When I take my daily walk, I tend to either walk in silence or listen to a podcast. I find that by doing either, I can briefly put aside those things on which I might otherwise be ruminating – or I can gain insight into them.
On this particular day, I was listening to Greg McKeown’s exceptional “Essentialism” podcast, and his guest literally said something that made me stop and hit the 15-second reverse button. Twice. His guest, Ben Bergeron, trains high-octane athletes for the high-octane sport of “Cross Fit.” These are some of the most highly conditioned athletes in the world, but they’re also human: they worry. Sometimes a lot.
Worrying detracts from good performance, so Bergeron takes the athletes through an extensive mental exercise where they
identify all of the things that might take up some mindspace; things that might worry them; things that are an issue that we should be thinking about or anything that could go wrong in training or in competition.
They then categorize those thoughts as either in their power to change or influence or outside their power to control. Bergeron then added:
80% of things you’re worrying about are ultimately outside your control.
And that’s where I stopped and hit the reverse button. Twice.
[AN ASIDE: “You mean that some 80% of all that crap that wakes me up at three in the morning and has me tossing and turning is potentially outside of my control?” I asked a squirrel perched upside down on the trunk of a nearby tree. I think it nodded in reply.]
Bergeron then goes on to explain that if you’re complaining, whining, or making excuses about something, that something is usually outside of your control. So, he advises his clients to focus on what they can control, and in the athlete’s world, that’s nutrition, conditioning, sleep, recovery, and mindset. The other things? Let them go.
The idea of focusing on what you can control leads us to this week’s podcast guest, elementary school principal JoAnne Duncan. Let’s look at her potential worry situation. COVID-19 just may be a principal’s worst nightmare, but as JoAnne reasons, the disease itself is outside her control; what’s in her control is how she helps her faculty, kids, and community adjust to it.
Reinforcing Bergeron’s advice, Ben and Roz Zander, authors of The Art of Possibility, explain the skill JoAnne so aptly demonstrates as “being present with the way things are without resistance.” “Without resistance” doesn’t mean being resigned to the way things are. Rather it means not dwelling on the negative feelings associated with a given situation. “Letting go of resistance” allows you to turn to the more productive question “What do we want to do from here?”
And as you listen to this episode, you’ll hear that JoAnne excels at answering that question.
If you made it this far, thank you! And if you’re intrigued enough to listen to the podcast episode, thank you again! No? Hey, don’t worry about it.