Control What You Can – Let Go Of The Rest

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”


In 2016 I read a book by Jocko Willink called extreme ownership. I at the time was a young manager in the IT world and it completely changed my life. I started getting up earlier and looking for my place in issues with my subordinates. Meaning when I was having a problem with a coworker, boss, spouse, child, I would define the issue and try to decide where it stems from. Most of the time I found that I wasn’t fully communicating what I expected from someone. By simply applying the words “extreme ownership” I stopped viewing my subordinates as lazy or against me and started looking for my place in the miscommunication. I went from being a victim to again being in control – once I was in control I could find a solution to the problem. 

This blog starts with a quote from Shakespeare and his message is borrowed from the Stoics. We are a controlling species but we focus way too much time on things we have no ability to control. There is nothing in life good or bad but how we react to them tells our story. You can’t control others, traffic, or the weather but you can control your attitude and your approach to all of these things. 

I don’t believe this is the first time you’ve ran across the message to control what you can and let go of the rest – application and theory are quite different though… Let’s look at this through the lens of fitness. What do you want to achieve? For the overwhelming majority of newcomers to the gym it’s weight loss. Let’s say our goal is to lose weight, so what can we control? Well we can’t control the office party where co-workers bring snacks nor can we control the kids birthday party where there will be cake. Those items take place with or without us. We can control whether we give into the impulse to eat the sugary foods at these events. Now if you stand strong and turn down the piece of cake, you can’t control the peer pressure that will be given to those not on your journey. But you can control your response to them and not folding to the pressure. In the same vein here if you decide today that you want to become a powerlifter you don’t get to control how fast you obtain new lifting PR’s. You can control the amount of times you make it to the gym, your focus during sessions, your recovery post session, and so on. 

Look, it’s way easier to forego control or blame our lack of control being the problems. This isn’t true nor is it the case mostly. We control what we can and we let go of the rest. Let’s keep this going with a thought experiment – if you want to make a change and are taking into consideration what’s in your control, what items are you willing to no longer do? Most of the time it’s the items we no longer allow ourselves to do that benefits us more than the new things we are doing. You have control of your life now, what will you leave behind?

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