How many things in your life do you attempt to control? Schedules. Time. Relationships. Children. Money. Business transactions. Performance. People’s opinions and beliefs about you. Your emotions. Others emotions. Your thoughts. Creating more fulfillment. Clutter. Reducing stress. Outcomes. Your health. Your environment. Your future.
Some may argue about the value and necessity of control. If we aren’t exerting our influence on others, taking decisive action and managing our time – wouldn’t that lead to disaster? What would happen if you let go of control? Or loosened the grips of control? That can be a big and scary question for many.
I’m not suggesting that you surrender to the couch and TV remote, or go sit on a park bench and stop living your life. However, exploring the dynamic of control AND loosening its grips, may allow you to experience more of what you desire, more effortlessly.
(Note:Taking INSPIRED ACTION is DIFFERENT than CONTROL. If you aren’t experiencing a sense of well-being in every area of your life, investigating “control” may be a valuable exercise.)
Why do we attempt to control? There seem to be two primary driving forces. We either think that control will either give us something positive – more peace, self-esteem, financial gain, fulfillment or a sense of security. Or it may be a defensive posture – to protect ourselves, avoid pain or discomfort, avoid confronting a fear or worse yet – FACING THE UNKNOWN.
How does one CONTROL?
Instead of facing the unknown, I notice that creating to-do lists, making plans in advance and staying busy gives me a sense of security and certainty. If I know what to expect, it seems that I’m better able to feel at peace inside. Or, is it a false sense of security and peace? Fundamentally, seeking control does NOT bring about true inner peace.
There are a variety of ways that control appears in relationships. Nagging, whining, emotional upset (anger, sadness, frustration), threatening, influencing, negotiating and seeking commitment are popular. There are also PASSIVE ways we control. Ignoring, avoiding and emotionally withdrawing are equally potent. Even body language or “the look”, can be controlling. More subtly, we can embellish or minimize the facts, or become “people pleasers” – all trying to manage the perception of others.
When we’re SEEKING something outside ourselves, it suggests that something is missing from our lives. When we are AVOIDING something, it suggests something can be taken away. Both of these states have a sense of ANXIETY associated with them.
So, while we ultimately desire peace of mind, striving for CONTROL often doesn’t really give us what we want.
The Reality of Control. While certainly it seems that our actions influence reality, is that really so? How many times have you planned and repeatedly confirmed, and something else happened instead? Has anyone ever fervently committed their word, then at the last minute wasn’t able to follow through? Have you ever worked diligently on a project, only to scrap it entirely and begin again? Have you ever created your to-do list, then found yourself doing something completely different that day?
How often do people, children or animals do EXACTLY what you EXPECT and desire? Does your body always perform precisely as you desire in yoga, athletics or love-making? Do you ever find yourself caught up in emotions at inopportune times? Life is unfolding in its own mysterious way. No matter how hard one plans, intends, persuades or efforts – have you noticed – life unfolds as it does. And, the more we can align with life, the greater our sense of internal well-being.
The Cost of CONTROL. Why let go of CONTROL? First of all, if we loosen the grips of control, is it possible we may arrive at the same outcome? Or perhaps something even better!!? Yes. Since we can’t REALLY control events, circumstances and others, aligning with the natural flow in life makes sense.
One reason to let go of control is because it often IMPEDES the very results we are seeking. In the face of control, others may pull away, become defensive or disappear completely. We may negatively impact another’s self-esteem. I know that if someone allows me to control them, I ultimately lose respect – and will choose to leave. It also costs time, energy and mindless chatter. It also costs us in stress, anxiety and frustration when things don’t unfold according to our plan.
The largest cost is our own internal sense of well-being. When we believe we NEED something outside ourselves, or that something can be taken from us — we aren’t free to live life.
Letting Go of Control…
While admittedly, I’m an amateur at letting go of control, there are three key elements that I’m finding allows one to let go of control, and align more to “what is”. Use the following ideas to expand your awareness around control and see what you experience for yourself.
1. Open to Every Moment – Imagine walking through life where you surrendered to each unfolding moment. It would be like Christmas morning throughout the day. Excited with anticipation, open to receiving wonderful gifts into your life and NOT KNOWING what to expect. The more spacious and flexible one is, the more easily one can quickly adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Vacations are an easy place to practice this idea, but with a little mental shift it may be something you begin to embrace in everyday life. Life is exciting when we’re open to each unfolding moment.
2. Connection to Self – The more grounded, centered and secure in who you are, the easier it is to allow life to flow — and let go of control. When we rely on something outside of ourselves to feel good, secure or happy – we are to the emotional roller-coaster in life. Have you noticed that people are always shifting and changing? Allowing another person to be who they are, make their own choices and have their own emotional experiences – without it affecting your sense of self-esteem is powerful way to live. Know that you are whole and complete as you are.
3. What’s your Motivation? Getting in touch with the driving motivation behind any behavior is revealing. Are you taking action from a place of fear, scarcity, guilt, insecurity, obligation or to win the approval of others? Or are you inspired to give, create, connect, share or enjoy? While there is often a blend of forces behind any action, you may find one set of motivations more dominant. And, with awareness comes the opportunity to make a new choice.
SOULFUL CHALLENGE: For one week, consider surrendering control in one or more areas of your life. Pick an area where you have been particularly controlling. Notice how much you’re trying to identify future events in order to feel more at peace. Notice when your sense of well-being becomes linked to another’s behavior. Notice how you censor your words. Notice how you can remain grounded in yourself when unexpected events occur. Look at your motivation behind your actions. Notice what happens when you simply allow life to unfold and flow naturally. You CAN handle anything.