I was involved in a lot of theater training in high school, and there was one time when I was upset about a casting decision and went to go sulk in an empty studio. One of the acting coaches happened to walk in and gave me a piece of advice. She said that the only thing I can control is when I shower, and that I should let God handle the rest and not spend my time worrying about what would have or should have been.
The Three Things You Can Control
Now, our tool is named the Three Things You Can Control and contains a little more than showering, but I think her sentiment still stands: don’t worry about what is outside of your control.
The Three Things You Can Control are:
- Your actions and choices
- Your attitude and perspective
- Whom you trust
These three things are available to you no matter what your circumstances are. Acting on them gives you both the freedom to pursue what you want and the freedom from worrying about what you cannot control.
The Two Circles
In that moment in high school, I was in what we call the Victim Circle. That is when we allow our external circumstances to dictate our actions and attitude for us. When things are going well, we feel happy, and, when they are going poorly, we feel sorry for ourselves. We do not take agency over our own lives and feel helpless against the forces around us that direct our steps.
The alternative to the Victim Circle is the Circle of Choice. That is where we take ownership over the Three Things We Can Control and choose our actions and attitude even in the midst of sometimes difficult circumstances.
The way to move from the Victim Circle to the Circle of Choice is to take ownership of the Three Things You Can Control. In the Victim Circle, we often feel as if our freedom is being taken away. Maybe your school or work has you completing tasks that you dislike. Maybe a diagnosis has prevented you from pursuing your dreams. External circumstances do play a role in where we live and work and how we spend our time. But they do not take away our ability to choose our actions, perspective, or whom we trust within those environments and realities.
Freedom is not passive. It is active. You have to choose to enact your freedom by utilizing the Three Things You Can Control to make the best out of whatever situation you’re in.
How would I have responded differently as a 16-year-old if I had known these truths? Instead of feeling sorry for myself I could have shifted my attitude to one of gratitude. Instead of spending my time feeling sorry for myself I could have chosen to pick myself up and continue working on my training.
Knowing what you can control frees you up from having to worry about what is outside of your control so that you can instead take ownership of what is within your reach.
Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.