Focus on What You Can Control

When it comes to improving as a coach, few have influenced me like Ben Bergeron. If you are not familiar, Ben is the owner of CrossFit New England and coach to several CrossFit Games athletes which include Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir. Both of them are two-time Games champions. He has a podcast and book. Both are called “Chasing Excellence”. I regularly listen to the podcast, I have read the book, and I highly recommend them both. One of my favorite quotes from them is super simple but, in my opinion, profound. He says, “Focus on what you can control, and let go of everything else.”


Many of the lessons Ben tries to convey to the listener/reader are delivered through the lens of coaching CrossFit. However, many of them can apply to everyday life. For example, as an athlete he says that you can only control 5 things: training, nutrition, sleep, recovery, and mindset. Everything else is just noise over which you have no control. My personal favorite on that list is “mindset”. Because changing your mindset about something can instantly turn you into a more positive person and improve your feelings about any situation. In the book he cites numerous examples in which his athletes had something go wrong during the CrossFit Games. Flights being delayed, judges giving questionable no-reps, etc. But he helped his athletes forge a resilient and positive mindset so that when things went wrong they were unaffected. They knew that had no control over the weather, judges, heat times, etc.


There is an equation that helps put this idea into perspective.


Event + Response = Outcome


The equation is saying that any outcome you experience is the result of a response you had to a given event. You don’t have control over the event. The only way you can influence the outcome is by your response. Notice that I said “influence the outcome”, not “totally control the outcome”.


After reading this, I highly encourage you all to start paying attention to the things you respond to in life. Especially the things to which you respond negatively. Then think, how much control do I actually have over this event? It could be something completely irrational, like a sport. I’ve totally been that guy screaming in the stands or at my TV. I have absolutely no control over the outcome of this game. A game that arguably doesn’t matter at all. But there I am, getting super upset because my team isn’t winning.


Something a little more relatable to all of us would be our performance in the CrossFit Open, or performance in CrossFit in general. While the degree to which we experience disappointment differs, I think it’s safe to say that we all experience it in CrossFit. CrossFit and the Open are full of people comparing themselves to others or their own expectations. A healthy amount of comparison is ok. Sometimes the comparisons cause us to feel negatively about ourselves. How we respond to these feelings can be a valuable lesson to be carried with us in everyday life. So you didn’t score as well as you wanted or beat a person that you think you should have beaten. What can you control? Your effort and your mindset. If you showed up and you know you tried your best, great! You should feel good about that. If you didn’t try your best and you know it, great! Guess what, it happened. It became an event. It is no longer an outcome. It is the event in your next equation. You no longer have control over it because it already happened. But now you know what you do have control over. Your response. Not happy with your fitness level? Not happy with your score? Good. You can’t control what your fitness level is today. You know what you can control? Your effort and your mindset. You can control showing up every day and trying. You can have a positive attitude that will help you enjoy showing up and make it more likely to keep happening.


The examples are everywhere. Does the weather suck? Did somebody cut you off in traffic? Did they kill your favorite character in Game of Thrones? As much as these situations can irritate us or even bring us to full-on rage mode, you are not in control of them whatsoever. However, you are 100% in control of your response to them. So if you take anything from reading this, I urge you to really think about your reactions to certain events in life. Are you not happy with how things are going? Good. Find out what you want to be different. Focus on the things you can control to make that happen. And. Make. It. Freaking. Happen.

author: Jacob Watts


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