It’s becoming clear to me that much–if not all–of our suffering at work (and really everywhere) is caused by our desire to control our workday, ourselves and other people.
Yet in reality, we have no control.
Let’s start with our workday.
How much control do we have with what we get done at work each day?
We make plans and set goals, but how much of our day ends up going the way we originally thought or hoped it would? How often does the stuff we planned to do actually get done (or even started!)?
Yet we keep on making plans in order to control the next day.
How about ourselves?
While it seems as if we can control ourselves, when we look closely, is it true? Are we generally able to keep ourselves from feeling afraid of, annoyed with or angry at the colleagues and clients we deal with on a daily basis? Most of us barely notice those feelings, let alone keep them under our control. And we certainly can’t control the thoughts that come into our heads. Try to NOT think of a purple bear and let me know how it goes.
As to controlling others–fuggetaboutit!
We all have a long list of colleagues, employees, vendors, clients, friends and family that we try to control one way or another. We may even think it’s working. But that’s an illusion. Just like we can’t control whether our day goes as planned, or how much traffic there will be on our drive to work, or our thoughts–we can’t make others bend to our will, regardless of how much it’s “for their own good.”
So what can we do about it?
Well…we can keep on trying to control every one and every thing and hope that one day we’ll become the master of our universe. But perhaps it’s time to try something more radical…
What if we simply surrendered to what is?
Whhhaaaat? If you’re like me, you probably hate that word surrender. It may conjure up images of waving the white flag and eventually walking the plank! But given that the control we think we have is illusory, what’s the point in holding onto it?
When we think we’re in control and things don’t work out as planned, we feel like crap. We get angry or depressed and start blaming ourselves for not trying hard enough. Or worse, we blame those who wouldn’t do our bidding, and chalk it up to them purposefully being jerks.
All because something out of hands didn’t go the way we wanted.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling like crap. I prefer feeling happy. Luckily, it’s actually our default state of mind. Yet most of us don’t realize this, due to our minds being so busy trying to control everything.
When we’re so busy trying to control the uncontrollable, we have trouble tuning into our natural state of peace. Yet feeling good is always just one thought away.
Therefore, if trying to control our work, our lives and everyone in it makes us feel like crap, the way I see it is that we have two choices:
We can try and control those things better. (Good luck with that.)
We can give up the illusion of control and surrender.
We know this and even do this when it comes to the big things that feel outside of our control, e.g., the government, people getting old and dying, etc., but most of us haven’t realized that it’s the same with everything.
We really don’t control the universe, the world, or our own little sphere within them.
Just as we have very little political influence, we have little-to-no influence with our work and our families.
Believe it or not, our lack of control is good news!
It takes the onus off of us. When we stop trying to manage life like some sort of crazed cruise director, we suddenly feel better.
By allowing things to happen as they’re going to happen anyway, we have very little to feel bad about.
Before you get all up in arms that this sounds too passive and means we should never do anything about anything–that’s not what I’m saying. Nor am I saying we should let people walk all over us or bury our heads in the sand. Dealing with whatever arises is a good and positive thing. But that’s not the same as trying to control an outcome where we don’t actually have any control in the first place.
The beauty of surrendering is that we can start to see people and situations more for what they are, rather than what we want them to be. And when we stop trying to control them and just enjoy them, we’re often able to see the good parts we may have previously missed.
The illusion of control is one of the greatest mind tricks out there.
How much longer are you going to allow yourself to be fooled by it? Is there one thing or person in your life right now where surrendering to what is, might make you feel better? I bet if you are honest with yourself you’ll find one…or two…or three..or…
Let me know how it goes! – Jill