This week I worked with a client whose primary method for stress management is control. This is an effective strategy when it is possible to eliminate or remove a source of anxiety. For instance, when you want to start eating well you can remove the sugary food from your kitchen that might tempt you to stray. And as I was reminded yesterday, if you move breakable and messy things - like nail polish - out of the reach of your toddler, you are less likely to find yourself scrubbing bright pink off of your child and floors.
There are many situations in which control is not going to work, however. Often because they involve other people – of which you have no control over. Having children has been my greatest practice area for “letting go” of control. Most new parents desire to give their child a perfect upbringing, but the sooner you accept that there is no realistic way to protect them from all hurts, all negativity and all fear, the more peaceful you will feel.
The truth about the matter is, when you exert a lot of control over your environment you are going to miss out in the end. When you are unwilling to risk, you may protect yourself from hurt but you also lose the chance of the reward.
- If you never try something new in your career, you will miss out on discovering a new passion or skill.
- If you never show your true self in a relationship, you will never know if you are loved for who you really are.
- If you never let your kids venture outside your comfort zone, you and they will never know if they can do it on their own.
Some of the best experiences in my life have exceeded any dreams and happened in spite of my planning and not because of it. Heading to California to facilitate a leadership retreat this March was not something in my plans 6 months ago. Some of the best moments with my kids happened when we found ourselves somewhere we weren’t planning on being. Many of the most meaningful conversations with clients were unscripted and were totally in-the-moment.
You can choose to spend all of your time and energy controlling your environment and attempting to control those around you. Or, you can live in the moment and build deeper relationships with those closest to you by experiencing the ups and downs of life together.