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How to Identify What You Can Control

Yesterday, I published a piece on 75 different things I can control, even though I might not realize it. It’s a personal list, but I suggest you create your own list, too. Because it’s terrible to feel helpless, to feel like there’s nothing you can do. And this is exactly how we can feel when we’re going through a difficult situation—when we’re in a toxic work environment, when we’re in deep debt, when we hate our bodies, when we’re uncertain about everything, when we’re sad, when we’re angry, when we’re overwhelmed….and so on.

But there’s always something you can do.

But how the heck do you know what that is? How do you know what you can and can’t control? How do you make sense of difficult situations or frustrating feelings?

The below list of questions might help. It might help you to pause, take a step back and re-evaluate. Consider exploring these questions. I hope they empower you.

  • Can I revise my reaction or can I feel this difficult feeling? Can I sit here with this feeling, with this sadness, this disappointment, this anger, this frustration, this electrifying anxiety? Can I write about it? Can I get it out through yoga or some other physical practice?
  • What’s a step I can take right now that will support me and my well-being?
  • Who can I talk to about this?
  • Can I say something kind to myself?
  • What if a friend was going through the same thing? What would I tell them? What would I suggest they do? How would I treat them? How would I help them?
  • What strength of mine can I channel into a healthy action?
  • How can I soothe and relax myself right now (a way that would contribute to my health)?
  • What are my top three dreams? What is one small step I can take to act on each one?
  • Is there a person I can talk to who can do something to improve the situation?
  • What big or small lesson is this teaching me about myself? About what I want to say no (or yes) to? About what matters to me? About what nourishes and doesn’t nourish me? About how I need to set or maintain boundaries? What big or small lesson is this teaching me about how I want to behave or structure my day or live my life?
  • What can I change in my environment (e.g., inside my home; inside my inner circle of friends) that would improve things? For instance, in my list, I included that I can control whether I own a scale or any diet books. I also can control what articles I seek out and read. I also wrote that I can control the people I surround myself with.
  • Can I find beauty here? (It’s OK if you can’t. Because sometimes you really, really can’t. But it doesn’t hurt to ask the question.)
  • What kind of help do I need? Who can I ask for this help?
  • What do I need to learn, what resources do I need to check out, in order to do what’s important to me? In order to make this vital, life-nourishing change?
  • How can I make my days easier, slower, more interesting, more inspiring, more relaxing, more meaningful and fulfilling, more ___________ (whatever it is you need)? What’s one small change I can make today or tomorrow?

I’d love to know what questions help you identify what you can control. What questions inspire and empower you?

Photo by Griffin Keller on Unsplash.
How to Identify What You Can Control

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2017). How to Identify What You Can Control. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from


Last updated: 3 Sep 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Sep 2017
Published on All rights reserved.