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The Three Buckets Of Control In Mental Wellness    With every client I coach, whether itís executive coaching, exam anxiety, performance psychology or even interview coaching, I present the three buckets of control. These are three spheres that are critical to understand so you can place your proper focus and energies in the right direction. And also so you donít spin your wheels trying to control the uncontrollable. For example, if you focus on trying to change or control things that are actually out of your control, this is a recipe for frustration and failure. Weíve probably all heard the cute and clever definition of insanity: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. We have to know where to put our focus. We also have to know where not to put our focus. Thatís what the three buckets of control show you. Understanding the three buckets of control allows you to work more efficiently and effectively and with less stress and frustration.     1387 words.
The Mental Game Coach, Peak Performance Playbook



The Three Buckets Of Control In Mental Wellness



Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California



The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over the other.
William James

One channel is the Stress Channel and the other is the Peace Channel. We really do have a choice about what we listen to. The Peace Channel can only be heard when we are present in the moment, when we are in the now. To tune in to the Peace Channel, all we have to do is be, experience, notice, and naturally respond to what is arising in the moment. Eliminating stress is just a matter of tuning out the negative and tuning in the positive and just being, experiencing, and dancing to that music instead of the mind's chatter.
Gina Lake, author of What About Now? Reminders for Being in the Moment

Remember that stress doesn't come from what's going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what's going on in your life.
Andrew Bernstein

Stress is wanting something to be the way it isn't.
Eckhart Tolle

With every client I coach, whether itís executive coaching, exam anxiety, performance psychology or even interview coaching, I present the three buckets of control. These are three spheres that are critical to understand so you can place your proper focus and energies in the right direction, and also so you donít spin your wheels trying to control the uncontrollable. For example, if you focus on trying to change or control things that are actually out of your control, this is a recipe for frustration and failure. Weíve probably all heard the cute and clever definition of insanity: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results.

We have to know where to put our focus. We also have to know where not to put our focus. Thatís what the three buckets of control show you. Understanding the three buckets of control allows you to work more efficiently and effectively and with less stress and frustration. This is because you're putting all your energies and focus into the proper bucket, and this gives you the fastest, best and biggest result.

Here are the three buckets:

  1. Variables 100% Out Of Your Control

  2. Variables Partially In Your Control

  3. Variables 100% In Your Control

Letís frame the three buckets of control in business terms. Pretend you work in a corporation or for some organization.

Think of all the variables that exist in your position in your organization. Which ones are 100% in your control? Which ones are somewhat in your control? Which ones are not at all in your control? These variables will change if you are a business owner, or in positions of power or leverage in the organization. Read these lists and move any items around that are a better fit in other categories. Also, list any new variables not listed here that apply to your situation in the appropriate category.

Here are the three buckets of control with variables that pertain to each category.

Variables 100% OUT Of Your Control

  1. The structure of your organization
  2. The personnel in your organization
  3. The size of your organization
  4. The culture of your organization
  5. The politics of your organization
  6. The pace of your organization
  7. The funding of your organization
  8. The vendors who serve your organization
  9. Who your clients and customers are
  10. Where your clients and customers are located
  11. Your job description and role
  12. Who your superiors are
  13. Private working time vs. public working time
  14. The clock-length of meetings
  15. Location of meetings
  16. Time of meetings
  17. Agenda of meetings
  18. Who you meet with
  19. Working hours
  20. Vacations and time off
  21. Business travel percentages
  22. Parking arrangements
  23. Job benefits
  24. Flex time arrangements
  25. Humidity and temperature
  26. The location of your offices
  27. The physical set up of your offices
  28. Luck
  29. Noises
  30. Disruptions

Your focus with variables that are out of your control is to accept them and to let them go. Accepting them does not mean you agree with them, or like them, or want them. It just means that you accept them as a reality. As a fact. Letting go of variables out of your control is how you let go of frustration, irritation and stress. You will no longer worry about something you have no dominion over.

Variables PARTIALLY IN Your Control

  1. Where and when and how you travel to work
  2. Personal office space environment.
  3. Attitudes and behavior of personnel
  4. Attitudes and behavior of vendors
  5. Attitudes and behavior of clients
  6. Personnel's business and office procedures and policies knowledge
  7. Clientís knowledge of and compliance with your office policies and procedures
  8. Your office strategy and tactics
  9. Your career strategy and tactics
  10. Personnel's ethics and integrity
  11. Whether people do what you want or suggest
  12. Rapport with people
  13. Computers and other office equipment
  14. Other people's expectations for you

Your focus with variables that are partially in your control is to manage them to the best of your ability, and to influence people to the best of your ability so you achieve win-win situations. For example, you may be wondering how you could possibly change the cynical, caustic, sarcastic attitude of a particular coworker. You may not be able to directly alter their perception and mindset, but you can have a different mental stance within yourself, towards them, (which might be having compassion and showing kindness to them) which would result in different behavior from you, which they very likely will pick up on at an unconscious level. Then, they may just begin to change their attitude and behavior toward you. Here you demonstrated leadership by showing the way, by changing yourself first. You used sophisticated influencing skills.

Variables 100% IN Your Control

  1. Your attitude
  2. Your mind set
  3. Your thoughts
  4. Your self-talk
  5. Your images and mental movies
  6. Your concentration
  7. Your stress control
  8. Your sense of humor
  9. Your creative thinking
  10. Your self-coaching
  11. Your affirmations
  12. Your effort
  13. Your will to succeed
  14. Your ability to handle adversity
  15. Your reactions to other people
  16. Your listening skills
  17. Your negotiation skills
  18. Your management skills
  19. Your mental toughness
  20. Your ability to bounce back from set-backs
  21. Your breathing
  22. Your muscle tension
  23. Your timing
  24. Your preparation
  25. Your rituals and routines
  26. Your planning
  27. Your decisions
  28. Your analysis
  29. Your assessment
  30. Your fitness
  31. Your nutrition

Your focus with variables that are 100% in your control is to manage these to the best of your abilities. Instead of giving away your power and expecting other people to manage your reactions to stress and pressure, take accountability for your own internal reactions and your behavior.

You may be thinking, yes, I understand these three spheres, however the variables that are 100% in my control are not all that controllable. I may know that I should be able to control these variables, but I donít have the mental tools or strategies in place to do that.

I agree with you. What Iím describing here is easy to say and a little harder to do. Itís actually tremendously harder to do if you donít have the coping skill sets in place. But once you learn the proper mental wellness strategies and the stress control and performance techniques, then your mental wellness toolkit will have expanded to the point where you will feel very much in control of yourself. While we are never 100% in control of any given situation, we can be very much in control of our reactions and responses to these situations.

I encourage you to apply these working categories of control factors to every facet of your life. Take some time to read these categories and see how they apply to different situations and experiences you have. Youíll discover that the things you were worried about actually caused you the most stress. But once you see that theyíre not controllable, youíll be encouraged to let them go. Then you will feel a palpable reduction in your frustration, stress and anxiety. And youíll immediately be operating in flow, and with more of your full potential.

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association (www.mentalgamecoaching.com), an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.

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