Taking control of your destiny: How to lead yourself

If the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that the only thing we can control is our behavior.

The pace of change continues to be unrelenting and fueled by the great resignation, most people have more on their plate than ever before, either via a new job or departed co-workers. It’s easier than ever to be reactive to a swirling environment around you.

Intellectually, we know we can’t place our careers in the hands of someone else (even a great boss). But emotionally, when one zoom bleeds into another, it’s hard to feel in control. Here are three items to consider:

Recognize what is (and isn’t) within your influence

If you work for a traditional organization, there are a myriad of things out of your total control. Even if you work for yourself, you don’t fully control the environment, the market or the opinions of other people (sigh).

Sometimes, people will throw their hands up with a “out of my control.” It’s well-intended, you don’t want to obsess about things you can’t control. But unfortunately, in that moment, people often overlook their power of influence.

Recognizing what you can influence (vs. control or mandate) is wildly empowering. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with to-dos, and at the whim of the universe, try to segment your worries into three buckets: Control, influence and fixed.

In the “influence list,” prioritize where you’re putting your mental and physical effort. What would generate a return on your intellectual investment? Is it swaying the opinion of your boss or a key peer? What is a lost cause? Changing major policy or winning over a toxic coworker?

Your brain is a highway, and too much thought in the “out of control” or “not really worth the influence” areas cause a traffic jam for things that matter.

Ground yourself with the timeless serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Define a growth goal

Not action items and not SMART goals you carry for a quarter.. These growth goals stay with you, even if the scope of your job starts to flex a little bit.

A single goal can be a pull-through thread, something that doesn’t add to your punch list, but instead, acts as an organizing pillar to your professional development. Here are some examples:

• Improve my clarity in written communication.

• Build deeper relationships with the people I interact with.

• Champion the voices of others in the room.

And here’s why there’s not an ‘s’ on the end of goal: You’re busy. If you have 15 action items, you’re working on nine projects, prepping for seven 1-on-1s; when you recite tour to-do list it sounds like the corporate version of 12 days of Christmas. Set a growth goal that is simple and easy to execute in the cadence of regular work.

Seek specific feedback

High achievers know feedback is an opportunity to grow. The more specific you can be in your request for feedback, the more likely it is to make a difference.

Here’s what I mean: Say you designed a pitch deck for a big prospect. If you ask a peer, “Do you have any feedback?” they might give you feedback on the content, the graphics, a specific slide or they could say “looks great.”

But let’s say your growth goal is to improve your clarity and conciseness in your writing. A specific feedback ask would be- was there anything in this presentation that you had to read twice because it wasn’t clear?

Then enables you to assess progress against your goal, what you’ve recognized as important (vs. collecting a myriad of opinions). Plus, if something is catastrophically wrong outside of the scope of your growth goal, your peer will tell you anyway.

High-achievers are regularly praised for their self-starter mindset, steadfast motivation and ability to get things done, despite uncertainty. No matter what chaos is around them, they manage to lead themselves toward success.