When we encounter a situation where someone close to us seems unwilling or unable to change, it can become a source of significant stress and frustration. This is particularly challenging when their lack of change impacts us directly. It’s a common scenario: the colleague who never meets the deadline, the friend who is always negative, the partner who won’t listen to our concerns. The irritation can grow, not just because of their behavior, but because we feel helpless, waiting for the change that never comes, unsure of how to thrive then things aren’t going the way we’d hoped.

This feeling of helplessness often stems from tying our emotional well-being to the actions of others. It’s a dependency that leaves us feeling stuck and often, ironically, resistant to change in our own approach. If we can shift our focus to what we have power over—our responses, our mindset, and our actions—we can regain a sense of control and composure.

Here are three steps to help us focus on what we can control:

Step 1: Acknowledge What You Can’t Control

The first step in learning how to thrive and gain control over our emotional well-being is to clearly acknowledge what is outside of our control. We cannot change people; we can only influence them, and sometimes, that might not be enough to inspire a change in behavior. This step is about acceptance, allowing us to recognize the limitations of our influence. It’s not giving up; it’s about focusing our energy where it will be more productive.

Step 2: Reflect on Your Responses

Once we accept that we cannot control others, we can turn inward and consider our reactions. Ask yourself, “How have I been responding to this situation? Is my response helpful to me or to the other person? Does it align with my values and the kind of person I want to be?” Reflecting on our responses allows us to consider more constructive ways to deal with the situation that maintain our integrity and well-being.

Step 3: Take Action Where You Can

Finally, decide on actions you can take that are within your control. This might involve setting boundaries, such as deciding what you will no longer tolerate and communicating that calmly and clearly. It could involve changing your environment—if a colleague’s behavior is out of your control, maybe you can alter your workspace to minimize the impact on you. Or, it may be about self-care—engaging in activities that bolster your well-being and help you handle stress better.

These steps aren’t a quick fix, but rather a strategy for long-term resilience and knowing how to thrive. By focusing on what we can control—our attitude, our boundaries, our self-care—we empower ourselves. We start to move out of the cycle of reaction and into one of proactive living.

It’s about recognizing that our peace and happiness are our responsibilities. While it’s natural to be affected by the actions of others, our well-being shouldn’t be dependent on them. By refocusing on our sphere of control, we set ourselves up for greater emotional autonomy and peace.


author avatar
Brent Peak Licensed Professional Counselor
Brent Peak, Licensed Professional Counselor and Trauma Recovery Specialist, is the owner of North Valley Therapy Services in Phoenix, Arizona. With a profound commitment to healing childhood trauma and aiding couples in severe crises, Brent has extensive experience and a unique ability to address trauma, poor self-esteem, and interpersonal challenges with empathy and effectiveness. Trained by Pia Mellody and endorsed by her for his work in Post Induction Therapy, Brent is not just a therapist but a trusted guide, offering hope and transformative change to those who have often felt let down by traditional therapy paths.
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