I have always been a control freak. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always tried to manipulate the situation so that it would turn out as I had expected it to.
Looking back, its a bit embarrassing thinking about how I strong-armed my in a few situations.
One example I recall was when I first moved to Austin, Texas, and my dad came to visit me.
There’s a restaurant near us that serves amazing tex-mex food. One of their specialties is Chicken Fried Steak. So, for anyone who is unfamiliar with what Chicken Fried Steak is, it’s a steak that has been breaded & deep-fried – like you would do to fried chicken – and then covered in cream gravy.
I hadn’t had it. It was waay too unhealthy for me to even try. But everyone raved about how good it was. And because everyone else liked it, I thought he would like it too.
So, I brought him to this restaurant for lunch & basically forced him to order Chicken Fried Steak.
AND THEN – Get this – was I was upset with him when he scraped all of the breading and cream gravy off of the meat! Ha!
I wish I could say that that experience was a turning point for me, but it wasn’t until many years later that I cringed at my behavior.
For the past few years, I’ve adopted the idea of having an ‘inspirational totem’ as a theme for the year.
An Inspirational Totem is a concept that I first learned about from my business coach, and mentor. The idea behind it is that you choose a theme, and something (a personal quality or value) that you want to work on, or overcome within the coming year.
It’s not like a resolution in that there’s no goal – there aren’t any steps or habits to practice. It’s just that when we find ourselves stuck, feeling unsure, or maybe even accomplished, we can call on our totem.
So, here’s an example:
Two years ago, I’d decided that 2015 was going to be the year of abundance. I have scarcity tendencies: not having enough food, clients – I should be doing more – just as examples. So, I thought that abundance would be a good quality to focus on. And it is. But another totem seemed to pick me.
Just Do It.
Another thing that kept me stuck was my procrastination. What I realized was that I was procrastinating on those things that were causing me anxiety. And with the negative feedback loop that naturally happens with anxiety, I was trying to avoid it. Unfortunately, with many things, I still needed to do whatever it was that needed get done. I was only avoiding the anxiety temporarily. It was still going to be there when I had to do whatever it was that I needed to do. And the procrastination only delayed feeling the anxiety. But what’s worse, is that the procrastination actually made the anxiety even worse because either I was working on a deadline, or maybe even passed the deadline and had let someone down.
The procrastination wasn’t serving me. So, when I felt the tug to procrastinate, or put off a task, I’d do two things: check in to see if this task was making me anxious, and tell myself that I’m going to do it anyway, so Just Do It.
So, that’s where the totem worked for me.
This year, something that keeps coming up for me is letting go of expectations, letting go of trying to force either my viewpoint on someone, or force something to happen, and trying to control others. Because wouldn’t you rather have someone show up because they want to be there instead of showing up out of guilt, resentment, or any other reason & just not wanting to be there?
Its similar to the phrase, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”
Currently, I’m using this totem as a meditation and breathing technique: Breathe In – “Let”; Breathe Out – “Go”.
I already have the practice of taking a few slow breaths when I find myself getting wound up. This is just another layer of stress management.
By letting go of expectations and letting happen what is going to happen anyway, I’m finding that everything is a little less stressful. By trusting that the universe knows what to do, I’m releasing control over things that I really have no control over and little influence.
Because the opposite of control isn’t chaos. The opposite of control is trust.
Let’s say that I’m on a new diet, and I’ve been invited to a party. If I don’t trust that I’ll be okay – that I won’t be able to find something to eat, then the solution is to control the situation.
- I can pack up my meal into tupperware containers & eat only my food, drink only my beverages and be safe in knowing that I can be successful on my diet. [no trust, all control]
- I can bring a dish that I know I can eat, and then once at the party decide if there’s anything else that I can eat other than the food that I brought. [some trust, some control]
- I can eat something before hand knowing that I’ll probably get hungry while at the party, but still be fairly sure that I won’t go off plan. [more trust, less control]
- I can show up without any food and know that it will be okay. [all trust, no control]
When trying to control situations and people, everything feels forced – like a struggle. Acknowledging that we have absolutely no control over what other people do, is actually quite freeing, and reduces stress.
By acknowledging that the only things I have control over are my thoughts, actions, and responses, I can focus more on my those things . Without the distractions of trying to control others, I can spend more time on developing the person that I want to become.
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