The Art Of Being In Control (or Not)

I had a great new experience last week.  I sat down with a friend to record my first ever podcast.  Justin Bergeron is a professional coach and a savvy social media sort of guy.  He’s launched a series of podcasts called The Art of Being, which can be found on iTunes or on his website.  Justin and I had been planning this for quite a while.  I’d sent Justin some ideas and then we had coffee to talk over which looked most promising.  We decided we would talk about The Art of Being Emotional.

In preparation for our session Justin asked me to prepare a list of things that I would want to touch on in the podcast.  I sent him ten things, and we scheduled our recording session for two weeks out.  When Justin arrived at my house I was ready to go.  We’re going to delve into all things emotional.  I’m an emotional intelligence geek … I love this stuff and I’ve studied it so I feel great about doing the podcast.

After we make our hot drinks to take into our session, Justin drops the bomb that he thinks the topic is too big.  Each of my 10 things could be a podcast, he says. What if we just delve into a single facet of emotions.  The fact that we agreed to change our topic to The Art of Being In Control is somewhat ironic as I distinctly remember feeling out of control as Justin led me away from the topic that I prepared for.

I had to notice my resistance to change, and my desire to push the direction back to where I was comfortable.  I had to let go of control.   I had to ask Justin to continue to lead the discussion and help me catch up to him.  I’m glad we did.  Here’s a link to our podcast … I hope you get something out of it

The conversation was a lot of fun and I think Justin and I explored many facets of this topic and a few other related topics as well.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  It is an hour long, so if you aren’t able to invest the time in listening, I’ve been reflecting on our conversation a bit further.  While not all of what follows is directly reflected in our conversation, it is stimulated by it.

Here’s the three things that resonate most with me out of our session together.

  1. The paradox of being in control. The truth is that the most important skill required to be in control is the ability to let go, and most specifically our ability to let go of emotions that may be restricting our ability to be in control of our actions.  There are several facets to this capability, but I think the key elements are:
    1. Letting go of our desire to control external factors that we really can’t control. Justin asked me a question that I didn’t give enough thought to. He asked something like “do you think that the more we feel out of control, the more we want to control the situation?”  It’s a great thought.  How much energy to we waste at times trying to change something we have no control over?
    2. It is important that we own our emotions vs. blaming others for how we feel. For example when we hear ourselves say something like “you make me angry”, we need to translate that to the more accurate statement “I’m angry”. There is no way to be in control of a situation when our self-talk is giving it away! When you hear yourself blaming an emotion on others, flip it to own it and then work to let go of that emotion to the extent required to retain control over all of our advanced mental capabilities.
    3. Staying in control of one’s emotions is a courageous act, allowing us to fully explore and resolve a situation. It often requires us to admit we are not fully in control and that we need to ask for help.  This requires us to be comfortable with being vulnerable.  We tend to view vulnerability as synonymous with weakness, especially men. But having the courage to ask for help gives us the opportunity to combine forces with others to even better command a situation.
  2. Understand our unique triggers which may cause us to lose control. We all have inner voices which might tell us we are “not enough” in some way. When these voices talk, our control might waiver. These voices have roots in our childhood that allowed us to survive and grow.  They may even be responsible for our success in life, but may trigger emotions that threaten self-control.  There are techniques that will help us notice these triggers and allow control to return.  First is to notice any physical feelings associated with these negative voices – for instance “I feel my stomach drop” or “my face feels flushed”. When we are skilled at noticing when a trigger is active, we can then focus on a few key questions that will allow us to take control over the situation from the inner voices:
    • What is really happening right now? How might I be misinterpreting the situation?
    • What about this situation is true for me? What do I know vs. what am I making up?

Our inner voices have a root in the emotion of shame, so it is important that we stop and assess whether we are accepting the correct amount of responsibility for the situation before moving forward.

  1. Self-appreciation is key to self-control.  There is a gift in being able to accept that we are all imperfect.  Giving ourselves the grace to fall at times is so important to quieting our negative voices.  It also allows us to be much more tolerant of imperfection in others, which also helps us understand external situations at a new level. Just as our unique triggers are driven by voices that say “I’m not …”, our core capabilities can be defined by clear statements starting with “I am …”. It can be uncomfortable to spend time telling ourselves what we are really good at, in fact we’re often taught not to be self-centered.  But we can’t feel in control unless we know how we best face challenges.  Spend time knowing what you are at your core.  It won’t be what you do or how you do it.  It will be the essence you bring when you are performing at your best.  For instance “I am a dynamic listener” or “I facilitate progress for others”.  Get to know these seats of power and staying in control will be much easier.

If you do listen to the podcast I hope you enjoy the discussion.  I certainly enjoyed my time with Justin exploring this topic and look forward to future sessions with him.  If you have any thoughts that come out of this post or the podcast I’d love to discuss them with you!

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

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