Why does “control” have such a lousy street cred? Why is it so negatively charged? Wanting control over a situation is typical, essential even. However, when mixed in with perfectionism, desire to perform, lack of trust for others, and fear of failure, “Control” gets a bad rep. We lose track of what is “really” under our control when control is no longer a verb (to control) but becomes an adjective (controlling).

Imagine driving your dream convertible on a beautiful sunny day on the Californian coast. Blasting through the speakers is your favorite playlist. You are singing at the top of your lungs, and you think to yourself, you sound pretty good (while muffled by the strong wind). The vista is impressive; the pleasant sun rays warm your skin. Your car is hugging the road as you handle every curve with precision. You are in perfect control.

Skreeeeeeeeeeeetch!

You hit the brakes! —traffic jam. You get frustrated. This is not what you envisioned. This is not your perfect plan. Why are there people (with their agenda) in your way? “Move it, mister!” Honk! Hoooooooonk!!!! Overhead, clouds move in. Thunderclap! And it starts pouring rain! Are you f*&?ing kiddin’ me?

Does this feel familiar?

Try this. Take a pen and list out the things you can undoubtedly control. Here is my list:

  • My attitude
    • How I treat others, how I treat myself
    • My work ethic, how I act in life, at work, and in a professional environment
    • My mindset
  • My wellbeing
    • How much exercise do I do (or don’t do)
    • What I eat
    • When I go to bed
    • Do I meditate and write my journal
    • Are my hobbies fulfilled?
    • Do I show gratitude to life, myself and others,
  • My language, my actions: the words I choose, the things I do, how I behave.
  • My energy: how will I push myself to accomplish anything I put my mind onto.

Attitude, Words, Actions, Behaviors, Efforts.

are a short list of the few things we control

And do you see what is common to all these things? These aspects of control are all personal to us. So am I saying we control ourselves and nothing else? Yep, that is what I am saying.

What about the rest? Well, some of it, we only can manage.

Going back to my story. We had perfect control over our experience, the choice of music, the speed and handling of the car, the route we took. Picture perfect. Until we hit the elements we could not control, the traffic jam, the rain. In this example, you cannot control traffic; it can only be managed. And what happens when we try to control the “only manageable”? We lose control.

Everything and every situation you do not have 100% influence over can only be managed.

The managers reading this right now will surely relate, for the rest of you, think about supervising a team of dozens of people and trying to bring everybody to follow the plan, the client’s directions, the budget, and the schedule without losing your mind. It feels like trying to survive against heavy odds! Under these conditions, can we blame anybody for becoming controlling?

Now think about all the times you tried to control the manageable. How did this turn out for you? Not good, he?

To manage is to exercise executive direction, treat with care, make and keep compliant, and work upon or try to alter for a purpose.

Here is a list of things we can manage:

  • Priorities
  • Deadlines
  • Expectations
  • Budget
  • Commitment
  • Stress
  • Communication
  • Your team
  • Your client
  • Your kids
  • Your relationships

You might think you can manage it all! It’s cold outside; dress warmly. Is it too warm? Wear shorts. Tsunami alert? Nope, not much you can do about this one. And will you have time to manage ”everything” with only 24 hours per day?

Probably not, and this is why you have to learn to let go.

Years ago, I traveled to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. In a taxi from the airport, we are stuck in heavy traffic. So I ask the diver if there is often traffic like this. He answers:” I don’t know.” I am surprised. “You don’t? How can this be possible? Aren’t you driving around the city every day? How can you not know if there is traffic like this usually”. And he replied:

‘’Because traffic is like the weather, I cannot control it. Therefore I decided not to pay attention to it.’’ –

Windy City’s Wisest Man

I was mindblown by the simplicity and wisdom of this statement. This man was truly aligned with his reality and clearly understood his level of influence and control. Yet, he decided to control what he could, his attitude, and decided to go even beyond managing the traffic; he decided to let go of it altogether! He was so calm, and I never felt so relaxed leaving a taxi after an hour-long ride stuck in a cab.

Pick your battles.

Please identify what you control and get on top of it. Then, see what matters for you the most, how you can manage it to the best of your capacity, and learn to let go of the rest. Be focused. Focus is about controlling things that matter, so your energy and time are spent on something important to you.

Make yourself this gift, think about one thing you can let go of and set it free. You’ll feel 100 pounds lighter.