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We’ve been told that the best approach to life (and work) is to only focus on what you can control and to accept what’s out of your control. I think that’s very wrong, and here’s why… What’s in our control is important as it is our internal emotions and responses to situations and some of the actions we can take. But, stopping there only minimizes our sense of confidence and momentum.

I believe If we stop at what’s in our control we almost become victims of our environment. I also believe, and have experienced, that there is this gray zone I call the “sphere of influence” that actually holds a lot of space for innovation, influence and impact. In your sphere of influence you have more ability to take action and impact outcomes. In this episode I’m going to break down the problem with in and out of control thinking, how to leverage the “sphere of influence” and 3 key questions to ask yourself to help you identify where you can innovate, influence and impact any situation.

Tamara’s Everyday Innovator style is Risk Taker Experiential. What’s yours?

Sticky Inspiration: If you focus on the “sphere of influence” you’ll gain confidence, momentum and make an impact

Lesson & Action: Ask the three influence questions to help you leverage the “sphere of influence”

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Raw Podcast Transcript:


Hello. Hello everyone. Tamara here, your host, creator of the Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment, founder of Launch Street and Experiential Risk Taker. Oh, and also lover of a good charcuterie board. As my kids know, because for the holidays they got me a charcuterie board. They know me so well. Love it.

It’s like the perfect foods all on. Wood slab, it’s the best. So for today, I wanna talk about a topic, or I guess a mindset, a way of being that is pretty close to my heart right now. I’ve been going through a lot of changes, some of ’em, really positive and really exciting. Some of ’em a little intimidating, a little scary, you know, like on the positive side.

We just had a thousand people this morning take the innovation quotient edge assessment and discover their everyday innovator style. I think that’s the most we’ve ever had in one morning. That’s exciting. On maybe a more scar or intimidating side, my oldest is going to college in a few months and we’re in the process of doing the housing application, putting down the down payments, and just the realization that he’s maybe in this house for a couple more.

It’s a change. It’s a little bit scary. It’s, it’s exciting. At the same time, I’m happy for him, but also, you know, as mom, I’m like, oh, my baby’s leaving. So a lot of change going on, and I think a lot of change in the world right now too. I think that’s just a constant that we’re dealing with. And so I wanna talk about a topic that’s really all about tackling.

Change with some confidence and some control. And in fact, I wanna talk about the concept of in control versus outta control. And I wanna bring to light the space in between that we often miss that I call the sphere of influence. I think understanding the sphere of influence can help you navigate forward with more ease, less stress, and a little bit more confidence.

And. So here’s the thing. I want you to visualize my sticky note for a moment. And there’s a person in the corner of a stick figure and in their hand, they’re holding a tiny little ball, and that ball represents everything that we feel is in our control. That tiny little globe of control and outside of that is everything that is out of our control.

What we often talk about is don’t worry about the things that are out of control. Only focus on on what you can control. The challenge I’m finding though, is that space of out of control seems to be getting bigger and bigger, and the space, that little globe that you can hold in your hand, that is everything that you have in control is getting smaller and smaller, or at least not growing.

So let’s, let’s put some context behind it so you know what’s out of our control. Well, we can’t control the motives of others. We can’t control how other people decide to.  to see us. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control, you know, what’s happening at the big global, even federal level. We can’t control whether might your organization decides to reorg or lay off people or change the system.

We can’t control what’s happening on the other end of the table. Sometimes the people that we’re talking to, um, we can’t control what happens with, you know, the coronavirus or any of those other things out there in the world. We can’t control war that’s happening in other c. , we can’t control the greater housing issue or unemployment.

You get my point, right? I could go on and on and on, but all the things that are out of our control, in fact, I’m pretty sure you could add a few to that list. But as you can see, the fricking list just goes on and on and on, and more and more is getting thrown into that area. So when I talk to people today, what they tell me and how I feel too is.

what’s out of control seems to be getting bigger and bigger and harder and harder to manage even more out of control, if that’s possible. So, you know, if I were to do a word cloud and surround you with everything that’s out of your control, not only is it getting bigger and bigger, but it’s things that are scarier and a little bit more overwhelming because the, not only they’re outta your control, but they have the possibility of impacting you.

Great. , do you feel that? Do you sometimes feel like the weight of the world and all the things that are out of your control weigh on your shoulders even though you can’t control them? I, I have to say, I really feel like that there are days where I just look around this and everything that’s happening and all the things that are out of my control and it’s spinning around me and you know, I know that I have no control over it and I know that pretty much anything I do is not gonna really impact it.

And I get overwhelmed or I. Frustrated. It doesn’t stop me moving forward. It doesn’t stop me in doing the, taking the actions I need to take or making the decisions I am. I’m good at plowing right through. But there are days where, gosh, especially after I watch the news note to self, stop doing that. So every time I watch the news, I just think, wow, wow.

All this stuff is so big, you so outta my control. And sometimes the things that are outta your control are things that are in your own home or in your own work. Reorganization, a new boss, a colleague that you’re not getting along with. Like all those things that it’s kind of feels like other people out there doing it to you or maybe in your home.

Like, I can’t control the fact that my son is going off to college. I mean, I guess I could, I could not pay for it, but I’m not gonna do that, right? That is part of the natural cycle of life, right? So of course that’s gonna happen. But even the little things in your own world feel can feel out of your control.

I’m gonna tell you right now, you know what feels most out of my control on a daily. My laundry, I cannot get it out of control. I used to joke that my laundry was like wildfire because we talk about it in how it was contained. Like laundry today is 10% contained, meaning I had too much to do. Or if I felt like I’d gone through a lot of laundry, it was 90% contained.

So a lot of things in your everyday life, they feel out of control. So I think I’ve made my point. If you’re feeling like your heart is racing a little bit and you’re getting stressed out listening to this podcast, I think at this point you should, because we’re talking about what you cannot control. So there’s a light, by the way, at the end of this tunnel.

So stick with me here. And then you’ve got that little globe that you’re holding in your hand. That’s what you can control. And most of that is what happens inside you internally, right? So I can’t control the reorging, my company, but I can control how I think about it. I can control my mindset, I can control.

Response. I can control my emotional response. I can control my words and how I choose to communicate with others. I can co choose the, I can choose the actions that I take. I’m gonna share a story about that in a little bit. But you see my point here, out of control is kind of everything spinning around you.

And then what’s in control is mostly internally, right? How you think, how you respond, how you behave, and I think a lot of what’s in control. , it’s about the actions that you take and the things that you think that help you sleep well at night, meaning you act in alignment with who you want to be. You know, when I let my emotions take control, when I don’t put them in my little globe of in control and I respond in a way that I don’t like later, right?

It’s an emotional outburst. It’s a negative response that you know, has me playing the low ground versus the high ground. . I don’t sleep well at night because I know that’s not who I want to be. And I don’t always, in fact, don’t often let that happen, but it does. Every now and again, it gets the best of me.

It does for all of us. And we just have to remember that that’s the stuff that’s in our control. And I think those things, by the way, are really important. So I’m not minimizing them with what I’m gonna say next. I think how you think your mindset, how you choose to respond to a person or a situation.  how you choose to act in light of situations or outer your control, say a lot about you.

And a lot of people abdicate that, and that’s not okay in my book. And anytime I have not acted in a way that’s in alignment, I, I feel it and I own it and I recognize it. And so we’ve gotta really hold on to those things that are in our control. They make us happier, they make us c. , they make us feel like we’re moving forward.

But I wanna talk about for the rest of it, and the part that we missed, because there’s this area in the center that’s like the gray zone. Cause we have all this stuff outside our control. We have this little very important globe in the holding in our hands of what’s in control. But there’s this gray space in the middle, and that gray space in the middle is what I call the sphere of.

and the sphere of influence isn’t places that are completely in our control, like how we respond, our mindset, our actions, but they are things that we can make an impact on greater than we initially think We can. Let me share with you some personal and professional examples for myself and others to really highlight what I mean by this sphere of influence.

So I’m, I’m gonna start with a work example from one of our everyday innovators in our community, Colleen. Colleen. Was posting on the private platform that her company just did a reorg and she was very frustrated because this reorg meant there was another layer of people between her and the kind of the VPs, the, the high levels.

So she used to have a direct line to the people that made decisions so she could influence, she could impact, she could connect. They knew her, she knew them, right. That was good for her work. It was good for her career. It was good for her, her personal and, and professional development and. , but this reorg put a whole nother layer of people, middle managers, between her and the people that were making the decisions.

And so in her mind, she’s one step away from the people that matter. She’s gonna get less recognized, she’s gonna be put on fewer of the important projects that she wants to be on, and she doesn’t have a direct line to impact the decisions that are being made so you can understand her frustration. So we did this whole thing around sphere of influence in this, in this workshop that we did for our community and.

She emailed me later. It was such a wonderful email. I was so, so excited when I received it because she basically said that this was game changing. She said, she told me, here’s what she did. She goes, after that workshop, she actually decided that she was gonna influence the situation. She couldn’t impact it.

She can’t control it, right? She can’t change the fact that this reorg happened, but she can influence that she. So what she did is she went to her new bosses and to her old VPs and she said, Hey, because we now have this new organization and I think it’s gonna work for our better, I wanna make sure we don’t lose touch with each other, that we don’t end up siloing communication and work and doubling efforts where it’s unnecessary.

So what I’d like to do is I’d like to host a monthly town hall meeting or team meeting with these new middle managers and the VP so that we can hear best practice. Hear challenges. I think it’ll help everybody as we get used to this new structure. Stay in the loop, make smart decisions and connect with each other so that we don’t silo.

We don’t double up. Well, they were thrilled because you know what? Guess what? They were having those same worries. They were worried about the siloing and the doubling up of work and being disconnected from the work being happen, happen from the work happening. Try that one three times. So she has this meeting and she said it was wonderful.

They loved it. They got so much out of it. They asked her to keep doing it every month. So she couldn’t control the reorg, but she did influence the outcome in a big way. So I want you to think about where do you actually have more influence than you think you do? May not be in your control, but you might be able to influence how it goes, and especially how it goes for.

So let me share a couple personal examples in this way too. And it kind of goes to what I was saying earlier about being in alignment with who you are. So I have someone in my world who, hmm, at the best, doesn’t like me.  at the worst hates me. Probably more of the worst. And I’m not gonna say names, I’m not gonna give specifics cause I don’t believe in throwing people under the bus, as you know.

But I wanna share the story cause I think it highlights influence. And so,  what’s out of my control, her perception of me. It actually has nothing to do with me and everything to do with do with her fear of change, her situation, kind of being territorial, not wanting other people to step in. So this has nothing to do with me, and I know that.

Right. I know. I, I have empathy actually for where she’s coming from. I, I get it right. She, there’s all this change happening around her. Things are moving forward without her, and she’s feeling left behind. I totally get it. So I can’t control that though. I can’t control her situation. I can’t control. . Her perception of me, what’s in my control, well, how I respond to her when I interact with her.

Right? I can’t. And oh, and I can’t control that. She’s in my life in some way. So she is, whether I like it or not. So what can I control? Well, how I respond to her. I can control the actions that I take. So there was this one point where we were all gonna be meeting up and her included, and I have so much stress and anxiety going into it because I.

Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to spend time with this person. I don’t like this person. Worst kid. The person doesn’t like me. And she, she tends to show it.  is probably the best way to say it. She, she’s pretty clear in her dislike for me, and so I’m sitting there thinking, all right, so what’s in my control?

Well, as nasty as she is to me, I can just respond with a smile and just let it go. Right? Be like tough, long, let it bounce off. But I think you and I both know that as much as we say that in the moment. , it is extremely hard. It’s hard, right? Because, you know, you’re, you’re bumping up against massive toxicity and resistance.

So I get to this situation, I’m feeling all stressed out because what’s in my control still makes me feel a little bit small, and I realize, all right, Tamara, go back to the sphere of influence. So what can you influence? All right, again, I can’t control her perception of me or her situation. But I can influence how I behave at this party.

So what did I do? Well, I was responsible for bring, bringing cupcakes to this party. And, um, without going into too much detail, the, the, the short of it is they were kind of customized cupcakes for the people that we were celebrating. So I thought, well, I could leave her out and not make cupcakes for her.

Right? So each person that we’re celebr. , they had their name on the cupcake, and I thought, well, I could just not make ’em for her. I know she doesn’t like me. I know anything I do is gonna be taken the wrong way. So what’s the point right now? I can, I can control my response and I can smile and I can not be negative, but I wanna go back to that sphere of influence.

And I thought, you know what? I’m gonna do? I, I’m gonna put her name on the cupcakes too, because here’s the thing, I’m not a mean girl. I don’t wanna be a mean girl, and I will never. Put myself in a situation where I behave like a mean girl because I will not sleep at night. That is not in alignment with who I am.

And so I thought, all right, in my sphere of influence, I can be inclusive, and how she chooses to respond or not respond is up to her. So I make these cupcakes for this party that everybody that we’re celebrating, I add her name to it. Now, does she suddenly love me and I’m her bff? Not in any way whatsoever.

not at all. Her feelings are still the same for me. Mine are still the same for her, but guess what? I influenced. That event cuz I walked in with more confidence and being inclusive like that made the party a bigger hit so everybody felt connected and there was no weirdness about who was in, who was out.

Everybody had a great time at this party. I was able to influence that in my tiny little part with bringing these cupcakes. . I hope that story kind of resonates with some of you because oftentimes the situations that we’re dealing with have to do with how we respond to someone in the room, and whether that person is at work, maybe they’re a family member, uh, maybe they’re a client, maybe they’re a kid, maybe they’re a spouse, maybe they’re a family of your spouse.

They’re in-laws or connected. We can’t control their response to us. We can’t control how they think about us. We can’t control what motivates them. We can’t control their. , but we can influence the situations that were put in. And that’s where I think the sphere of influence is so powerful. And sometimes I, here’s the real deal, sometimes I overestimate my ability to influence.

But in thinking about that sphere of influence, I always, always find a way to make the situation, to make the environment, to make the relationship, whatever it is a little bit.  and I, so I think this narrative of only focusing on what’s in control and forget everything else actually doesn’t serve us because at least in my experience, it still leaves me frustrated and angry and not getting what I want out of the situation because I feel helpless, right?

All I’m controlling is what’s inside me, but if I can influence how things impact me, I can have a better. , I can get more of what I want and what I deserve. And that’s what I think for you as well is don’t just think about it as this little ball of control and out control. Think of your dotted line sphere of influence that goes a little bit out from that ball of control into the out of control world.

And in that gray area is a lot of opportunity. And just like Colleen, the client who was talking about the reorg that actually ended up working in her, Ben,  thinking through her sphere of influence and coming up with that idea for that monthly town hall team meeting, she actually now is being recognized for that effort and being promoted.

Fear of influence. So think about your world, think about what’s out of control. Maybe even write it all down. Don’t hold back. Think about what’s in control, but your internal world. Think about your sphere of influence, because that is where the action is. That’s where you can take action to get to better results.

Here’s the other thing I found is feeling more in control and putting some action behind sphere of influence makes me happier. Maybe it’s the momentum I get. Maybe it’s the confidence I get. Maybe it’s knowing that I’ve done my best. I’m not sure exactly where it comes from, but I can tell you that I feel more confident and happier when I focus on my sphere of influence.

I really hope that you’ll do the same as you move forward today and through this week. If you’re not sure how to start thinking about your sphere of influence, if you haven’t thought about it in this way before, let me give you some questions to get you started. One question might be, what can I do to influence this situation?

Not what can I do to change the situation? Very different. What can I do to influence the situation? Another question might be, what’s one action I can. To impact what’s happening Again, not change, not control, impact what’s happening. The third question might be, how can I change this into an opportunity for me?

I think even asking that question, you start to see the gaps in the holes where you might actually be able to fill them in a very positive way. Tamara out.