How do we do the dance with control?

Recently I heard someone say “There’s not a whole lot that I can control”, and the beautiful duality of this phrase hit me, so I felt like writing about it. What I mean to say is, this phrase can be interpreted in two VERY different ways, and I think it’s worth looking at in order to do a different dance with the anxiety this can conjure up.

My initial reaction to hearing this phrase was that it sounds terrifying, it sounds horrible.  “There’s not a whole lot that I can control”. I mean, who’s getting excited about the idea of little to no control?   The thought that we can’t always make certain outcomes happen, that we can’t make people say or do certain things, or predict with accuracy EXACTLY how things are going to work out; it sounds pretty unbearable.  It kicks up a feeling of powerlessness, which is not a feeling people are really going after.

And if that’s not bad enough, when our mind’s honed in on the thought that we can’t control much of anything, we go in this fun little anxiety/fear spiral, as we tend to think up even MORE scenarios and outcomes and people that we can’t control.  Like a frantic viewmaster, our mind flashes with images of ALL the actual and hypothetical situations in our lives that we cannot control. Everything feels disastrous and chaotic. It’s overwhelming, and it gets out of hand real quick.

If you’re reading this, wondering “How does she know this? Is she in my head???” don’t worry, I’m not. it’s relatable because SO many people experience it. You’re not alone in the fear/anxiety spiral, and I want to propose a way to get yourself out of it.  So, let’s get back to the point I mentioned at the beginning, and take another look at this phrase.

“There’s not a whole lot that I can control”.

What I’m offering here is the idea that this can actually be a really liberating statement.  What if we allowed the thought that we can’t control everything to take the pressure off? If we can’t control a whole lot, or everything, then, does it make sense to exert so much mental and emotional energy trying to control the outcomes?  If we can gracefully acknowledge the fact that we can’t control everything, then we can let go of the expectation we put on ourselves to make everything so darn perfect. If we can sit with the knowing that we can’t control everyone reacting to us in a positive way, than we can get go of the paralysis that comes from the idea of putting ourselves out there, and screwing it up.

Let’s say you have a really fantastic idea for a new career path, and you’re SO fired up about it, you want to tell everyone about it.  You could get wrapped up in the fact that you can’t predict, or control, with certainty, that everyone will get it, and respond with praise. And you can let that fear about it keep you from sharing this idea with anyone, let alone take action on it.  Or, you could do a different dance with this idea that you can’t control everything, and use it to motivate you to forge ahead, because you can’t possibly predict how AMAZING it will be. And isn’t that fantastic? If you knew with certainty EXACTLY how it was going to work out, would you get as excited about it?  Wouldn’t it be a little boring?

So, as I sit here typing this, my hope for you is that this perspective helps you re-frame how you think about control.  The truth is, of course, there ARE some things we can control in life, including how we think about certain things, like this very topic, and taking control of how we think about things can really shift our perspectives and reactions.  I’d love to hear from you your thoughts on this, comment below!