Episode 14: Where DO You Have Control? [Clients Lessons #2]

Good morning, everybody! Welcome to today’s episode of The Work Of Becoming podcast. Today, I want to start with a question that I’m gonna ask you that I want you to think about as you hear the story I’m gonna tell in this episode, and that question is where do you have control? Where do you have control or agency or autonomy that you might not be recognizing right now?

So, for this story, I’m gonna tell you about a client that I worked with who came to me in need of some time management help because she was really, really overwhelmed. This particular person had several children. She had a partner that she was taking care of. She had a dog that had some health issues that she was taking care of. She was also working a full-time job that had her working between 50 and 60 hours per week, and she had almost no flexibility. She had to clock in and clock out. Even if she took a bathroom break, she had to clock out. So, it was a very strict working situation.

And so, we started by working on some of the basic time management tools that we have in Alliance Coaching, but really quickly we realized that because she did not have a lot of control over her work life, those things weren’t working for her as well as they work for some of our other clients who even have marginal amounts of control over their work. This particular client was really struggling because she felt like she didn’t have control over anything in her life. She didn’t have control over her work. She had situations happening with her children. Things were just totally chaotic.

And so, what we did was we sat down on a call, and we identified all of the individual different things that she did not have control of. She did not have control of her children’s behavior. She did not have control of what time she had to clock in and clock out. She did not have control of what her spouse was talking about.

Then (and you can do this exercise if you want) what we did was we identified the things in each of those elements or related to each of those elements that she did have control over. So, she did not have control over her children’s particular behavior, but she did have control over the way she reacted to that behavior. She did not have control over what time she clocked in, but she did have control over what time she woke up in the morning. She did not have control over the fact that their car had broken down, but she did have control over what spending in her life that she was doing in order to make room for dealing with the car situation.

Now, sometimes it is really important for us to acknowledge the circumstances and the forces in our lives that have bearing on our behavior. I do not subscribe to the idea that everything in your life is within your control or everything is a choice. I think that’s, quite frankly, a load of bullshit. There are so many systemic and environmental and circumstantial factors we need to take into account, and we do when working with clients, but one of the things that this activity does is it allows you to see and to focus on the areas where you can make a difference.

As humans, we have a fundamental need for autonomy. Autonomy is a sense of control over our own lives, and a lot of times, if you’re living a life where you don’t have a lot of control, you can have a lack of autonomy, and that can make it feel like things are totally outside of your control, It can make things feel chaotic, and it can make you have very, very low motivation to enact anything because why would you do any behavior if it’s not going to make a difference?

So, with this particular client, after we isolated all these tiny areas where she did have control, she was able to focus on those, and even though her circumstances did not change, even though her job didn’t get easier, her kids didn’t change at all, the things in her circumstances didn’t adjust themselves because she was focusing on the areas where she could make a difference, she felt a heightened sense of autonomy, and she felt a heightened sense of responsibility (in a good way) for what she could control around her behavior, and that autonomy, it turned out for her, was the key to her motivation.

So, she really wanted to start exercising. That was one of the things that she came to me wanting to work on, and we were able to get her exercising from not at all to one to two times per week because she finally had the motivation to work out that came from the sense of autonomy of, “I can make time for this. I can have control over my own life.”

So, if you’re a person who feels like everything is outside of your control right now and that your life is an impossible situation, I hear you, I see you, and it’s important to recognize what is going on that is something that you can’t change, but it’s also important to strategically point your brain towards even the tiniest preferences you have (maybe what you’re gonna eat for breakfast), and when you focus on those, you build your sense of autonomy and that can drive you to have more motivation and ability to do the behaviors you want to do.

That is what I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this little lesson from one of the clients that I had a great time working with, and I hope you might think about joining us in Alliance Coaching this month.


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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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