Take control of your life. Here is how

I was stuck.

No, not just the I-don’t-know-how-to-do-this type of stuck, more the what-am-I-doing-with-my-life kind of stuck.

I’ve been in the engineering and leadership field for so long; I grew up in it. I loved the innovation, people and the problems we got to solve, but now I’m feeling out of place, unsure like I lost a piece of my puzzle, and the rest doesn’t make sense without it.

That is the nudge I needed to start looking at me again. I knew myself, didn’t I?
It turns out, maybe not as well as I thought.

I started digging, looking for that piece that went missing. I looked at my work, spoke to friends, doing things that felt familiar, yet I did not find the missing piece. So what else can I do, and where can I look if not in all the usual places I started to wonder.

So, being fond of reading and research, I started looking at other sources that might prove helpful. Therapy came up, but this was not a trauma I needed to work through. Counselling also did not feel like the path that would help me in this case. I needed something different., something to help me rediscover myself. Maybe my puzzle needed rearranging, a different perspective, or a total redo.

Then I found Caroline. She was my first coach. We looked at me. My values, driving force, career, and a bit at my life, and I started discovering new things. Although they were not really new, they were always there, I looked at them differently, and they appeared new and changed.

I noticed that I could identify as an engineer, but it did not need to be all of me, and I didn’t need to even “fit” into the whole engineering box. This discovery also helped me realize that the control I experience is always mine to choose; I only need to find a way to look at it differently.

The control I experience is always mine to choose; I only need to find a way to look at it differently.

For example
I could look at my career and circumstances thinking, “I am an engineer, and, therefore, I need to act and do things a certain way.”
Or I can think, “I enjoy engineering and can use this skillset further in my career, maybe in non-engineering industries”.
Or I can go a step even further and think, “The thing about engineering I enjoy best is innovation. This element is also in other fields, like behavioural sciences or the arts. How can I shape my career to incorporate more of this, and how might that look like?”

So, you might wonder where you start when you are stuck and need to gain more control over your life, circumstances, or the situation.
First, remember this little formula E + R = O
The Event (something we can not control) + our Reaction (to whatever took place) = The Outcome


Yes, it is this easy, but we need to remember to apply it, which is not always so easy. Let us start by focusing on the Event, as this is what happens typically during our day.

Something happens at work; there is a crucial deadline, it is looming closer, and the pressure is on. Tension is running high; you are trying to do a hundred things simultaneously, and nothing seems to be going right. This project is going to be a disaster!

Then you pause, you remember this little formula E + R = O.
Currently, your reaction is to run around like a mad person to get everything done, and you can see it failing miserably.
During your pause, you notice you are also holding your breath. Literally, cutting oxygen to your brain, preventing you from thinking, never mind thinking for yourself. How do you do this again, you wonder.

You start at the first step – BE. You remember to BE; you only need to notice the here and now. Notice that you are breathing; focus on this for three breaths. There, you now detect your body; your shoulders feel tense, you roll your neck to stretch the muscles a bit. That is better; your mind is getting clear.

Next, you remember the second step is to decide what Reaction you want to have, which will influence your experience and the outcome.

Decide what Reaction you want to have, which will influence your experience and the outcome.

You decide that you want to feel calm and in control. What do you need for you to get to this state? You noticed that you were focusing on work, not part of the critical path, and decided to take a few minutes to determine your best approach to achieve the deadline. Having a plan, you now notice an opportunity. Some of your team members can help with elements of the work towards the deadline in exchange for you helping them on less urgent work later, and you ask for assistance.

Now you are clear and in control of how you are reacting to the event.

This sequence leads us to the Outcome. You achieve your deadline; your boss is thrilled, and the experience was exhilarating! You are full of energy and can hardly believe taking a few minutes to become clear around your reaction could have such a significant impact on this extraordinary outcome.

Often, especially when we feel out of control, this is not what happens, though. We forget that we can choose our reaction. Something happens, and we react without even thinking about what we are doing or how it might impact the thing we are working toward.

Taking the time to be present help us notice what is going on and how our body might be reacting to the stimuli it’s exposed to. If left, we will behave according to the programming already in our system, but we can choose to change it and take control of our reaction.

So now that we’ve explored how this might show up in a situation, let’s have a look at the components.

This event is anything that happens where you might not have any control over what happens. For example: applying for a new position, having to work differently from what you prefer or are used to (with work, the family, and animals all vying for your attention), relationships with others, or (other) natural disasters.  

This is all you. You can choose what you want to experience, think, feel or say. With the event at hand, what is the most important to you? Who do you want to be? What type of thinking will serve you best in this event/situation to be who you want to be? What behaviours will you showcase?

And remember, when we are in the event, the first step is to BE – be present to yourself, breathe and notice your body. To “BE” helps to ground us, clear our thinking and take control of our experience.

The outcome results from how our reaction and the event came together, and our reaction constantly changes this.

Now that you have the formula to keep in mind to take control of your life, I would love to hear from you. What experience do you want to have during these uncertain times, and how will you change your reaction to get it?

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