I have a friend, let’s call her Jane, who’s been miserable in her job for more than 3 years. I’ve talked with her about it multiple times, strategized with her on good sensible steps to change jobs, and even did a quick budget to understand her options and opportunities.
Jane is still miserable in her job.
And even though I get it — she might be afraid of change, or maybe taking the next step feels more like a chore than being in an awful (but known) place — I wish I could just grab her hand and sign the resignation letter for her, get her a new job, make her succeed. But of course, I can’t. She is the master of her own fate (remember Henley’s poem?).
We all might have the best interests in our hearts to advise someone on what to do, but we cannot pretend we can control them. We all wait for the best in our lives, but we cannot control everything that happens to us. It is what it is: the realm of your control lies within your thoughts and actions. Trying to control anything outside of that realm is fruitless, but that doesn’t stop some people from insisting: they want to manage their environment, their time, their loved ones, everything, and everyone. And this is exhausting.
Control is not inherently bad, it’s necessary. You wouldn’t accomplish your financial goals without financial planning and analysis. But too much control means you’ll have too much to handle, too much stress, and too little time to feel grateful for this fleeting thing we call life.
Because having less is more, I offer you 5 ways to let go of that excess of control.
1. Start Enjoying Different Perspectives
Let’s go back to my friend Jane. If I get frustrated and berate her because she doesn’t listen to my advice, she’s still stuck at her awful job, and “she’s just too stubborn and doesn’t do what I say!”… well, I’d have one less friend.
Everyone has different perspectives in life and different personalities. We can all agree to disagree on small things like a preferred morning beverage (some like tea, others coffee) and on big things like who’s going to be the next president. Listening carefully to others and appreciating their uniqueness will free us from the frustration and stress of thinking “they’re not doing what I tell them to!” and guide us to a better and cordial relationship with others.
You wouldn’t appreciate being close to someone that wants to micromanage you, so why would you do that to others?
2. Stop Worrying About “What They Will Say?”
Others’ opinions about us matter. But worrying too much about how they perceive us will only harm us.
The way we present ourselves to others is shown in how we dress, talk, and behave. As long as you are the most authentic you, everything else will be ok.
Will you be liked by everyone? Of course not. You cannot control what others think and feel about you, and spending your energy trying to change that isn’t worth it. Invest your body and mind to be the best person you can be, and a myriad of positive things will come around.
3. Stop, Look, Go
This important lesson, marvelously explained by David Steindl-Rast, can be summed up in this quote: “Stop, look, and then go, and really do something. And what we can do is whatever life offers to you in that present moment. Mostly it’s the opportunity to enjoy, but sometimes it’s something more difficult.”
Instead of aiming for perfection, stop and learn to appreciate the people around you and all the little and big things that shape your life. And then go: learn how to play to your strengths, take that project, study a new course, and get to that milestone. Move toward your goals one step at a time.
4. Remember Your Importance
This might sound negative, but I promise it’s not: in the vast scope of the universe, you’re not that important. Did you help the sun rise, the snow fall, the air blow, the hours go by?
Having in mind your importance is not about making you feel insignificant, it’s about remembering life is so much more than the work project at hand, or the frustration against something that didn’t go as you planned. If everything is ephemeral, enjoy life while it lasts.
5. Focus on What You Can Control
Lists of what you can fully control:
And that’s it. Seeing that we cannot control others or the things that happen to us, we can learn that the way we react to what happens matters the most. We can control our thoughts and the actions that derive from them. Cultivating positive self-talk can improve your views on life, and diminish the negative ideas that can stop you from succeeding.
What can you improve in your life? Can you easily define what’s under your control and what’s not? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me via Twitter.