Control What You Can Control

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In many ways, the start of 2022 feels a lot like a repeat of the last two years.

Whether it’s the pandemic, our unstable political system, or even the environment, so many things in this new year seem to be beyond our control.

I often feel frustrated that I can’t do more and it’s easy to feel helpless when we collectively face so many massive challenges.

One of the things I have noticed in my own work during the past two years is that it feels much more intimate, personal, and local. This approach just feels right, probably because I have way more control over the results of the work I am embarking upon.

I remember feeling helpless on the day Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president several years ago. Like so many of you, I could see the Trump train coming but there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. It made me question everything I was doing with my life and career. When I spoke with a good friend about my feeling of helplessness and my desire to perhaps career shift to something that would have a greater impact, he gave me the following advice. He said “Instead of looking for a new job, which may or may not have more impact, take a look around and see what type of impact you can have from your current position of power. ”

What struck me about his advice was how empowering that mindset shift was for me. Being in control of my path, of my work, and of the impact I could have in the world was just the motivation I needed to continue pursuing the work within my position.

Here are some tips to help you think about controlling what you can control in the year ahead:

  1. Tip: As crazy as this sounds, try going on a low-information diet for the next five days. Don’t look at your twitter feed, avoid your online news source and forget watching the news. You might even try one of the many apps that help you limit your social media use. Instead, limit yourself to 5-10 minutes a day to check one reliable source for your news updates and call it a day. The news cycle doesn’t change that much over a period of 24 hours so I can easily get a quick update from my chosen news source in a shortened amount of time before diving back into my work.
  2. Tip: Don’t waste your time worrying about things you can’t control. Instead, focus on your immediate, personal goals and routines that enable you to move your life and career forward, even when the things that are beyond your control may not be working in your favor.
  3. Tip: Still feeling like there are things beyond your control? Take a moment to focus on ways you can make change within your place of work, or in your community. I have found that thinking as local as possible helps me feel in control and enables me to create a true impact on the world around me.

I would love to hear about the strategies you use to gain control of the world around you as we dive into 2022. Please leave your comments below and thanks for reading.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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