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The Controllables

I'm writing this sitting at gate B3 in the Tulsa airport. They should be starting the boarding process for my flight to Denver right now, but unfortunately our plane has been delayed.

The announcement of a flight delay is a golden opportunity for people watching. You see an array of reactions. People throw their hands, let out long exhales as if they've been holding their breathe for minutes, and without fail, a line immediately forms at the gate agent counter.

I got in line this time, too. But I've been here before, I wasn't in a rush. As I stood behind my fellow delayed passengers, watching them wheel their bags to the counter when it was their turn, I noticed something. Almost every person that approached the counter really didn't have an idea of why they were going up to the counter in the first place. Most of them just frustratingly expressed their displeasure with the delay and asked them to repeat why it was happening.

It dawned on me, why was I line? What could I change about the situation? I can't find another plane for us or clear the weather up. What can I control?

With a tight connection, I knew disembarking my flight in Denver would be crucial to making my connection. I also knew that the gate agent was having a miserable time. So I decided I would focus on what I could control as I approached the counter.

I smiled and said, "You look like you're having fun!" The gate agent smirked and his shoulders relaxed a bit. We both knew he had no control over the flights, but he did have control over my seat assignment.

I left the counter in the same situation I approached it in, still unsure if I'll make it to my final destination this evening. However, now I'd be boarding with the first class customers.

We hear it often, but it never hurts to be said. When life hands us situations out of our control, nothing will impact our immediate future more than controlling the controllables. Focusing on what we can control allows us to shift our focus from a potentially pessimistic path, to one that creates positive outcomes for ourselves and those around us.

When things seem out of your control, just control the controllables.


Think of one thing in your life that is out of your control. Then identify of one aspect of that situation you can control and focus on that instead.


What emotional response do you demonstrate when you focus on things out of your control? i.e. frustration, pessimism, impatience, overly critical, negativity...


"You can't control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you." - Nishan Panwar

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