Learning to control the controllable is one of the most essential mental skills that leads to high performance. To control the controllable we need to dedicate all of our energy to those aspects in our lives that we have direct control over. As we control the controllable the other aspects of our lives will naturally be affected.


Enter Dr. Manning:

I was working with an athlete and I was getting him to work on the skill of controlling the controllable.

We identified the skill and we talked about how important it is for him to put all of his energy into the things he had control over, and not to waist any energy on what he does not have control over. He spent the last week and a half focusing on this skill. Writing it down everyday in step two of the mental strength journal to bring his mind and attention to the skill.

He reported back to me after a week and a half. He was amazed at how focusing on controlling the controllable seemed to simplify his life making it more black and white. It helped him to really focus on the things that are important in his life.

He use the example of driving on the freeway: “I’m just so much more aware of what lane I have to be in to get off at the right exit,” he said. “Instead of allowing all my thoughts to get carried away with all the things I don’t have control over and create chaos and havoc on the freeway because I wasn’t staying focused on the things I have control over.”

He talked about how this skill of controlling the controllable enabled him to take more ownership of his role on the football team and the things he had control over on the field.  He mentioned, “I could really take pride in my responsibilities on the football field and what my job was on the team and really work hard to maximize it.”

This was some really interesting feedback, even though we don’t like to use the word pride, this showed how the skill of controlling the controlling can transform the way we approach life.

Over time focusing on this skill the athlete continues to feel like he’s been set free. He tells me that he is loving life, and wants to continue to improve the skill of controlling the controllable.



  • Plug in “Control the controllable” into step 2 of your Mental Strength Journal.
  • If you are having problems identifying exactly what you have control over and what you don’t, take out a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, write “In my control” at the top of one column and “Not in my control” at the top of the other. Then carry the paper with you (along with a pen) throughout your day. Every time you encounter something that is directly in your control note it on the paper, and do the same with the things you find that are not in your direct control. Review the paper at the end of the day.
  • As you’re evaluating the day in steps 3 and 4 of your Mental Strength Journal be deliberate in only writing down your strengths and one weakness that you have control over. Don’t waist energy thinking about things that are out of your control.


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