“There is only one way to happiness
and that is to cease worrying about things
which are beyond the power of our will.”
Epictetus, Greek sage and Stoic philosopher, born a slave (55-135 C.E.)
If we don’t like our world today, our tendency is usually to try to force things to bend to our will.
When things aren’t going the way we like, we immediately begin to fret and fume and cast blame upon others – as if this will change anything
Most of all, we worry over the most insignificant things,
an offhand remark
or some perceived slight.
All of this adds up to a mountain of ill-will, all of it negative and counter-productive
I would like to offer you one simple recommendation today
that I would like you to take to heart:
Stop trying to control everything.
It isn’t possible to control everything in our lives anyway.
We can only really hope to put into place changes in our own behavior, not someone else’s.
So, why take on the burden of the weight of the world?
Why add to our own plate what we think are the mistakes or missteps of others with whom we interact?
Who are we, anyway, to believe that we have all the answers or that only our way of doing things is the right way?
A good example of what I am meaning is the state of our Economy in the USA.
We can stew and fret over it all we want.
We can blame the politicians for overspending…
BUT, how are you doing with your very own finances?
Are you saving at least 20% of your income?
Are you sticking to a budget?
See what I mean.
We erroneously believe that griping and complaining about a situation will somehow magically change things.
We need to first get control of ourselves, before we try to control others.
I think that we have gotten the idea that we’re more important to the universe and the course of humanity in general than we actually are.
In fact, each of us is but a itsy bitsy part of a vast world.
That does not mean to imply that any one of us or our efforts, individually or collectively, are unimportant.
That is absolutely not the case.
But we are not responsible for the actions of others, only our own.
When we try to control what others say and think and do, we’re overstepping our boundaries.
Not only that, but it’s totally pointless.
When did it ever turn out that others who bent to our will and dictates ever…
a) Learned anything from it,
b) Felt good about it, or
c) Changed their actions dramatically as a result?
Now, compound the problem by continuing to fret over what we cannot control
and we’ve found ourselves in a vicious and never-ending cycle.
Why in the world would any reasonable man or woman want to do that to themselves?
Here’s another reason to stop trying to control everything:
It makes us exceedingly unhappy.
When we’re always looking at why people don’t do things the right way (aka, our way),
or become frustrated because we feel they aren’t acting fast enough,
Or decide to become offended because they don’t have the right attitude,
What’s the net result?
We continue to worry and stew, lash out verbally and possibly physically, and the situation never resolves itself.
If we are successful in bullying those whom we’re trying to control
and get them to somehow acquiesce,
they usually do so grudgingly,
and no doubt will be harboring ill will towards us as a result of our bullying.
That’s never a good sign!
So what should we do when we are finally able to acknowledge our tendency to try to control everything and have begun to recognize that this is counter-productive to our long-term happiness?
What can we do to stop this bad practice?
The first step in changing our behavior is always to recognize that we need and want to change it.
Then we need to identify ways in which we can begin to effectively change what we think and do to into a behavior that is something more proactive and desirable.
Then, of course, comes the hard part:
actually doing what we’ve identified as positive behavior
that will yield a more desirable outcome.
Another benefit of quitting our incessant need to control everything
is that we’ve freed up a lot of energy we can devote
to more meaningful activities and pursuits.
We have more room to fill up our soul with the joy of life.
I am a die-hard control freak.
In my twenties my friends and family used to make up jokes about how clean and perfect my home always was.
I never allowed one thing to be out-of-place for a minute…
Then I became a mother!
My perfect house went up in smoke, and I was forced to accept the fact that if I wanted my child to be healthy emotionally,
I was going to have to let go of my obsessive need for perfection all the time.
That was extremely difficult for me.
But, since I was so passionately in love with my little boy, I knew I had to learn to let go and stop controlling everything.
Now let’s fast forward to my forties…
I am no longer a slave to perfection.
Sure there are times when I long for the good old days when my house was perfect, my appearance was perfect, my life was all neatly controlled…
But then I get over it really fast…because my life is now filled with adventure.
(Sometimes the adventure is simply trying to walk through my children’s rooms and not kill myself)
But the fact remains that I am a lot happier now that I have learned to let bygones be bygones.
I used to spend the entire weekend polishing and perfecting my home, just in case “THEY” stop by for a visit!
Now I spend my weekends making memories with Jeff and the kids.
Together we explore the world, create projects, or just go for a ride together.
Incredible change happens in your life
when you decide to take control of what you do
have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.