say? What questions will come from this presentation? There may be other people presenting with you and you have no control over what they might present on or say either. There may be other random distracting factors you don’t have control of either. Is there a weird humming noise in the air? Is someone biting their nails? Is there demolition work being done nearby, is an ambulance going by creating obnoxious noises?   All of these kinds of random things you have absolutely no control over! And that is ok!

As you can see there are lots of variables even to just these two kinds of events. The goal overall is to help you realize what you do have control over so that when something doesn’t go ideally to the plan, you don’t freak out, you stay calm and focus on what is within your control.   With anything that may hit you, you always have the choice to accept what happens and deal with it in the best way you can!
5K Control

Can Control

Kind of Control

Can’t Control

Training/Training time


Other racers

What you wear



Food/what you eat

Emotions day of race

Terrain/ Race course




Music you listen to



Work Presentation Controls

Can Control

Kind of Control

Can’t Control

Quality of preparation


Other people’s opinions



Questions asked

Language/Tone of voice

Time line/Length of prep

Other presentations

What you wear

Group or solo project



Presentation spectators



Technology available



Emotions day of presentation




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