Letting Go of Things You Can’t Control

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.

Challenge of Change

Meeting the Challenge of Change

The challenge of Change, Dr. David Hovey West Hartford, CTOne of the only things we can be certain of is that change is inevitable. Good, bad or indifferent, nothing stays the same. When you think about that within the context of your life, it can be daunting— even overwhelming. Transition doesn’t have to be a struggle though. It can be an opportunity for growth, as well as renewal. The challenge of change you meet in your everyday life can be a source of inspiration for getting more out  of your day-to-day experience, as well as expanding your sense of who you are and your place in the world.

Relationships and Career

One of the most enduring aspects of our experience is our relationships, whether friendships or romantic partnerships. Sometimes those relationships cannot stand the test of time. There can be any number of reasons for this, but the outcome of a failed relationship is, ultimately, an ending. Whether you experience that ending for better or worse, it leaves a gap. That gap is where the work happens. It’s the place you enter into and find an opportunity for growth and change for yourself. It provides you with the chance to examine what happened—or didn’t happen—and what you’d like to see or do differently going forward. Change changes you, and, used as material for your own transformation, the changes you confront can be a springboard for growth, rather than something that keeps you stuck in your sorrow.

You may also identify strongly with what you do for work. It’s not uncommon to see yourself through the lens of your profession or career. When changes happen, like job loss, illness, injury or some other eventuality that take you out of that space, it can be confusing and, in some cases, even traumatic. What if you thought about losing your job or having to reinvent yourself because of some other issue as the best thing that could happen to you, as opposed to the worst? A simple shift in perspective in the face of overwhelming change can open the door to limitless possibilities for you and your life.


Probably one of the greatest life transitions we face is death. Losing a loved one, or even someone who is simply close to us, can be a traumatic experience. By the same token, confronting the possibility of our own death is, for most of us, a frightening thought. Many traditions, however, see death not as an ending, but as just another kind of change. In fact, the Buddhist tradition talks about ‘little deaths’, where every change we confront is like a death and should be treated with a balance of respect and possibility.

Challenge or Opportunity

There is little doubt that change can be difficult. Seeing the challenge of change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle can open up a world of possibilities. Rather than being stuck in grief in the face of change, we can access an occasion for reinvention, renewal and even personal revolution.

Are you in the midst of a life transition? Do you feel you need some guidance on your journey through grief or the changes you are confronting in your life? The experienced counselors at Greater Hartford Counseling Center can provide you with the support you may need to fully explore your understanding and personal potential.