I’m delighted to present this guest post by Bob Lowry, who writes Satisfying Retirement. Although Bob’s blog focuses on all aspects of leading a fulfilling life in retirement, I read his blog long before I retired because I found that much of his wisdom applies to life at any stage.
We want control...control of our life, our future, our health, our time, our relationships, even our thoughts. Being in control means what we want to happen will. So, we go through our day believing the force of our personality or intellect, or some cosmic plan will insure the outcome we desire. We are part of a culture that preaches we determine how we live. It is all about my needs and me.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Thinking we are in control and believing our needs alone determine what will happen is an illusion. When suddenly something happens that forces us to recognize our life is not unfolding the way we expect, we are faced with tension and anxiety. A major health emergency, the loss of a job, the failure of a relationship, or financial plans going awry are part of living. Suddenly, there is a strong lack of certainty over our decision-making. Our life seems to lack consistency: we don’t have a sense that today will be like yesterday or tomorrow.
Does that mean it is best to simply accept whatever comes your way? Is it silly to make plans or set goals? Absolutely not. Being happy may not mean you control everything that happens in your life, but you certainly can influence it. You can prepare for change and learn to adapt to what happens.
What can we realistically hope to control? Our attitude and reactions are two major elements under our influence. As Galen has made abundantly clear in this blog, what we think about in large part determines how well we are navigating the ten steps to happiness. Then what are some ways we can take to understand the true meaning of control?
You can’t control other people. Even your children or grandkids will only follow some of what you suggest is best for them. What you can do is control how you react to whatever that other person is doing. In some cases you may find it is best to simply spend little or no time someone whose actions leave you continuously upset and agitated.
If you are faced with a major problem, break it into smaller pieces. You are much more likely to be able to control how something unfolds if you deal with each smaller part of a situation, one at a time.
Look at the issue causing you concern with a fresh perspective. If controlling its effect on your happiness and contentment is not possible, you can decide to make it less important in your life. You can control how much time or energy you invest in worrying about it. Place it lower on your priority list.
Understand you are not alone. If you are a religious person, you already understand that God has ultimate control over the world and what is happening. It is very liberating to give up what is troubling you when you accept that a power much greater than you is actually in charge. Your burden is not yours to carry alone. Having friends to lean on helps tremendously. Sharing your frustrations and hurt with someone else who cares deeply for you is very cleansing and empowering. Your friend’s empathy lets you see that you matter and you are loved.
Acceptance of how the world works, and even your ability to be happy, comes from understanding one very basic fact of being a human being: there is a critical difference between believing you are in control and understanding that only some things are controllable. Wisdom is grasping the difference. Happiness is accepting it.
Bob Lowry writes the blog Satisfying Retirement. He is the author of Building a Satisfying Retirement available through Amazon and is a contributor to the new book, 65 Things To Do When You Retire. Bob and his wife live in Scottsdale, AZ.
related posts: The Things I Cannot Change; Man Plans, God Laughs
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
The Illusion of Control
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Galen: Thank you. I am now following Bob's blog. My wallet is loaded with memories.ReplyDelete
Thank you, JJ. Just make sure you come to Galen's blog first. She is an awesome writer.Delete
JJ, You will enjoy Bob's blog.Delete
Bob, Thanks for the kind words.
Hi Galen.....I could not agree more with what Bob has to say in this post. A therapist of mine many years ago told me "control is an illusion....the only thing you can control is your behavior"ReplyDelete
I put that in my memory bank and have pretty much believed it ever since.
We can control our behavior. The question is, do we? There are too many folks who still believe they pull the strings.Delete
I see from your blog profile you spend your winters in Arizona. Maybe next year you and hubby can get together with me and my wife of 35 years! Thanks for your comment.
Jo, I can see that Arizona is where the cool people hang out! Thanks for commenting.Delete
I enjoyed Bob's article very much. It is certainly true. We want control. And when we find that we are not able to control fully, we get frustrated. But the more we grasp, the more desperate we become. We end up losing more in the process. We give up peace, being joyful in the moment.ReplyDelete
And as Bob correctly points out, understanding that control is an illusion doesn't mean that we don't do anything to influence our outcomes either. We can learn to take charge of ourselves, our own happiness and how we respond to life.
As you note, giving up would be just as pointless as believing we can control everything. Happiness is quite achievable even in a world that seems to do its best to prevent it.Delete
Evelyn, You comment complements Bob's article so nicely. There is a balance between being responsible for what we can do to bring about good outcomes, while at the same time recognizing that the actual outcomes are not within our control. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Wonderful post Bob & a beautiful blog Galen!ReplyDelete
It's my first visit here through your link on my blog Galen, and its nice to know more about you through your blog. I like your concept of the 10 steps to find your happy place :)
Coming to the post Bob, I totally agree with you about the llusions people have of control. Yes, to a certain degree control is what each one of us wants, and when we don't get it- it leads us to frustration, pain, and unhappiness in our lives.
I guess we need to understand that some things are just not in our hands, they are uncontrollable, and we ought to let those things remain as they are without really trying to change them. Instead, changing ourselves and adapting to that change willingly and happily, would do us more good.
I absolutely agree with you about not trying to control or change other people, which is again most of us don't understand. I think we try to control other people and want to change them according to what we like or want, which results in either conflicts or misunderstandings with the other person. The only answer lies in changing yourself and your ways to adapt to the situation. Nothing works better. :)
Thanks for sharing :)
Your most recent blog post is an excellent overview of failure, which fits so well with this topic. Failure to accept others for who they are leads to way too many relational breakups and issues. Failure to accept how things are instead of how we'd like them to be is the great illusion.Delete
Harleena, So glad you stopped by and read Bob's excellent article. I look forward to reading more on your blog.Delete
Thanks for sharing this post Galen. As usual, many words of wisdom. I understand what Bob is saying here. Sometimes we forget that we can't control things. There is someone in my life who is quite controlling and hasn't learned this lesson yet. It would cause a lot more friction than it does except that I know I can't control their controlling! I can choose how I behave towards it though and this has helped to diffuse certain situations.ReplyDelete
Your wisdom in handling the relational tension is to be applauded. I have struggled with being a controlling person all my life. Only through my faith and the love of a good woman (my wife!) have I been slowly able to get this tendency in check. But, it will be a life-long struggle.Delete
Well said--you can't control their controlling. I'm going to remember that, and probably repeat it! Thanks for your comment.Delete
The life changers for me - for better and for worse - have been the things I can't control. Might as well let go and enjoy whatever comes along!ReplyDelete
Your recent trip to Ecuador is a good example of putting yourself in a situation where you knew you would be out of control for awhile. Living in a foreign house, in a foreign country, trying to communicate in a foreign language = lack of control. Good for you.Delete
Linda, So true, so true. Like one of my favorite sayings, "When you're getting run out of town, get in front and make it look like a parade! Thanks for your comment.Delete
We have total control over how we respond and this control make much more difference than what happens to us.ReplyDelete
Absolutely, we have total control over how we respond. But it takes maturity and work to exercise that control.Delete
For me the first thing to learn was to be aware of my own responses. Then I could learn how to change them.Delete
I completely agree with "can't control other people" and believe in breaking major problems into bite-sized pieces. Happiness is my favorite DIY project. I loved this post, Galen. And thank you, Bob. What a pleasure to read your tips! I've followed Bob's links on Twitter and enjoyed his recommendations. Looking forward to being connected, Bob!!ReplyDelete
Thanks again, Galen!
"Happiness is my favorite DIY project." I love that image. It really is a work in progress isn't it. Thank you, Vidya.Delete
Vidya, I'm with Bob--love the DIY happiness project.Delete
I forget all that the time I that control is an illusion. Just ask my ego! Nice post Bob.ReplyDelete
The ego is a force that probably deserves its own series of posts...Galen?Delete
Ha, no kidding! Actually, I have been going through A Course in Miracles again this year, which is very much about shifting away from an ego driven life.Delete
Just ran across this quote. "Enlightenment is the ego's ultimate disappointment." Chogyam TrungpaDelete
Great post Bob. I always say, "God grant me the wisdom to know what I can control and turn over to you what I have no control over."ReplyDelete
I agree, our attitude is the most important. When things come down the highway sometimes we have move over and let them by and other times we need to exit the highway until the dust has settled.
Thank you for the words of wisdom. Using these words we can always find that happy place in every day.
Blessings to you both,
Thanks, Debbie. Your kind comments bring happiness...see how easy that was!Delete
Debbie, You are already an expert on living in your happy place!Delete
Thanks Bob... lovely to meet you :-) I think it helps to have a belief in something bigger than ourselves... and a grand master plan that encompasses pretty much everything. Faith [and I'm not necessarily talking about the religious kind] but faith in our selves and our world and other people in it... the relaxing of control and the subletting of that control over to the divine presence that has got us this far... [albeit not without some measure of struggle and pain] but still... we're here aren't we. We made it [this far]. And that's got to be a good thing LOL Great topic Bob. Thank you.ReplyDelete
One of the reasons I spend a fair amount of time involved in prison ministry is a belief in working for the good of something beyond self. I have very little control over what these fellows eventually do with their life. I just have to give it my best shot and realize I can't control the outcome.Delete
Thanks, Jean. I just popped over to your blog. I think I may have found something new to read! I'm liking what I see.
Bob and Jean, So glad you met each other here!Delete