Can You Make It Happen?

Control: Real or an Illusion?

photo of television remote controlAs you think of what you want in your life, do you believe you can make it happen?

Some people answer that question with a categorical “yes” and operate as if everything were within their control. Others act as if the complete opposite were true and believe that luck and circumstances have more to do with outcome. How much can you really control? Your answer is the belief that will significantly influence your approach to goals, problems, dreams, and relationships.

There are certainly things about which we do not have a choice —war, illness, natural disasters— that can leave us feeling powerless. Yet when we believe we control very little in life, we risk being unambitious, defeatist, and cynical. On the other hand, if we believe we control everything, we can feel pressured, become narrow-minded, and get disappointed when things turn out differently than planned.

Like many philosophic questions, when it comes to whether you have control over your life, you can find evidence supporting either position.

So The Trick Is…

If it is true that in life we can control some things and not others, then the trick is to recognize which is which and not forfeit what is within our influence.

Take your health, for example. In the book Successful Aging, geriatrician John Rowe and social psychologist Robert Kahn state that while heredity plays an important role in aging, its impact has been “tremendously overstated”. Genetics may account for 30% of physical aging, however a “common error is to assume that one’s genetic predisposition is equivalent to genetic ‘control’ of life expectancy…” Lifestyle and environment (how we live and where we live) have more impact than genetics the older we get. “We have the powerful capacity to enhance our chance of maintaining high mental and physical ability as we grow older”.¹

Finding Your Power

photo of boy in super hero outfitAs I consider the question of what you can control in life and think about the many dreams and goals that my clients have, as well as my own, I’ve reached a conclusion.

“Making it happen” is really about finding your power: identifying what is within your span of control and acting decisively.

This Week: Heighten your awareness of what is within your control.

  • Ask yourself the question: What is within my power? Then, act within that realm.

  • OUT — For those things outside of your control, notice how you can reduce your frustration by adjusting your attitude, your response, or your expectations.

  • photo of headphonesIN — For things you determine to be inside your control, exercise your power in a decisive, assertive way. To supply you with some musical motivation, here’s a clip of Mariah Carey’s “Make It Happen”. I’ve got this one loaded on my iPod so I can work out to it. My favorite part is between the 2:49-3:15-minute mark. Check it out!

In the next issue, we’ll further explore the question of “Can You Make It Happen?” by taking a look at the difference between making something happen and allowing it to happen.

Here's to you,
Ginny Kravitz's signature

photo of book cover for Successful Aging¹John W. Rowe, M.D., and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D., Successful Aging (New York, Dell Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc., 1998), 28-30.

In the book, Successful Aging, Doctors Rowe and Kahn expand on what they identify as the “three key components of successful aging: 1) avoiding disease and disability; 2) maintaining high mental and physical function; and 3) continuing to engage actively in life, through productivity and strong interpersonal relationships”.

© 2009, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to

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