It is a late summer morning on a Saturday not too long after the Labor Day holiday has passed, as close to fall as you can get without it being fall. I am outside in a very public place and people are all around. My heart is racing, blood pressure higher than my doctor would like and my stress level higher than it has been in a long time. Directly in front of me is my six year old son and a number of his friends whom I am responsible for at this given moment in time. Things are going bad very quickly, and the words that come to my mind are “chaos” and “turmoil.” My son and his friends are completely oblivious to how devastating things around them really are. Now, I am pacing, yelling, and becoming more and more dysregulated emotionally. I have no real control over this current situation. I can’t force my son or his friends to move faster, become more aware of their surroundings or even listen to the directions I am giving them to prevent them from the loss they are about to experience. It is the first game of the Under Age Eight soccer season, a pretty big deal in my life as I am the Head Coach.
If you ask the people I work with, or live with for that matter, to describe me, some of the more frequently used words will most likely be: “laid back,” “calm,” “even tempered” and the like. However, you put a whistle around my neck and place me on the sideline of a soccer field and I suddenly don’t recognize myself. For whatever reason, there is a part of me that believes I am in control of all those little soccer players on the field. A much wiser coach I know teaches his players that there are only two things they have control of: attitude and effort. I frequently try to apply this wisdom to my own coaching. How practical and applicable is applying this same approach in our lives as parents, therapists, social workers, students or any other role we may find ourselves in?
I have had many a conversation as a therapist, supervisor and parent trying to express the concept that the only thing we have control over is ourselves. It has proven to be one of the more difficult concepts for people (myself included) to accept. I am most successful as a person when I embrace this concept and live by it. When I focus on what others are doing, or not doing, and spend time and energy attempting to get people to think or act the way I want them to, I become manipulative, controlling and judgmental. When I focus on myself, I am more cooperative and less stressed. When I have a positive attitude and give 100% effort, I enjoy my work, other people and myself. It seems simple, and yet at the same time, this approach can prove to be the most challenging thing we do.
So, if you see me on the sidelines of the soccer field this season, or any other place for that matter, please feel free to remind me the all I can control is MY attitude and effort.