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  • michelle m. davis

In Control

“Being in control” always sounded healthy to me, empowering in a way. Yet, as I’ve learned more about the reasons we seek to control our environments, others, and ourselves, I sense that perhaps it’s truly not an asset. Could it be that trying to regulate our world to boost our productivity and keep those we love and ourselves safe, we’re actually living joyless lives? Could trying to control blind us to unanticipated possibilities? Has focusing on micro managing our daily being prevented us from truly thriving?

Confession time… since I’ve been a child, I’ve been a control freak. It’s one of the character traits that I thought contributed to my success. In elementary school I created library cards for all of my books in case anyone would want to borrow them. Later, during my teen years, I’d measure my cereal each morning to ensure that I had the correct amount. This somewhat odd behavior continued through my adult life, as I kept impeccable lists as a young mother to ensure that I’d never forget to bring or do anything. And later, I took charge of whatever I could during my volunteer years to make sure… you know… that it was done correctly. I knew what I needed (or at least I thought I did), and I felt that if I could create my immediate environment, I’d increase the odds of favorable outcomes. More time than not this philosophy worked, helping me accomplish a ton... you know, “get my stuff done”… But now I’ve been wondering. As I’ve been working to loosen my controlling behaviors and learn to better trust in the Universe, will letting go and surrendering negatively impact my ability to be productive and safe? Since forever this has been my method of accomplishing a great deal and keeping myself in my comfort zone. But wait… are productivity and safety the most important goals? Must we constantly be doing and in charge of everything around us?

Until recently, my answer to the above questions would have been a resounding, “Hell, yes!” Productivity is key! It’s what drives successful people, makes companies’ profits soar, and fuels our country’s GDP! And, in today’s world with numerous risky elements, why wouldn’t we do whatever we could to keep ourselves from harm’s way?

Then, while perusing Pinterest, the following quote appeared on my feed:

“I’ve learned that when you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.”

This caused me to pause and reflect. What an interesting concept. When we attempt to make everything perfect, exactly as we want it to be in order to “control our world,” in reality, are we sabotaging our happiness? Until now, I’ve never seriously considered that controlling our lives would impact our level of pleasure. In fact, I thought the exact opposite. If I regulated as much of my day, my week, my month, my year (in essence, my life)… what I said… what I did… how I behaved… wasn’t that the golden ticket to a safe, comfortable existence? Perhaps, but where is the joy and happiness in this equation? Could we be unintentionally bargaining away joy and happiness by doing everything in our power to keep our lives predictable, the way we think they should be? Or, have we subconsciously sought to keep ourselves safe, setting strict boundaries to protect us from life’s uncertainties? Yet, it is through those exact moments, the ones that we least expect, are unsure how to handle, and have no control over, that we grow, increase our understanding of others and ultimately ourselves.

Letting go of the reigns and allowing life to “happen” can be an extremely frightening proposition. If we don’t do our best to influence the outcome of pending situations, won’t we blame ourselves if things don’t turn out as we hoped? But what if the final result ended up being better than we expected? Maybe what is actually meant to be, what we wouldn’t choose, is the exact thing we need at this time of our lives. Then if we are constantly struggling to control the consequence of every action or behavior, might we be missing out on our biggest opportunities to learn and grow? For if we always direct how things turn out, we’ll never know what beautiful possibilities we might be missing.

Letting go of controlling behaviors does not happen over night. It takes time, practice, intention, and patience. Recently, there have been two things in my life that my former self would have gone into over drive in an attempt to manage a “favorable” outcome, one that I’d be able to live with. But, instead of trying to orchestrate what will happen and when it will occur, I’m surrendering control and allowing these situations to run their course, the way they’re meant to proceed. And, do you know what? For the first time in ages, I’m not worrying. In fact, I’m pretty relaxed. Could it be that I’m learning to trust? Perhaps I’m finally ready to admit that I can’t make things perfect, do it all, or keep those I love and myself safe. And if I could, who’s to say that my definition of “perfect” is what’s best for all involved?

Still, the most positive side effect of my recent experiment is the freedom I feel. Instead of bearing all of the weight on my shoulders, feeling like it’s my responsibility to make sure everything turns out, there’s a lightness, an understanding that what will happen is what is meant to be. And, our job is not to solely navigate, but to embrace the possibilities, those beautiful moments that we can experience once we’ve abdicated control. It is through this release, this surrender that we can sit back, be, and survey the gifts that the Universe presents to us. Then the true action, our thoughtful response to these experiences, can occur. We can embrace the opportunities presented and allow ourselves to receive the love, joy, and happiness we’ve so often missed due to our attempt to control.


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