How Can We Truly Be in Control?

Letting go of the need for control is one of the (many) things I have to consistently work on to achieve positive results.

My default setting is that I want to feel in control of how things will turn out — control of a trip that I’m on, or a project I’m handling, how a conversation will go or even getting my dogs to “go” in a timely manner.

Often, it becomes more frustrating than the way I had imagined it could be ~ IF were truly in control.

Can we ever really control how things will turn out? 

We might think so, but how often do things actually turn out exactly the way we’ve planned?

I know my life has been a series of unexpected outcomes, despite my best intentions to get to certain goals, accomplishments or experiences. 

Even when I reach the end point of certain things that I've endeavored to do, they often turn out to be much different once I achieve them, than I had originally imagined that they would be.

And forget planning for an outcome to go down without a hitch....

Yeah, that's the equivalent of herding cats or nailing jello to a wall!

I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious and tense. 

I’m less happy with how other people do things, less happy with myself, and less relaxed in the moments that I ordinarily would be able to enjoy. 

My relationships and responsibilities suffer because I am preoccupied with how I “think” things ought to be and how they will turn out.

My friend called this week to give me an update on something she was 'concerned' would happen. And, guess what, like so many other things we are 'concerned' (worried) about... it ended up working out so much better than she imagined it would. 

Her comment to me was so true. She said, "I used to get so anxious worrying about all the things that I really hoped wouldn't happen. But, I've finally realized. that  things usually work out just as they are supposed to. And, I am thankful that Jesus does this and that I don't have all the anxiety anymore". 

I couldn't agree more. Often, when I get fixated on how something should be for me to be 'okay', it's all I can think about. 

It makes it so hard to focus on what the Lord wants me to learn through this situation as well as others I may be dealing with. 

And, it affects my moods and especially how present I can be with the other happenings I'm currently involved in.

It's such a waste of a day (or a week, or an hour) to be all wrapped up in one thing.... the outcome of something.

Some months back, Jeff and I watched an older movie about a pro golfer who was played by Pat Boone, when he was likely in his 80s. He was mentoring a younger golfer, who played well, but was overly anxious and cocky. 

The movie offered many lines that were wisdom such as I'd expect to hear from my grandmother. One such line was when the pro instructed the younger golfer about something he had observed in him that was causing him to make careless errors. The pro told him that he needed to practice "NATO". 

The younger guy was  bewildered until the pro explained that 'NATO' stands for 'not-attached-to-the-outcome". 

The pro encouraged him to play in the moment. To think and be present in the moment. Not somewhere off on the 18th hole trying to win, when he needed to be focused on where he was and the effort he was making on the hole he was playing. Which, the pro explained, was where he could have the most impact.

How true!! When my focus is on the completion, conclusion or finishing of something, I am not present. I am staked out in the future with much of my emotional stability banking on a particular outcome that I have very limited means of influencing.

I am probably somewhere out in left field looking up for a fly ball that may not even come my way.... so since my focus is off on something I cannot control, I often lose control of where I can make a difference.

This definitely presents a problem in relationships. 

When we become so focused on what the other person needs to monitor, correct, adjust, tweak or otherwise relinquish, we are not manning the post of our own lives.... which is the only thing we can control!

God gave us the fruit of the Spirit, see Galations 5:22-23, to demonstrate the only true control we can really have.  And that is self-control.

If I'm so busy observing (with the intention of catching you doing something that needs to be adjusted), who, then, is monitoring my actions and what I need to be doing? 

What happens when we turn that around and manage what God actually intended us to manage? 

Well, better relationships for one. We become more pleasant to be around when we aren't navigating the pilot's controls from our co-pilot seat.

The hardest thing we may ever do is to simply say nothing while someone is learning the ropes on whatever it is they are doing.

But that's okay. We can do hard things. And we can let others do hard things.  Doing hard things builds character. 

Trying to 'help' other's accomplish their hard things (especially without an invitation) could possibly make us 'quite a character' to deal with.

As adults, the last thing we need is family or friends taking on the role of a parent for us. After all, at 2 years old, we were already declaring, 'Me do it!"

So how can I best deal with this when, at times, it seems to be a reccurring struggle? 

Not to mention that neither my hubby, my daughters, or my family, friends or neighbors have turned over the keys to their lives for me to manage. This could be a indicator that I could be barking up the wrong tree ;)

What I am discovering is that, I am unable to stop myself from 'wanting' to control things. (Wow, can't even control that!! LOL). 

I can’t even stop the urge to control outcomes from coming up in me. I need to become aware when the desire to control things comes. I can choose to let the urge happen, without acting on the emotions that rise up in me, especially if they are truly not the best for me or others.

I’ve found this to be easier said, than done. My goal is to remind myself to see the urge, not as a command that I am required to follow, but simply a suggestion from the child within me. 

I can then be aware to look for the good things that can come from the situation, even if it’s uncontrolled. I don’t need to control things to be able enjoy them.

Let me repeat that (for myself, or course) ... I. Don’t. Need. To. Control. Things. To. Be. Able. To. Enjoy. Them.

I can just let them happen. 

Ironically, what I've learned is that having or being in control has ever only been an illusion anyway. 

God is the only One who is in, or has ever been in, control. 

That said, I still take action. There are things I can control that have a positive effect on me and hopefully on those important to me:

I can educate myself regarding a trip, simply because I’m curious about a new adventure. 
I can be free to let conversations flow naturally. 
And my furry friends can take their leisure in enjoying being outside without me pressuring them to “hurry up”. 

These are all simply stress-management exercises from which I can greatly benefit.

So, in discovering that I really was living in an illusion of control and not actual control.....I did the only thing I knew to do.... 

I turned in my resignation as Master of the Universe.  The pay wasn't worth it anyway! 

Turns out that God wasn't even hiring for the position because He enjoys His work and didn't even need a consultant.... even one who was willing to keep working for, ummmm.... FREE!?!?!

When I keep my focus on what I can control..... (me!), I can experience the freedom of letting go.

I realize I have a choice: I can choose to try to control the outcome and create frustration for myself and those I hold dear, or I can trust in the moment that God has this... and He has me too!

My prayer for me is that I will always choose to trust as often as possible!

Until next time....

-Sheri xo 

Sheri Geyer is a Boundaries Coach for Women

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