Tell me if this sounds familiar. Life has come at you full force, something has changed and you’re struggling to work out if this change is good or bad. You’ve had no real warning, no time to prepare, you only have time to react.
Your reaction is then to try and get control of the situation. Find some way, any way, to feel as though you have some kind of authority like you know what you’re doing.
But what if the best way to react is to let go of control and live in the moment?
My experience with control
Control is something I’ve always pursued. From a very young age, I would need to have a full and complete understanding of any situation and, I’d need to have a personal option to opt-in or out. But this relentless pursuit of control has also brought with it stress, perfectionism and weirdly, procrastination.
When I’m trying to get control over any situation and I can’t find it, here’s what happens:
- My focus narrows on that one thing and doesn’t come off it until I have control (which sometimes I never do)
- My breathing becomes shallow
- My brow is permanently furrowed
- My body tenses and I can feel my head tighten
- Everything else becomes completely less important (including eating and drinking)
It may sound totally extreme and unnecessary – and it is – but most of the situations I’m trying to gain control over, are simply not worth it. What’s worse, a lot of them I have no power over anyway. I can’t control the outcome so I simply allow myself to sit and stew in my own emotional torture.
Why we need to let go of control
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in a similar position to me. You struggle with control, but you recognise that it’s happening and you’d like to change.
As humans, we think that the more control we have over our lives, the happier or better off we’ll be. I know that when I have my calendar filled out, schedule in place, know what I’m eating, drinking and doing with my spare time, I feel calmer.
But this is an illusion and it’s the pursuit of these ideal situations that brings stress in the first place.
This control over my life is rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown, of change and the future. I like to compare myself to an old cat. Perfectly content with its routine and sleeping pattern, but if anybody disturbs those, it lashes out or hides under the bed.
It’s not that I don’t want change or lack ambition. Far from it, it’s the uncontrollable change that troubles me. Change that arrives without warning, and forces me to get up, listen and make some serious choices. But, as we all know, it’s with this change that we truly grow.
Because who honestly wants to let this perfectionism take over their enjoyment of everyday life? Who wants to let control stop us from seeing an opportunity, moving in a different direction, or simply enjoying the journey?
How to let go of control
I’m not writing this article because I have all the answers. As I already said, I’m at the start of my journey to let go of control. But what I will share here are some things I’m trying to do when the need arises for my brain to take over my very soul in the pursuit of control.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is control even possible?
A lot of the time I’m trying to gain control in a situation where control isn’t even possible.
Here’s a recent example. In selling our house, we delegated the responsibility of contacting potential buyers, marketing our house and doing viewings to our estate agents. This meant that all of these tasks were out of my hands. However, having not heard from them for a few days (yes, a few days), I let my controlling brain take over and called. Over the course of the next week, I spent more time and mental energy calling and worrying about the estate agents than I’d care to admit.
My struggle to keep control over a situation where I really had none, was completely pointless. Instead, I could have let go of control, enjoyed each day as it came and simply waited for them to contact me.
2. Is it time to trust others?
Trust is something a controlling person struggles with. It likely comes from our perfectionist nature. I’ve said on many occasions ‘if you want something done, you have to do it yourself’. But it’s this type of self-talk which is truly damaging.
The inability to trust others to do a good job, simply means that we take on extra work ourselves. We either do the task, or we monitor the person we’ve given the task to. In the example of our estate agents, I spent a lot of mental energy wondering what they were up to.
3. Are you placing your high standards on others?
This applies to everyday life too. Controlling people generally have high standards. Some of which, we place on others.
Have you ever allocated a task to someone and gone back to check the standard of their work and then picked at it? Is this really necessary? Have they shied away from helping you after because they fear your judgement?
If the answer to these is yes (guilty as charged), then you may need to relinquish control, allow that person to do their work and thank them for it. It’s that simple.
4. Stop Googling the answer
I bet, like me, you’ve Googled the answer to almost every problem you’ve ever had.
Struggling to tell your builder that they need to stop making so much noise? Google it. Need to find a way to make your cat enjoy the food you gave it? Google it. Want to find a polite way to tell your estate agent to get a move on? Google that one too.
This is a mistake, trust me. Google can’t possibly know the intricate nature of every problem you’re having. Plus, by Googling the answer, you’re prolonging and probably making worse, the amount of mental energy you’re dedicating to control.
How many times have you Googled something to find a forum of other people also complaining about your problem? Then, how have you felt after scrolling through all their comments? Probably a hell of a lot worse, I know I have. So don’t do it.
5. What would actually happen if you let go of control?
What’s the worst that could happen?
If I let my estate agent get on with it, the worst that could happen was that they’d take longer to get back to me and I’d need to call in a week.
Here’s the real question: what’s the best that could happen?
If I let them get on with it, I’d have more brain space to focus on work, to relax and enjoy my spare time without worrying. They would call me when they had something they wanted to talk about and life would go on.
There’s absolutely nothing scary about any of that. When you let go of control, all you’re simply doing is saying to yourself, “I’m not going to think about this, it’s out of my hands”. What bliss!
We’re constantly plagued with decision fatigue and information overload in our daily lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to let some things go? To allow things to take their course without our interference, without us trying to mould it into something we think we want?
My brain could do with that break, could yours?
Featured image by Free-Photos
Do you struggle with letting go of control? Do you have any techniques for living a more control-free life? Leave them in the comments and let’s discuss.