What Gives Us the Most Control Over Our Lives?

Question:

The Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) has given us many techniques to help us have more control over our lives. Which do you think makes the most difference?

Answer:

Thought you might first think of control over time or your schedule, the most basic technique for control really goes to understanding your body itself.  Better learning your body’s natural responses and working with biology rather than against it, can give you amazing amounts of control over your daily life.

When we feel “out of control,” our bodies react as if we are under physical attack and trigger our limbic systems. This “fight or flight” section of our brains makes us hyper focused, which in turn makes us see fewer possibilities. This then increases the feeling of being out of control and creates a downward spiral.

To regain control, you need to frequently remind your body that you are not literally under attack by taking these steps:

  1. Name and Acknowledge.

    “I feel out of control right now.” Say it out loud!

  2. Normalize.

    “This is a normal feeling under the circumstances.  But I recognize that it is keeping me from seeing all of my options.”

  3. Step Back.

    Get a new perspective — literally. Step away from your desk. Look out the window instead of at your computer. Take a deep breath.

  4. Reframe.

    “What is possible here?”

Remember — there are always many more options that you think, but first you have to give yourself the space to see them.

Bonus Question:

What can we learn from men about increasing our sense of control?

Answer:

A group of women partners I work with recently took up this question and suggested the following:

  1. Men are willing to pay more money to have others complete non-essential tasks outside of the office (e.g., laundry service).
  2. Not as many men have the “disease to please.” They set boundaries and ask for what they need (e.g., more time to complete an assignment).
  3. They say NO more often to non-essential work.
  4. They delegate with greater ease.

These women also acknowledged that there are many more complex factors at play.  Such factors include: bias, the fact that women often have more responsibilities outside of work — and more distractions at work — than men, and much more.  But it is still worth reflecting on these observations.

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