By Neil Phillips.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer that, among other things, became adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous as well as other recovery programs.  It goes like this:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

When calm enough, we all realize the wisdom in the quotation.  In the heat of the moment, however, we often don’t.  We get frustrated over what we cannot control and hope that our anger will get us more leverage over the situation.  We know it doesn’t work, but when our emotions are ranging out of control we lack the foresight to do anything else.  The basic truth of the situation for most of us is that we cannot change what we cannot control.  Here are three steps to gaining (or regaining) control:

1. Recognize Your Early Warning Signs of Losing It.  What do you do or think just before you go ballistic?  I have a client who recognizes her symptoms by her wish list: “I wish they’d understand…” or “Why can’t they get it straight?” or “I wish I could just get them to ….” Get the picture?  She is starting to blame, shame and justify all of those things that are out of her control.  The next stage becomes anger.  What is your early warning sign?

2. Take Control of the Fundamentals.  Once you start to find yourself looking outside of your control, ask some questions about how you got there.  These are questions like:

  • What is making me feel so frustrated?
  • What do I really want?
  • What really matters?
  • What can I do besides get angry?

Another option is to follow the advice that Marshall Goldsmith gives about letting go of guilt.

No one gets angry without energy.  And the angrier we get, the more energy we are using.  The truth is that the power behind that anger is available WITHOUT the anger part.  Asking questions of ourselves in a calm fashion allows us to see things through different eyes.

3. Take Your Baby Steps.  Accept the imperfection around you.  Maybe it is your faults that you have to accept.  You will never be king or queen of the universe, so figure out how to do what you can with what you have available at that moment.  What’s the first little step to move you in the direction away from losing it?

These are three steps that others have found effective.  What works for you?

Want to Hear How Other Leaders Take Back Their Self Control?

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