Taking Control: Aligning Your Energy with Your Influence

Abang Edwin SA
3 min readMay 17, 2024
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

One of the keys to a satisfying and empowered life is understanding the difference between what you can control and what lies outside your sphere of influence. While you can’t control every circumstance, you can control how you respond. Focusing your energy on the aspects of life within your power cultivates a sense of agency and resilience.

The Wisdom of Accepting the Uncontrollable

As the Serenity Prayer states, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Much of life is outside our personal control — the behavior of others, natural disasters, political upheaval, and so on. Becoming preoccupied with or railing against these unchangeable realities is unproductive and can breed frustration, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness.

Viktor Frankl’s memoir Man’s Search for Meaning illustrates how even in the direst circumstances of World War II concentration camps, one could maintain control over their mindset and internal beliefs. As he stated, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

Taking Responsibility for Your Sphere of Influence

While you can’t control everything in your life, you do have agency over your choices, actions, habits, priorities, and mindset. As Stephen Covey outlined in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you want to focus your efforts on your “circle of influence” rather than your “circle of concern” of external circumstances.

Some key areas that are within your control:

  • Your emotions and mindset
  • Your communication style
  • Your skills and knowledge
  • Your health habits like diet and exercise
  • Your boundaries and what you tolerate
  • Your goals and how you invest your time/energy

By directing your energy inward to the aspects you can proactively change, you avoid feeling perpetually “stuck” and disempowered by forces outside your control.

Examples in Everyday Life

Career: While you can’t control your company’s leadership or the economy, you can control your work ethic, continuing education, attitude, and decisions about what opportunities to pursue.

Relationships: You can’t single-handedly control how others behave and feel. However, you can control your boundaries, communication approach, andwhether to remove yourself from toxic situations.

Health: Genetic predispositions and random illnesses may be out of your control. But you can control your diet, exercise routine, getting preventive care, and managing stress — all of which impact wellbeing.

As the ancient Stoics taught, you must make a distinction between what is within your power and what isn’t, and align your efforts accordingly to what you can realistically influence and embed with your virtues. As Ryan Holiday summarized in The Obstacle is the Way, “The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the drawn does the way the art emerges on the canvas.”

No one can control or foresee every circumstance in life. But you move forward most effectively and maintain your sense of power and peace when you are intentional about focusing your energy on what is actually within your ability to change and improve through your conscious choices.

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Abang Edwin SA

Observer, Content Creator, Blogger (Obviously), Ghostwriter, Design Thinker, Trainer and also Lecturer for Product Design Dept at Podomoro University