Control the Controllables to Decrease Anxiety and Increase Performance

Are you feeling out of control right now as our world changes by the minute? In uncertain times, it’s human nature to look for ways to exert control. Typically, anxiety and stress are the result of focusing on things over which you have no control.

Sometimes people, including myself, respond to feeling out of control by choosing unhealthy behaviors like long periods of inactivity, eating and drinking emotionally, or complaining about everything that’s going wrong.

Circle of Control

The Circle of Control includes things you can control and influence, and things out of your control.

Instead, do things to help you feel more in control and to be better prepared for next season.  You can start by choosing to control the controllables through the Circle of Control, which can help reduce anxiety and increase a sense of peace.

What is the Circle of Control? It’s a simple, but powerful leadership tool that reminds you to apply your energy to thoughts and actions that positively impact performance. It consists of: (1) Things I can CONTROL; (2) Things I can INFLUENCE; and (3) Things that are OUT OF MY CONTROL.


The inner circle includes only things you can CONTROL. In sports and in life, this circle includes things you can choose to do, even when the situation is challenging. You can choose to CONTROL your effort, attitude, self-talk, body language, responses to others, and the words you speak, write, and share on social media.

You can also simply smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Think about something that makes you happy, or something that makes you laugh, and then smile. This tricks your brain into feeling better and can even boost your health.


The middle circle includes the areas of your life where you have varying degrees of INFLUENCE. This circle includes your own performance, team energy, productivity, profitability, and winning. By focusing on things under your control, you have the potential to INFLUENCE the people and environment around you.


The outer circle includes everything that is OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. Areas of sport where you have no control include officiating, playing time, weather, scheduling, and other players’ and teams’ performance.

Similarly, in life you have no control over things such as what other people say and do, and decisions made by the Athletic Director, Chief Executive Officer, or Board of Directors. How many times have you complained, or made excuses, about your performance because of something that was completely OUT OF YOUR CONTROL?


This week, take the Circle of Control and apply it to your own performance and life. Currently, what are your biggest sources of stress and anxiety? List each and then place all of them somewhere on the Circle of Control visual based on your answers to the following:

  • Which of these stressors are under your control?
  • Which ones can you influence? And how can you influence them?
  • Finally, what stressors are completely out of your control?

Now, focus on things under your control. List at least three things you can control and commit to returning your focus and energy to these factors every time you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed. Be aware of how this affects your emotions and performance.

While we generally can’t control the world around us, we can always choose to focus on things within our Circle of Control and, as a result, increase the probability of winning, or successful outcomes. As Steve Maraboli says: “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”