We hold on to control like our lives depend on it, trying to manipulate and manage our circumstances, believing that we are the ringmasters of our lives. We become so attached to results, that we believe all our mental juggling will somehow shift the forces of nature. And then fate steps in and offers a sobering slap in the face, to teach us that no matter how much pre-planning, predicting, diarising and spread sheeting we do, we do not have the upper hand.
That’s the funny thing about control. We never really have it, and yet we continually express anxiety around feeling out of control. We act like it was gifted to us, and are surprised when it is pulled out from underneath us without explanation or apology. The reality is that we cannot control the weather, the personalities of our children, paying our taxes, interest rates, or whether we are about to be run over by the proverbial bus.
The only thing we can control are our reactions, and how we deal with the circumstances that present themselves. And while it sounds counter-intuitive, our sense of control is heightened by the very ability to surrender to the process and trust that we will be okay regardless of the situation. When we allow things to happen, rather than make them happen, life runs more smoothly and we experience increased happiness, peace and freedom.
So what can a partially recovered control freak do to fully embrace the notion of letting go?
your fears. Understand
that control is deeply rooted in fear. Fear is the driver behind every
controlling behaviour we engage in. Fear
teaches us to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and try to manage every
possible scenario in between. Been there, done that, and it’s exhausting! When
you understand your fears, listen to what they’re telling you, and objectively
assess whether they are valid or not, you’ll gain a more rational perspective. Ask
yourself what’s the worst that could happen and then ask how likely it is this
will happen. This will reset your control compass to a new level.
go of predetermined outcomes. We always plan, predict and attempt to micro- manage outcomes that
we believe are in our best interest. But who is to say these are really the
best outcomes for us. After all, they’re based on our own personal beliefs and
aren’t necessarily always correct. If we can trust that any number of outcomes
will be okay then we open ourselves up to infinite possibilities – perhaps a
path less travelled that offers better or different experiences.
the physical strain of holding on versus letting go. When we feel out of control we experience both
emotional and physical stress. While symptoms can vary from person to person,
loss of control can be characterized by increased heart rate, sweating, shallow
breath, lack of focus etc. Conversely, when we let go we experience a physical
shift that promotes relaxation and calm, deep and deliberate breathing,
increased focus and presence. Consider the impact of this on physical health
over the long term and choose calm over chaos. Ironically, seeing the bigger
picture provides a greater sense of control than micro-managing all the moving
parts. There is less fatigue on both the
mind and the body.
your language. Instead
of thinking about control, think about the things you can directly ‘influence’
(giving you a sense of purpose, direction and accomplishment) versus the things
that ‘concern’ you (those that are outside your control and create fear,
anxiety and dread). When you focus on your area of influence it starts to grow
i.e. the more you influence the more empowered you become, and the more trust
you have. At the same time, as you
expand your area of influence, you naturally start to shrink your area of
concern, making it smaller and less impactful on your life.
- Be flexible. You will naturally enjoy more freedom and happiness in life when you learn to adapt. When you can be flexible in your behaviours and responses to people and situations, you reduce personal stress and learn to face challenges with increased clarity and focus. You become emotionally resilient and better equipped to deal with anything that life throws your way.