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At the time of writting this article I am approaching six decades, yes sixty years old. That includes growing up in another centry, time in the millitary, marriage that still works, raising children and lots of mistakes and corrections. It isn’t about getting it right all the time the first time.

We need to let go of controlling our future, influence is literally the best path to personal peace and performance. Most of the change is built on the foundation of that perspective. Change the control perspective or life is brittle, confusing and frustrating. Leaning into the influence mindset and the bumpy days are moments not monuments.

How do we change, let go of the controlling thinking patterns? How do we embrace and develop influence thinking? What does it look like?

Beware of Control Think

What can we control? Can we control who chooses us for a life mate? Can we control who applies for a job, or who chooses us for a job? Can we control our politicians? Are governments able to control citizens? The answer to control is clearly a no answer. Each of these are areas of influence. We admit there is a degree of control that comes into play but playing by those rules as our first focus and our only focus wears out everybody involved.

When we see others get traction with control, we mistake that for sustainable or productive. The need to manage control takes the responsibility of others to offer constructive engagement away. It drives us to seek magic formulas, seven steps to success where it doesn’t exist. Beware of control think because the quest for control tends to dull our sense of validation. We become susceptible to the influence of bad actors. We open ourselves to confirmation bias and fail to confirm before we commit.

This is magnified by common beliefs within communities seeking for the magic pot of control at the end of the rainbow. Some of these thought leaders were seekers who achieved anecdotal success and started selling their treasure map plans to others because others buying in became their means of validation. The clear and obvious reality that most people are worse off for buying these promises is ignored because of the joy of validation.

Not all control is bad, not all programs and actors are bad. What is true is we need to beware of control. We don’t need to reject it. Control has its place, and we don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. What we do want is see past control as one tool in the toolbox. If we see it as the only tool, it will steal creative power that we have to influence our future.

The Bounds of Influence

Like control, influence has bounds. Here are a number of areas where we should seek to prefer influence or lead with influence.

  • Relationships
  • Leadership
  • Finances

Relationships, Control and Influence

In relationships control does not respect the perspective or choices of others. In relationships there are expectations but in healthy relationships the expectations are freely offered not unwilling capitulating to demands.

Parents with young children will include more of a control focus than parents of grown children. Well, we hope that is the case. Over time, in preparation for independence, the goal is to teach our children functional ownership of their choices.

Leadership, Control and Influence

When we control others by managing them under the name of leadership, we discourage creativity. We often create a tiered organization of control that discourages ownership of all those in the organization. The top controller becomes the one, under control-based leadership, who becomes responsible to solve every challenge.

When a leader understands influence, not fake influence that masks control, they work with those they lead as collective team members. The control choice is avoided often, not always, because it discourages fuller engagement.

Finances, Control and Influence

Finances are often unpredictable, unexpected and frustrating. A responsible adult doesn’t use a lack of predictable control as an excuse to live paycheck to paycheck. It is not to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die. Yes, we do have a limited amount of control on our future, but we also have a significant level of influence.

In this area, knowing the difference between gambling and investing, understanding investing will bring us predictable compound interest. Though not always true, It is typically true that this will help us win in life.

If we take you along two paths, one where you live only in the moment, and the other where you learn to influence your future which of the two would typically yield the best results? If you could talk to yourself ten years ago, and today was the result of that decision, which decision would you wish you had made.

The Right Mix of Influence and Control

They are two different tools, and in most cases, control should not be the first tool we pull out of our toolbox in life planning or in relationships. Control is not always the wrong approach and leading with control is not always wrong. What is wrong is to be lazy and not grow in our own knowledge and relationship skills so we can effectively lead with influence.

 This has been stated, and even now it is worth saying again, it is a mix of control and influence. They each have their own season. There are times where the seasons for control and influence overlap. Each situation, each season and other factors will drive a unique mix. This is not a tightrope walk. It is a stroll up a path where winning can look different. The thing in common is staying on the path. Too much control or not enough control will get us off the path. It is not an exact mix. The amount of control can vary and still be a win. Likewise, the amount of influence can vary and still be a win.

Winning works best when we are inside the boundaries. It is not one mix that we follow blindly. It is principles that tell us the boundaries for the road where we travel today.

The Freedom of Influence

Hopefully you noticed above that control comes with a heavy burden. Influence doesn’t mean no responsibility it just means accepting the ownership of others. Influence means accepting all things are not under our control. Watching the stock market race up and down in times of political turmoil, breakthrough innovations and changing times can be scary. We are not going to cover it here, but there are historical investing approaches that bring solid results. If we have a control mindset these market swings will stress us out. Our sleep will not be good in seasons of challenge and our food will lose its savory zest.

Control, where we should have applied influence, is a curse. It makes us slaves to the outcome. It can lead us to live in fear. If we have bad confirmation experiences, it will make our future fragile. Understanding when to choose either control or influence gives us freedom and peace. In times of tragedy, it will speed our recovery.

Will you join us on this quest? Will you take ownership of your personal quest? Will you take up the question as your own and start learning to ask… “How will I influence my future today?”