Control. So fleeting. So constraining. So illusionary.
When I asked Google ® for a definition for control it gave me this: the power to influence or direct people's behavior or the course of events.
Isn’t that nice? I don’t know about you but when I try to control people and events, it is rarely pretty. Or effective. Actually words like frustration, stress, and failure come to mind.
So I am on a quest to figure this out- what can I control and what can’t I?
I think figuring this out will make not only me happier, but everyone I live with, too. Here is what I have figured out so far.
What I Can’t Control:
- What Others Do. ALL people, including the people in my own family, are volitional human beings who make choices from their own emotional and logical paradigms. While their choices might have ramifications on my own life, I cannot control their choices, including their mood, responses, and their use of time.
- Today’s Energy. If I wake up feeling sick or fatigued, I have to work my day around the available resources. I can recharge my phone in 30 minutes, but my body takes much longer. I have to adjust to what is currently available.
- The Unexpected. Accidents. Illness. Emergencies. Cars breaking down. The air conditioner going out. The toilet overflowing. Oh, the list is endless, but when those things happen, there is no way to go around the problem. I must trudge straight through until it is resolved and I can get back to my routine. I believe the laws of the universe require problems to occur at the least convenient, worst possible, most expensive moment.
- Needs of Others. If a sick child needs attention, all other items fall off the “to do” list. But other relationships also might need attention during the day. A friend needs to talk, a family with a new baby needs a meal, a family member requires help with a project…. Service to others supersedes my plans.
- Season I am In. This is a hard one for me, but honestly, different seasons in life require varying amounts of attention and energy. Some allow margin and some do not. My current season places boundaries on my options. I can’t change my life season any more than I can make winter into summer.
What I Can Control (And the control freak in me cries, “Finally!”)
- What I Do. I am also a volitional human and I can choose what I do or do not do, how I respond, if I retaliate, when I love, and who I serve. While I might blame someone for “making me mad,” in reality I choose to respond with anger or not.
- Tomorrow’s Energy. I may not control today’s energy, but I can control tomorrow’s. Today I can eat better, exercise, and go to bed on time. Those all make the next day better. I can also choose to not run myself ragged today and therefore completely empty my tank.
- Margin and Expectations. I can control my expectations of what I can accomplish in a day. If there is no margin left, then the unexpected will throw me into a tail spin. Allowing room to flex in my day alleviates the stress when emergencies present themselves. (And they will ALWAYS show up!)
- Saying Yes and Saying No. In the book “Essentialism”, author Greg McKeown discusses how the trivial many take over the vital few. Surrounded by numerous trivial needs, I must control what responsibilities I take on. By controlling my “yes’s” and my “no’s” I carefully steer away from the trivial and head for the vital.
- Contentment in God’s Now. God controls my seasons and the challenges He allows in my life. I can choose to trust Him in my now, with all its current challenges, joys, and sorrows. I can decidedly place my hand in His, and walk through whatever He allows with the confidence that my Father loves me.
“Hello, my name is Susan. I am a control freak. It has been five minutes since I last tried to control something out of my control.“
But at least I am learning?