Control and Free Will
Learning to understand what we have control over and what we do not is one of the epic challenges of being human. Figuring out what exactly it is that we have control over can actually be fairly anxiety-inducing. That’s because one of the things that makes us most human—free will—is something we share with everyone else and that can often make our experience unpredictable. We are constantly faced with people and situations over which we have no control—from our company downsizing to the over-eager driver who cuts us off at a traffic light.
To complicate things further, we are also at the mercy of how we interpret these experiences. We all see the world through a different lens and, while one person might see a layoff as a result of downsizing an opportunity to explore new employment opportunities, someone else might see it as a personal affront and commentary on their value as an employee, or even a person. We may find ourselves in a very angry frame of mind if our boss, who doesn’t have a family to support, retains his or her job, while we lose ours. That’s one of the keys to letting go of control—not taking things personally.
Barometer for Control
When we buy into the things we can’t control, we actually end up victimizing ourselves. One of our most powerful tools is developing the ability to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t then using it as a barometer for our experience. Most of us have a great many things in our lives we can control. Making a list of these—things like clothing, food or activity choices—can provide us with some perspective. It can also help us to recognize that choosing between doing something and not doing it empowers us even more because, even before we make a choice, we have to make the choice to make the choice.
Another powerful tool for developing some perspective around what we can and cannot control is exercising gratitude. That sounds like a platitude—‘be grateful’—but it can be a powerful tool in the recognition of what you have done to create your life as it is today. Gratitude of this kind is little deeper than giving thanks around a holiday dinner table. It means taking a daily inventory of those things that nourish us. Some people do this through prayer or meditation. Others journal or keep a gratitude jar in a central location, like in the kitchen or family room of their home. In fact, research shows that practicing this kind of deep gratitude on a regular basis has enormous emotional benefits that can help you counteract those moments when life starts to feel out of control and unmanageable.
Understanding what we have control over based on our decision-making gives us a contrast for recognizing what we can’t control. Once we have developed the awareness to differentiate between the two, we can take the perspective we’ve gained from understanding what we can control and release those things that we can’t.
Sometimes it is difficult to recognize the difference between life circumstances that we can control and those we can’t. At times like this counseling can offer great benefit. If you believe counseling could help contact us here or call us at 860-571-4646.