A lot of us spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to control what happens in our life. We may attempt to control what our partner and children do, what happens at work, how we look at all times, how our friends and family behave, and what other people think of us. Ultimately all of this is wasted time and energy because we can’t control these things. Worrying about them certainly doesn’t help, it just drains us.
All we can control and change is our self – our thoughts, beliefs, behaviours – how we react to people and situations. Once we realise this we can use our time and energy more wisely, focusing on improving our self and doing what we want with our life. This is a big key to freedom and happiness. It’s like the serenity prayer:
God help me to recognise the things I can control and the things I can’t
|Things I can change / control
|Things I can’t change / control
|What I think about myself
|What other people think of me
|My beliefs, opinions & expectations. How I react to & judge other people
|Speak honestly about my feelings & what I want. What I do to & for other people
|Other people’s feelings
|What I swallow today. What I do for exercise today
|My weight today
|Make amends for past actions. What I will do now & in the future
|What I did in the past
|The pain I feel from the past. What I say to people
|What others did in the past
|My level of independence. My ability to cope with what others do.How I behave.
|What other people do now & in future
|The people I spend my time with
|Who my family members are
|What I do to earn money
|Time wasted in a job I don’t like
|My activity & stress levels now & in the future. My diet
|Being sick today
|The present & what I do that may assist in a positive future
|Accept myself & take action to accomplish what I want
|What other people accomplish
|My level of gratitude for what I do have. How much I enjoy my life as it is.
|What other people have or do that I can’t do
|My attitude towards aging. Staying young at heart, fit & healthy
|Make the most of every day. My beliefs about what death means
More detailed explanations of some of the above:
- Your feelings – When a feeling has been triggered such as anger or grief, you have that feeling – you can’t wish or ignore it away. It’s there. You need to work through those feelings, allow yourself to feel them and release them in a healthy way. Once the feeling has passed you can then train yourself not to react that same way in the future, you can change your beliefs and thinking so that you don’t get angry or hurt by what someone else does or says.
- Your partner’s behaviour – When your partner does something that you don’t like, you can try to ignore it and say nothing. You can waste energy wishing they wouldn’t do whatever it was that upset you. You can waste energy trying to control them by telling them off and telling them what you think they should do. Or you can try to manipulate them so that they feel guilty or ashamed to behave the way they did. Ultimately all of these techniques will not work and will only cause larger problems. You can’t control anyone else’s behaviour, so you’re wasting your time. You’re better of to stop, look and listen to yourself. What has upset or annoyed you? Why? What do you assume your partner’s behaviour means? What has it triggered in you from the past? Is your judgment about the way it should be done reasonable? Learn from it. Then honestly discuss your feelings and your response to what they did with them. That way you can both learn about each other and resolve the issue.
- Expectations – Let go of conditional thinking – if I do ……….. then ………….. will happen. Life is not that simple and having expectations just sets yourself up for disappointment. Let it go and flow with life.
Prepared by: Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith, 2006, Letting go of control and worry, adapted from: Hendricks G & Johncock P, 2005, The book of life – the master key to inner peace and relationship harmony, The Transformational Book Circle, Ojal, California.