For years I’ve watched myself and others sort what is possible into piles: The Can Pile and the Can’t Pile. Sometimes this is done for seemingly good reasons, such as sorting into piles based on what I can control and what I can’t control. The thinking is, “Why bother with what I can’t control? Just let it be. Save my energy.” On the surface, it makes sense, but there is a problem with sorting like that.
When you sort like that, the Can’t Pile gets too damn big. Please do not limit your influence and possibility in this way.
Let me give an example. I was talking to a young softball player one time, and she was discussing how she controls the controllables and leaves everything else be. She can’t control it, so why bother?
I wanted an example, so she mentioned that she can’t control umpire calls, so she leaves them be and doesn’t worry about them (doubtful this always happens, but I love the effort). In other words, umpire calls are in her Can’t Pile.
This was curious to me, so I asked, “Do you think you can influence umpire calls?”
She thought about it for a moment. “Yes, maybe. I can talk to them. Thank them for coming. Not complain about calls but rather ask nicely about calls and their strike zone in between innings. I think all that influences calls. If someone likes us, maybe they give us the benefit of the doubt. And people like it when others are nice to them.”
“So if we put umpire calls into our Can’t Pile, aren’t we limiting the true possibilities of our influence?”
She got it, and I hope this example suffices to make a point. When we sort too much into the Can’t Pile, we are limiting our influence too much. We can’t control anything (read the * below if you want more on my definition of control), but to me, we should operate under the belief that we can possibly influence everything to some degree.
Despite our lack of control, our influence is powerful. When we act on what we can influence, so many times we find that forces align to give us what we need and want.
While it is true that our influence is very small sometimes, a small influence can make a huge difference under the right conditions. And small influences over time can have rather large cumulative effects.
Thinking in terms of influence, potential, and possibilities will help open up new worlds to you, so please do not sort into Can and Can’t Piles. The Can’t Pile is too damn big and limits the possibilities you recognize.
*I know control gets confusing for people because I am now the, “We don’t control anything guy,” which makes me a freak in some circles but also seems to hit home in a profound way with so many people. So let me explain.
My definition of control is that to have control, one must control not only their action (or thought or feeling), but everything that goes into allowing that action to happen. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can demonstrate to me they even control something as simple as their consciousness. We are awake now, and we want to be. We don’t control it. It’s a happy coincidence, a beautiful alignment of what we want and what we’ve got, a coming together of forces to give me the illusion of control in this moment.
If you think you control your consciousness, fall asleep right now and wake up five minutes later to keep reading this. If you can’t do that, the best we can say is that you have some influence over your consciousness, but it certainly doesn’t reach my bar for the definition of control.