Control What You Can Control

by Brian Cain, MPM

My mentor, Dr. Ken Ravizza, had two very simple rules that served as the backbone of his teachings:

Rule #1: You have to be in control of yourself before you can control your performance.

Rule #2: You have very little control of what goes on around you but total control of how you choose to respond to it.

As a matter of fact, it’s one of the first things I do when I start with a new one-on-one coaching client—even my top clients in Major League Baseball (MLB).

I’ve used this exercise for years and it remains the primary foundation of all of my work as a mental performance coach.

Put simply: those who have the awareness of what they can control and what they cannot have a competitive advantage over their competition.

Why Is This Important?

Focus, energy, willpower—how ever you’d like to describe it—is a limited resource. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

If it’s wasted focusing on things outside of your control, you will have less to put towards the things you can control—things that actually matter and help you move the needle when it comes to your performance.

Whether you’re an athlete going through this yourself or a coach looking for a simple way to incorporate mental training into a practice—this is a tremendous place to start.

Developing this skill lays the foundation for which everything else is built when developing the mental performance skill set.


Let’s start with the most common aspects of performance that you cannot control. Here are some common examples that I see with my one-on-one coaching clients:

  • The officials
  • The fans
  • The media
  • The other team
  • Playing time or coaches decisions
  • Field or playing surface conditions
  • The schedule
  • Statistics
  • Coaches
  • Parents
  • How they feel
  • Desire for uncontrollable outcomes


Pro tip: I like to use the acronym “APE” to help make it easier to remember.  

  • Yourself
  • Attitude
  • Appearance – Body Language
  • Preparation
  • Process – Your routines in competition
  • Performance (how you compete, not the outcome of how you compete)
  • Energy
  • Effort
  • Emotions


As I mentioned earlier, as an elite competitor, you must focus your attention on what is within your control.  

The acronym APE provides you with a reminder of just what it is you have the ability to control: 

APE is an acronym to remember that you control:

A – Your attitude and your appearance (body language)

P – Your perspective (how you see things), the process (how you choose to play), your preparation (nutrition, sleep, hydration, film, conditioning, etc.), your presence (focus) and your self-talk (positive).

E – Your effort, your energy, and your emotions.

This acronym is symbolic of the elite mindset to “control what you can control.”  

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