Who’s in control?
Monday, April 20, 2020
Who’s in control? Not you. And certainly not me. Yet most of us seek to control every aspect of our lives: where we live, where we work, who we befriend, how we dedicate our free time.
That sounds reasonable, right? But nevertheless, that is a full-time job. And if all that isn’t enough, we also seek to control the uncontrollable outside ourselves. Businesses fail or sell off, and you lose your job; you couldn’t control the fate of the company you worked for. Friends fall away for various reasons—changing values, betrayals, distance; you couldn’t control the life paths of your friends.
Neighborhoods deteriorate, and you can’t pinpoint why; maybe you desire to live elsewhere but can’t for whatever reason. Friendly get-togethers over cards or basketball are canceled — not because you canceled them, but because government authorities, outside your control, banned them in the days of social distancing protocols. In short, you should realize that there are many uncontrollable aspects to life.
And that fact has shaken and frightened many people who thrive on order, not chaos, in the mistaken notion that they can control the variables of life. You can only control your response, your reaction, to the uncontrollable.
Here are some suggestions to keep you focused:
Stick to the here-and-now. Do you have shelter today? Do you have food today? Don’t let your imagination fast forward to a month from now and get lost in what is frequently called “catastrophizing” — imagining the worst.
When you dwell on the worst possible future, your body responds accordingly — as if it’s happening in the present. Fear and panic rise up, leaving you paralyzed in a sea of overwhelming emotions. This is not conducive to rational, critical thinking.
Reassess your moral and spiritual underpinnings — the moral compass that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Are you living out what you profess to believe? Are your beliefs beneficial and accurate, or is this the time to reconsider and perhaps reformulate? Your mind is not an independent entity; you choose to adhere to some beliefs and rejects others.
For example, let’s say one of your closely held beliefs is that everyone is out to “get” you, so you’d better “get” them before they “get” you. Is that helpful in times of crisis and need? Might it be more rewarding to reach out to help others and likewise, accept offers of help from your fellow humans? Just a thought.
Honestly reappraise your skillsets and qualities that have helped you weather life’s previous storms. Which of those skills can you call upon now to improve your circumstances? Is it your creativity, your faith, your perseverance, or your raw determination? This is the time to let your inner source of strength shine.
Make a list — written or oral — of all the factors within your control and those not. Focus on the items on the “control” side of your list and execute meaningful actions to support those items.
It is not helpful nor productive to focus on doomsday scenarios and pessimistic friends who are only too glad to remind you how awful everything is. Misery really does love company, so purposely or not, they will pull you down farther into despair. Instead of allowing negativity to rule your life, focus on your own little sphere of self-reliance and resilience.
If you’re an adult, then you know that trials are a fact of life. Trying to control every variability in life is impossible and that predictable failure surrenders you to depression and fear. Learning to productively respond to life’s challenges dramatically improves your outlook on life. And isn’t a hopeful outlook on life something worthy to attain?
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