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Planning and Control During Times of Change

This lesson is a part of an audio course How to Thrive During Uncertainty by Julia Barbosa

In this lesson, we will talk about how we can effectively plan during times of uncertainty.

When things are out of control, it is natural to try to create a sense of order by planning. The problem is that it can be very frustrating to plan in a period of uncertainty, as a situation may change from one day to the next.

But control is an illusion. We like to think that we can influence the outcomes of our actions with a high degree of certainty, but that is not really the case. Our plans, which we so carefully craft and that we get so attached to, create an appearance of control. It is usually only when things don't go to plan that we realize that maybe we don't have as much control as we think.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted this. What started as a distant threat quickly took over the world, changing not only how we live our lives but also how we understand the world around us.

Overnight people started learning about different types of viruses, the process to take a vaccine to market, and how antibodies work in individuals and in groups.

But all of that doesn't change the fact that, for most of us, there isn't that much we can do. Unless you're a scientist or frontline worker, you can do your part, but the solution really is out of your hands.

Because we know what is going on in the world, we think we can influence more than we can. But it's important to realize that many things are beyond our influence.

In uncertain times, the more you try to control, the harder it gets.

The writer Maya Angelou said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

Knowing that we can only control ourselves, we can focus more on that: how we perceive and react to things, what we focus on and what we are doing to have a positive impact on the world.

An effective strategy is to shift the focus. Instead of trying to control the world around you, you can pay close attention to a few areas of your daily life. You still have a certain level of control over your routine and your environment, and making adjustments to ensure these spaces are healthy and calm can have a significant impact.

Try this out: pick just one habit in your routine, and practice that habit fully every day for one week. It could be taking a walk every morning paying attention to what you see. Taking an exercise class a few days per week. Or reading a book for 20 minutes every day. Whatever the habit, what matters is being fully present while you practice it.

By focusing on one small thing that you can control, you can let go of trying to control what you simply can't.

In the next lesson, we will discuss the tendency to resist change.

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Written by

Julia Barbosa

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