How to focus only on what you can control

‘My father always told me just worry about the things you can control and don’t worry about anything else. I can’t control the number of games we play. As long as we keep playing the way we’re playing, that’s the most important thing to me.’  Brian Hill

Creating legacy and the control factor

Creating legacy is strongly connected to our ability to focus on the things we have control over, and disregard those things we cannot control.

It is of course important that you prepare before starting a legacy project, and that you have a plan for what you are hoping to achieve. But once the work on the legacy project starts, i.e. once our nicely defined plan meets reality, things are bound to change, often quite dramatically.

The ‘in my control vs. outwith my control’ list

Here’s a really simple and handy tool to figure out what you can and cannot control. Just grab a big sheet of paper and split it into two colums. In the first column, list the things connected to your legacy project that are within your control. In the second column, list those things that are outwith your control.

For example, on my list I’ve got things like ‘discipline’ and ‘persistence’ in the ‘within my control’ column; and I can of course break these general concepts down into concrete actions, such as ‘work on my legacy project Mon-Fri for 1 hour, from 10 to 11 am’ and ‘send out my funding application for the legacy project to one potential funder each week’.

Now, this is the most basic version of the list. Here is an extra layer of complexity: split the list into two rows, making one about short-term concerns and the other about long-term concerns connected to your legacy project. This means you will end up with four squares: ‘within my control – short term’; ‘within my control – long term’; ‘outwith my control short term’ and ‘outwith my control – long term’.

Try making a list like this for yourself and let me know how you get on. Also, what other tools do you use to keep focused on those things you can actually control, in working on your legacy project?

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at