What are we all freaking out about?
In three days my youngest son will graduate from high school. I’m so happy for him and so proud of him.
I can close my eyes and vividly remember when he was a baby. When he was a little boy that I carried around my neck. Today trying that would give me a hernia. But in my mind, it went really quickly.
That’s just how this thing works. It goes faster than any of us thinks it will.
There is an inevitable letting go that I’m experiencing as my little guy keeps taking steps leading him out of the nest. If I’m being honest, it feels great to let go. It feels great to not be grasping for a control of things that I knew I could never have, but felt obligated to strive for. My desired outcomes for him. Those are fading, replaced with wishes for him to be strong on his own journey.
Much like a muscle that was clinched for far too long and when finally relaxed tingles and pulses, I’m a little high at the moment on my release of the need to control things outside of me. As you might imagine, this release has generated reflections on the habit of trying to control things that you can’t actually control.
How many things that we can’t control affect us?
Politics, sports (big one for me), celebrities, customers, co-workers, significant others, kids, the news, social media, what other people say about us and more.
How many things can we actually control?
Unless we plan on living in a cave somewhere, we aren’t going to stop things outside of ourselves affecting us. We want to be open to the world, to participate in it and to feel things.
But this equation of focusing on what we actually can control versus what we can’t control has to be watched very carefully for some very important reasons:
1) There is a never ending list of things in the world that we can’t control.
It’s very difficult to manage a never ending list, much less control it. Let’s assume that we aren’t going for complete removal of care for the world outside of ourselves. With the awareness that we can’t actually control these things, we can maintain a mental note that if it’s outside of us, we forego peace and focus when we let it get under our skin.
2) We have much more control of ourselves than we acknowledge.
The craziest thing about our emotional responses to things outside of us that don’t go our way, is how often we don’t actually control ourselves when we do in fact have control of ourselves. When we focus on the world rather than ourselves, we shift attention away from the opportunity to better control ourselves.
3) We develop control of ourselves by dedicating time, focus and effort towards it.
If we can embrace the first two points, and act on them, then we will have more time, focus and effort to place on ourselves, which is the one thing we can actually control. We don’t just decide to have great control of ourselves and then we have it. We have to practice.
What areas should we practice in? Hah, here’s the thing, that list is endless too.
We’ll never be perfect. If we were actually able to remove all concerns for anything outside of ourselves, and solely worked on ourselves, the list of things we could develop would go on forever. We should never be bored with the opportunities we have to improve our self-control.
4) The more control we develop of ourselves, the greater the impact we can make on the things outside of us that we care about.
Yup. While we can’t control things outside of us, we sure can make an impact on them. And our ability to do that is directly related to the self control that we develop.
Nowhere is this more true than parenting. You can’t control another human being, even if you give birth to them, but you can definitely make an impact on them if you develop your ability to respond properly to them and learn how to influence them intelligently and intentionally without reacting emotionally.
I’m thrilled that even though I didn’t do as much of this as I would have liked over the last eighteen years, my little guy still turned out pretty darn cool. Just goes to show, I don’t need to be in control of things for them to turn out just fine 😎.
Today, consider taking the energy you normally use to wrestle with something outside of you, and redirect that to a patient observation of one thing you could better control inside of you…
Have A Grateful Day!