Mark Blasini


Finding areas of control


Strategic living is all about understanding what settings you can control or influence in any given situation. While these areas change from situation to situation, there are some constants you can expect in a situation.

For example, in personal finance, there are only two areas you can control or influence:

  1. Income. While you can't directly control income, you can increase your odds. This involves preparation, education/training, planning, communication.
  2. Expenses. Expenses are a choice. They require you to literally send money from your hands or bank account. Thus, your expenses are definitely within your control, even though there may be huge pressure to spend on specific things (e.g. food, rent, water, electricity, etc.).

Of course, I am simplifying. There are a million and one ways to increase your income and cut down expenses. But in any situation you face, you can boil down your decision to one of two questions: Am I ultimately making money or spending money?

In relationships, there is really just one area of control or influence: communication. Verbal and non-verbal. Communication is the basis and stuff of a relationship. Everything you do communicates to the other person certain things about you: whether you're trustworthy, fun, insightful, reliable, attentive, a suitable mate or partner or parent, etc. A person will easily look past your flaws and mistakes as long as those flaws and mistakes don't communicate the "wrong" thing to that person.

Again, I'm simplifying. But it makes your ultimate question simple: what am I ultimately trying to communicate here? What is it that I want this other person to know or understand?

In work or business, there are a few areas of control:

  1. Output. This could be a product or service, measured in resources, time, energy, money, etc. It's what you do or make for others.
  2. Input. This is the benefits that you or the company or the organization receives - salary, revenue, funding, press, a good reputation.
  3. Communication. This involves the promises you have to make, the expectations you set, the way you deal with customers, the way you manage employees.

From these areas of control, you can simplify your decision-making to understanding which areas need improvement. Am I trying to improve output, input, or my communication?

Through finding and simplifying the areas the control, you gain a much better picture of what you can control and influence in a given situation. It's here that you can start being strategic and improving the situation.