How do I deal with things that are out of my control? Published on July 5, 2018


James Newman

This question gets to the root cause of so much personal suffering, depression and stress. I don’t know how many times I’ve been caught up worrying about some situation that is totally out of my personal control. What a waste of emotional energy! One simple solution I’ve discovered, that really helps in this type of stress, is to define the difference between personal Power and personal Responsibility.

David Riddell (an important mentor of mine and founder of Living Wisdom) explained it to me this way; “We should only accept responsibility for things we have been given power over.” This means, if there is a situation at work or at home that feels stressful, the first thing I need to ask myself is, have I been given the responsibility and power to deal with this? If you have, then you need to use that power to sort the situation. If you haven’t been given that power, then why are you spending even one moment of emotional energy on it?

“We should only accept responsibility for things we have been given power over.”

Power is an important concept to grasp if you want to remain free of depression, and bitterness. In so many daily situations your concept of personal power will hugely affect your personal and work relationships.  Many times when I’ve felt the pull of despair or been stressed because of some life situation, it’s because I’ve misplaced my power.

One example from my life, is dealing with relationships.  As a recovering “people pleaser”, I have spent plenty of emotional energy worrying about someone else’s problems. It could get so bad I’d feel physically weak from the strain of their issues! The problem was, I had taken on responsibility for something I had absolutely no power over. There is nothing I can do about that persons feelings, they are responsible for those, not me. Realising that I was doing this and then giving up this false sense of responsibility was a huge relief.

Another situation where I have misplaced my power, was when I would become resentful for having to work as a Teacher. I would feel like a victim, I’d say things like, “god I hate this job, why did I become a teacher”, so on.. you get the drift. The problem here was I had given away my power over things that were my responsibility. I had chosen to become a teacher, and I had the power to unchoose it, whenever I wanted! Giving away power for something that was my responsibility was the cause of my bad attitude and despair.

So, step one to dealing with work stress is; figure out if you been given both power and responsibility for whatever the situation is. If not drop it right now, don’t waste one more second on it, it’s futile, really. If you have been given both responsibility and power then, use that power to make the world a better place! Like the wise Yoda once said, “Do or do not do, there is no try”. worrying about things out of your control is the very definition of futility.

Now on the other hand, what if someone has given you responsibility but no power? This is a common situation and often comes from another person playing the victim role. You need to go to that person and respectfully ask for the power to do something about that situation, use your own words. If you don’t your playing a losing game and will only damage your health and relationships. So much stress in life can be avoided by learning how to deal with responsibility and power in a healthy way.

Ask yourself today, what am I worried about? Then figure out where is my power in this? Stop using all that energy trying to fix stuff that you have no power over and step up and take responsibility for the things you do.

The ball’s in your court!

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