The Confidence Course
“I can only control my own performance.
If I do my best, then I can feel good at the end of the day”
Control…The Fifth Layer
Control is the fifth layer of the Confidence Pyramid and it appears an unlikely layer until you value what control can and cannot do for you in your life. Essentially, most of us want to be in control of things and have a say in the activities we participate in. We also like to feel that we have a major input in the quality and direction that our lives take us. In fact, there are some people who love to control so much that that they often override others and they become bossy, dogmatic and feel as if they have to micro-manage everyone and everything! This leads them to becoming control freaks and they suffocate everyone around them with their need to have total control. However, too little control for someone and they become lazy, apathetic or simply out of control and they leave the choices up to anyone who is willing to take control!
Neither of these two dimensions of control are what I am talking about. I am discussing a balanced control of your thoughts, feelings and emotions that allow you the personal freedom to express yourself and also be responsible for your actions. That is what we in psychology call the locus of internal control. It means that we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors and determine our own fortunes and destiny. To say that you are working in an internal focus of control is to suggest that you owe your success to the fruits of your labor, not someone else or external factors. In a way, to be in control is to say that you are totally accountable and responsible for your own actions.
The reason that control is a valuable ally to confidence is that when you are in control, you have the perception that you can make decisions and that you can influence the outcomes of certain events. This is known in the professional literature as perceived control. That is, the perception that we have control over our situation and choices and even the feelings we have when we face stressful factors, such as disease, health issues and eventually aging. But we have to understand that being in control does not mean that the outcome will match our expectations every time.
The notion of being in control means that we can only control ourselves and our effort. Many times, we cannot predict or control the outcome of our actions, even though our best intentions are put forth. But it is about the quality of effort that we put into the activity that we can control and as Michael Phelps had stated at the top of this foundation section, if you do your best, that is all you can do and you need to live and accept that. That is what I call creating your personal zone of control. It is about the things that you have under your personal volition and control. These are the items such as your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that are directly under your conscious control. Being confident is about making thoughtful choices and good decisions. Being in control of the direction and intent of those decisions is a major factor in how strong a belief system you can create. Decisiveness is a direct conduit to creating long term confidence.
However, there are a great many things that are out of our personal control and our realm of what we can influence and cannot. This is known as the Zone of Out of Control. For example, you have to give a big presentation to your bosses in the main corporate headquarters. You have practiced your presentation for days and you know the material forwards and backwards and you have a powerful video and audio presentation. However, you realize that when you get there, the projector has broken down and that you cannot give the Power Point seminar. This calamity is out of your zone of personal control and falls into the zone of out of control! Many folks would panic and lose their cool and their composure and blow the day. However, if you are really in control, you would simply say to yourself: “I can handle this….I know my material and I will just use the white board or easel”. This is operating within your personal zone of control.
This is an example of someone not losing their composure, reframing a tough situation and making a clear decision to move through the doubt and handle this as just a bump in the road. That is what having perceived control is all about. It suggests that whatever happens, that you have the skill and knowledge to persevere and get through the obstacle. Possessing a strong perception of control and being able to handle difficult issues, including health and aging, are an important part of building lifelong confidence.
Exercise # 1 Creating a Personal Zone of Control
In this exercise, I want you to make a list of all the things that you can control in your skill, activity, work place or habits or even your academic situation.
What you need to do is make a list of things that you can control which would be an internal locus of control (things that I can personally control) and another list of things that are outside of your control (an external locus of control). I have listed a Zone of Control for a basketball player as an example listed below:
Question: Who is in control? I control Me!
My Personal Zone of Control…………..I CAN control ME!
Things I can control
My Time…My timing to do things
My Self-Talk (Positive) + My Self-Talk Must Be Positive!
My Pre-Game Routine / My Free Throw Routine
My Energy Level / My Effort
My Game/ My Shotmaking/Ball Handling
My Reaction to Poor or Missed Shots or Results
My game Management
I can control this moment … I am in control of me…
I can always take control!
Exercise # 1 Creating a Personal Zone of Control….contd.
Things and Items that I Cannot Control
The Zone of “Out of Control”
Other players / competitors
Perceptions of others
Coaches / Parents/ Family / Friends / Sponsors / Fans / Media
Court or Lighting Conditions
External Distractions / Noise
Unexpected Results or Bad Breaks
Expectations that come from Others and the Press
Who is starting or how much playing time I am given
Because I cannot control these things….I must let them go!
Note that you can list anything you want on either side of your Zone of Control. But the important thing to realize is that YOU always have control over what you want to think, how you want to act and how you make your choices. It is totally up to you. The more that you feel that you have control over the things that happen to you, the more that you will grow in confidence!
Exercise #2 Snapping the Rubber Band
Consistent with the previous exercise, this exercise allows you to self-monitor and self-regulate your behavior. You will need a rubber band placed on either wrist. It doesn’t matter if it is on your left or right wrist. The purpose of the rubber band is an awareness exercise. Every time you feel that you are overwhelmed or feel that you do not have control over something, simply say STOP! As you are saying STOP, simply pull on the rubber band and give it a pull and let it go! This will create a stinging SNAP into your wrist. As you do this, also tell yourself that “I can handle this!” What this does is to create a thought stopping mechanism that interrupts negative thought patterns and makes an attitudinal adjustment that says: “Yes I can!” Try this for several days and see if you don’t feel a sense of personal empowerment and better overall decision making moving forward!