Taking Control of Your Destiny: How to Lead Yourself (Even in Chaos)

If the last two years have shown us anything, it’s that the only thing we can control is our own behavior. The pace of change continues to be unrelenting and fueled by the great resignation, most people have more on their plate than ever before, either via a new job or departed coworkers. It’s easier than ever to be reactive to a swirling environment around you.

That’s likely one of the reasons our LinkedIn Learning course Leading Yourself was our most viewed course last month. Intellectually, we know we can’t place our careers in the hands of someone else (even a great boss). But emotionally, when one zoom bleeds into another, it’s hard to feel in control.

Here are three ways key takeaways from Leading  Yourself:

  1. Recognize what is (and isn’t) within your influence

If you work for a traditional organization, there are a myriad of things out of your total control. Even if you work for yourself, you don’t fully control the environment, the market, or the opinions of other people (sigh).

Sometimes, people will throw their hands up with a “out of my control!” It’s well-intended, you don’t want to obsess about things you can’t control. But unfortunately, in that moment, people often overlook their own power of influence.

Recognizing what you can influence (vs control or mandate) is wildly empowering. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with to-dos, and at the whim of the universe, try to segment your worries into three buckets: control, influence, and fixed.

In the ‘influence list,’ prioritize where you’re putting your mental and physical effort. What would generate a return on your intellectual investment? Is it swaying the opinion of your boss, or a key peer? What is a lost cause? Changing major policy, or winning over a toxic coworker? Your brain is a highway, and too much thought in the ‘out of control’ or ‘not really worth the influence’ areas cause a traffic jam for things that matter.

Ground yourself with the timeless serenity prayer: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

  1. Define a growth goal. Not action items and not SMART goals you carry for a quarter.. These growth goals stay with you, even if the scope of your job starts to flex a little bit.

A single goal can be a pull-through thread, something that doesn’t add to your punch list, but instead, acts as an organizing pillar to your professional development. Here are some examples:

  • Improve my clarity in written communication
  • Build deeper relationships with the people I interact with
  • Champion the voices of others in the room

And here’s why there’s not an ‘s’ on the end of goal- you’re busy. If you have 15 action items, you’re working on 9 projects, prepping for 7 1-1’s; when you recite tour to-do list it sounds like the corporate version of 12-days of Christmas. Set a growth goal that is simple and easy to execute in the cadence of regular work.

  1.  Seek specific feedback.

High achievers know feedback is an opportunity to grow. The more specific you can be in your request for feedback, the more likely it is to actually make a difference. Here’s what I mean: Say you designed a pitch deck for a big prospect. If you ask a peer, ‘Do you have any feedback?’ they may give you feedback on the content, the graphics, a specific slide, or they may just say ‘looks great.’

But let’s say your growth goal is to improve your clarity and conciseness in your writing. A specific feedback ask would be- was there anything in this presentation that you had to read twice because it wasn’t clear?

Then enables you to actually assess progress against your goal, what you’ve recognized as important (vs. collecting a myriad of opinions). Plus, if something is catastrophically wrong outside of the scope of your growth goal, your peer will tell you anyway.

High-achievers are regularly praised for their self-starter mindset, steadfast motivation, and ability to get things done, despite uncertainty. No matter what chaos is around them, they manage to lead themselves towards success.