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What is Your Relationship with Control?



This article is from my June WonderMore Newsletter. Want to get timely and relevant articles to your inbox? Subscribe from my home page:


I'm kicking off my newsletter with a topic that often comes up with my clients and also resonates deeply with me: the desire to control.

 

From an early age, we're conditioned by rules and restrictions—curfews, permissions, expectations, and consequences. These rules aim to curb chaos and bring order, guiding us to minimize threats and risks to our safety and security. While some thrive on rules and others see them as mere guidelines, our lives inevitably follow some structure to maintain a sense of control.

 

Controlling behavior stems from a desire to limit risk and uncertainty. Although this might seem beneficial, it often leads to a constant battle against life's inherent unpredictability. The truth is, life is naturally unpredictable, and our efforts to control the uncontrollable often result in suffering.

 

Logically, I understand that control is an illusion. Despite meticulous planning, there's only so much we can do to shape the future. I also know that worrying more has never helped me resolve anything. Worse still, the more time I spend fixated on worst-case scenarios, the more I miss out on the present moment, often when there's no immediate problem at hand.

 

Let me share a recent experience: one afternoon, I decided to take a work break by going for a walk on what was finally a beautiful day. But instead of enjoying the walk, I spent nearly the entire time ruminating over an email response I had been waiting on for a few days. My inner critic obsessed over my approach, what the person must have been thinking (never helpful), and what else could have been going on. Ironically, by the time I got home, the awaited email had arrived. Although the news wasn't exactly what I expected, it provided the information I needed to make an informed decision, and none of my stories were true—at all. Though things eventually turned out quite well, I felt frustrated with myself for letting my mind spin out on assumptions that wasted my mental and emotional energy and took me out of the nice day I wanted to experience. I was reminded that each moment is part of a larger journey, and I can't rush myself to a destination when I don't even have the information I need to get there.

 

My journey of letting go is ongoing, and I give myself grace as I navigate new changes in my work life. To support this journey, I've incorporated daily practices like meditation, EFT (which I'm recently certified in), exercise, and intentional breaks, even if it's just to look out the window and appreciate life unfolding in small observations. Being more present helps me make better decisions and, ironically, feel more in control because I'm less reactive.

 

Reflect on the last situation you wanted to control.

  • In hindsight, how could you have approached it differently?

  • What lessons and self-awareness can you glean from it?

  • What can you let go of to experience more of today?

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