After nearly a week of being stuck, the massive container ship that was blocking the Suez Canal has been freed. And this got me thinking about things we can — and can not — control in mobility.
As the 1,300-foot long Ever Given was wedged in the canal, more than 350 vessels — carrying everything from oil to cattle — were delayed from completing their journeys. From the perspective of the companies that own those ships, they likely made all the necessary preparations to deliver their cargo on time. Yet their plans were interrupted by something entirely out of their control.
It’s a hopeless feeling that you’ve likely experienced before (hopefully not too many times). A backup on the highway can make you late for something, even when you left plenty early. Unexpected bad weather can ruin outdoor plans, even if you’ve planned things out perfectly. Someone else’s mistake can derail a project, even if you provided detailed expectations and instructions.
Mobility is particularly ripe for these types of occurrences. Think about all the things that can sidetrack a relocating employee that are completely out of their control: travel delays, closed borders and immigration holdups, just to name a few. And as mobility professionals, these are the things that cause well-planned relocations or assignments to fail, at no fault of our own.
This, of course, can be extremely frustrating. And the frustration makes a lot of sense when you consider the SCARF model. SCARF is an acronym used in neuroscience that stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness, and these five things go a long way toward putting someone in a good state of mind. However, negative events outside of our control throw certainty, autonomy and fairness out of whack — and the result is a frustrated, stressed feeling.
Many people also end up going down a maddening path of what-ifs: “What if I did have control? What should I have done differently? Maybe I am to blame.” These types of thoughts quickly become self-destructive. The article below lays out an alternative way to frame these situations that I think is useful. It encourages you to lean into the uncertainty and lack of control. Doing so can, in fact, make you a better decision-maker in the future.
That’s not to say it’s wrong to feel frustrated when things outside of our control ruin our plans. It would be completely understandable if the captains of those more than 350 blocked ships felt frustrated. But rather than ruefully wishing you had control over something, maybe it’s time to embrace what’s out of your hands.
Being redirected by the events and things you can’t control is what I love about this idea. The uncertainty and freedom that comes with a lack of control will change how you make decisions and see your future. In my life, I’ve found that the uncontrollable events have brought about the biggest changes that ended up redirecting me down paths I would never have explored if I had control over them.