3-1-1 On Our Desire for Control

*This 3-1-1 is inspired by Jennifer Garvey Berger’s work on Leadership Mindtraps.

3 Thoughts on Our Desire for Control


I do not have control over my circumstances, but I do have control over the story I tell myself about those circumstances. Regardless of my circumstances I always can choose to be grateful, to find opportunities for growth, and love others.


One of the greatest human illusions is the illusion of control, we like to believe we have more control than we do.  The result is we blame ourselves and others when faced with uncontrollable situations.


Our own belief that we have power to control the circumstances of our lives, sometimes called "self-efficacy", has been widely linked to happiness. We often think it should mean that we can have direct control over all the outcomes that are important to us--we should be able to control when we meet our future partner, when we have our children, how our career unfolds., and son on. And as leaders, we believe we should be able to control the culture, or the focus on customers, or the quality of the safety culture. These are all emergent outcomes of a complex system, though, and our belief that we can control them leads to perverse consequences. -Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps by Jennifer Garvey Berger

1 Tip for Escaping the Desire for Control

  1. Choose a general direction in which you'd like to improve your circumstances, rather than fixating on a specific goal or outcome.
  2. Compile a list of small, practical, and achievable experiments to attempt.
  3. Begin experimenting with these smaller approaches, refraining from attempting drastic changes at the core of the issue.

1 Question to Escape the Desire for Control

What conditions can I create that enable good things to happen?


- JP Nerbun 

Join Our Weekly Newsletter

The most practical insights on leadership and culture... 

  • 3 Minute Weekly Tools & Tips
  • Notes to the Coaching Culture Podcast
  • FREE Chapter of The Culture System

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.