Have You Lost Control?

On a recent webinar I asked a group of salespeople, “How are you managing the current situation?”

The general consensus…“I’ve lost my sense of control.”

At some level, we can all relate to this sentiment. We’re all losing some of our control, and it’s driving us crazy! There is one thing we fear more than losing a sale, money, or even our job. It’s control. In fact, a sense of control keeps us healthy and happy. Consider this experiment mentioned in Tali Sharot’s wonderful book, The Influential Mind.

Experimenters, Judith Rodin and Ellen Langer, wanted to understand how control impacted health and happiness, so, they conducted an experiment at a nursing home—a fitting venue to understand the effects of perceived control on health and happiness. Residents are constantly told what they can do, when they can do it. Many residents rely on the staff’s help to complete normal everyday activities.

This nursing home had four floors. The staff addressed the residents floor by floor. The staff called a meeting with all the residents on one floor and explained the situation. These residents were told to take care of themselves, make plans to get everything they needed, select activities, and plan their own schedule. They were also given a potted plant, and the staff explained that the resident was responsible for watering and taking care of the plant. The residents on this floor had more perceived control over their environment.

The other floors received different instructions. The staff assured the residents that they would take amazing care of them. Residents wouldn’t have to lift a finger; the staff would take care of everything. These residents were also given a plant, but residents were informed that the staff would take care of the watering. The residents on these other floors had less perceived control over their environment.

After three weeks there was a noticeable difference. The group with more perceived control was happier and their mental alertness improved. After eighteen months, this group also showed signs of greater health. Control—whether perceived or actual—is good for us!

Losing control is tough. We want it. We need it. But did we ever really have it? Remember, you were never in complete control of this life. Unexpected things—good and bad—are part of everyday life. Uncertainty is only more salient because of our current situation. But in the midst of all the uncertainty, you have more control than you think. Here are few tips to gain greater control during these uncertain times.

Time

You control how you spend your time. Nothing or no one has greater control over your time than you. You control your schedule. Create a routine. Stabilize these uncertain times with a predictable schedule.

Try to maintain a sense of normalcy as we embrace this new normal. If you begin your day with a workout, continue working out. If you make customer calls in the morning, continue making those calls. You have more control over your time than you think.

Attitude

You cannot control what happens, but you can control your attitude. During tough times, it’s important to embrace an attitude of gratitude. Find the burden in the blessing. Every day, find something to be grateful for.

Here are a few things I’m personally thankful for…

  • More quality time with my children and wife;
  • Stronger sense of community with my neighbors; and
  • Not seeing my in-laws in over two weeks (Just kidding. I love my in-laws, as they will surely read this article).

Laugh

There is nothing funny about COVID-19 and the impact it will have on this world. There is nothing funny about people dying and suffering. So, in no way am I taking the current situation lightly. But right now, we could all use a little laughter. Lord Byron, the British poet, wrote “Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” Humor will not cure this virus, but it might be enough to medicate all of us through these uncertain times.

Find humor during the struggle, not at the struggle. Humor relieves stress. Laugh with friends, laugh with family, laugh at yourself. Just find a way to laugh.

Every day you’re facing uncontrollable events. Such is life. Life isn’t fair and we can thank God for that. If life were fair, we’d only get what we deserve and nothing more. Take comfort in knowing that these uncertain times will pass. In the meantime, control what you can control. Control how you spend your time. Control your attitude through gratitude. And remember that it’s okay to laugh along the way.

And, one final tip for my road warriors and outside salespeople…Don’t tell your sales manager you’re comfortably settling into your new work-from-home routine.

They might suspect you’ve been working from home all along.

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