There are only two things in this world that we have 100% control over, 100% of the time:

  1. Our effort
  2. Our attitude.

Coming to this epiphany was a tough pill for me to swallow, as I’ve always skewed a tad toward being a control freak! But it’s true. Our own effort and our own attitude is all we have full control of. Granted, we can dictate our mindset, enthusiasm, and preparation (vital ingredients in performance), but they are simply another form of effort and attitude.

Spending our time, focus, and energy on things outside of our control is simply a poor use of resources. You literally have zero control over your boss, co-workers, employees, colleagues, customers, spouse, friends, or your children. Zero. So why would you waste your mental, emotional, and physical currency on something you have zero control over, instead of investing into the two things you CAN control? You can absolutely impact and influence many of the events and people in your life, but you do not control their behavior, their decisions, or the outcome.

I remember my parents telling me as a young kid, “You don’t control what other people do or say, but you do control how you respond and react.” As a very involved father of 3, I have said this exact statement, verbatim, to my own children on countless occasions. Why? Because it’s 100% true! And it’s not only true for children, it’s true for all of us.

Learning how to control the controllables is imperative to maximizing performance. When you double down on your effort and attitude, your performance increases. When things you don’t control distract you, your performance suffers. Sounds like common sense, right? Well, common sense is very rarely common practice!

One of the primary separators between a good basketball player and a great basketball player is this ability to focus on their own effort and attitude. Average players worry about what their coach is doing, what their teammates are doing, what their opponent is doing, even what the referee is doing! Great players process feedback from each of those domains, but focus solely on giving their best effort and having a productive and empowering attitude during every play.

Let’s take a closer look at effort. Most people readily acknowledge that giving a great effort is a choice. When they work hard, they smile because they chose to work hard. It was their decision. Well, by default, if working hard is a choice, then not working hard is also a choice. It’s the other side of the coin. But what happens when most people choose not to give their best effort? Do they own it? No! They make excuses. Excuses like “I wasn’t feeling well” or “I didn’t get enough sleep” come up. And while these things may be true – even valid – it was still their conscious choice not to give their best effort. You may not have 100% in the tank, but you and only you choose whether or not to give 100% of what you do have.

Now let’s examine attitude. This ties in closely to the infinite parental wisdom previously mentioned. We don’t control the vast majority of what goes on in our world, but we absolutely control how we react to it. I choose to view everything that happens to us as feedback. And our attitude towards this feedback directly influences how we perform, not to mention to our happiness, fulfillment, confidence, and outlook on life. Everything we do provides feedback. Feedback is the catalyst to growth. If you are closed to feedback, you are closed to growth, improvement, and development.

How we choose to process this feedback determines whether or not we progress and move forward or regress and move backwards. The world’s highest performers and achievers make the decision to use all feedback in a manner that moves them forward.

And since we have the choice in how to process feedback, the feedback itself is neither positive nor negative. It’s neutral. It’s sterile. It’s unbiased. It only becomes positive or negative when we choose to attach feelings and emotions to it.

It doesn’t matter if it is a coach correcting a player’s footwork, a manager offering suggestions on a proposal, or an audience rating a speaker, it’s all feedback that can be used to improve or used to regress.