Who’s in control here?
There are few things in life that we can truly control. That’s a tough lesson for people who like to have things go just so, without a hitch and on time. And while serendipity sometimes cooperates and things work out as desired, we are never fully in control – or are we?
Obviously, we can control our own behavior, what we say and what we do. We make decisions about how we spend our time, our money and with whom we interact. We try to take control of our health and safety – but we can’t prevent all the illnesses, accidents and unexpected snafus life doles out. The point being that making good choices is one thing, controlling outcomes is another.
There are a lot of everyday things we can’t control. Here are but a few that come to mind.
I confess to being a news-junkie and I read a variety of online sources, but there are days when it’s an incredibly dark news cycle and I can’t help but feel frustrated and powerless. I’m sure many of you can relate to this. There is no shortage of things going wrong in our world.
I know I can’t control what’s happening in the world, but I can control my exposure to the news. I can also control how I choose to react to events in the news and how much I let upsetting stories affect my mood and my actions.
Sometimes it’s finding ways to help make positive changes in the world and sometimes it’s just unplugging and taking a break from the seemingly unending flow of bad news.
There’s no question that we can’t control the weather, but when plans for an outdoor event or vacation are upended due to whatever weather system is moving in, we can choose how we react and regroup.
We can put our disappointment into perspective.
There are far worse things than a rain delay or a cancelled flight. Disappointment is an unwelcome guest but it doesn’t have to hang out forever. Sometimes, the weather controls us. And that’s a good reminder that we really have no say in this category – thank you, mother-nature.
There’s no way to know or control how long you’ll be waiting for just about anything. Will your doctor/dentist/car technician/hairdresser be on time? Who knows? So, when headed for an appointment, why not plan ahead and catch up on email, start on next month’s book club selection or do today’s Wordle?
The same goes for long lines at airports or check-out, being put on hold for customer service calls or waiting for a table at a restaurant. When we can’t control, we can learn to be patient – the rarest of virtues.
Traffic and other drivers.
Some of the most frustrating of daily interactions are those we face behind the wheel. We cannot control the flow of traffic, the speed others drive or how fast the lights change. We can’t control drivers who don’t know when it’s their turn at a four-way stop, how to park between the lines or those who won’t tear themselves away from texting as they careen down the road.
We can however, choose to be safe, defensive drivers and though it can be awkward, we should remind our spouses and friends to avoid distractions when they are the ones at the wheel. Sometimes being a backseat driver is acceptable – as when it may save lives. Okay, PSA over.
Comments on social media.
This is a tricky one – because we absolutely cannot control the comments we get in response to our posts on social media – and there are some real beauties. We can control what we choose to post, who we choose to follow and how much we let keyboard warriors get under our skin.
We can always use the “unfollow”, “unfriend” and “block user” options when things get really dicey – or as with news consumption, try unplugging for a while. And dare I suggest interacting face-to-face as a more friendly option?
What other people think of us.
Perhaps the most upsetting thing to accept is that we can’t control what others think of us. How they treat us and whether or not they like us. Just give up trying to control that right now. There is nothing we can do to make people like us if they’ve already made up their mind.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be friendly and kind to people. This is about people who have rejected friendly and kind overtures. My advice (to myself and others) has always been; stop trying so hard.
Some people are like the typical cat, they tend to snub those who want to get close, but they’ll lie on the keyboard when you don’t want them around. Dogs, on the other hand will love-slobber most everyone equally.
So be like a dog, and not like a cat. I’m kidding – but we can learn a lot from our canine companions. They happily accept that humans control the kibble and walk schedule and they fully trust us to deliver what they need. Maybe they know something we don’t?
So what’s the take away from all of this? Maybe it’s simply accepting that each day unfolds with new situations and circumstances that we can’t predict or control.
This can be an unnerving or encouraging revelation depending on how you approach life.
Are you a planner with checklists and tight schedules or are you more of a go with the flow type? Both approaches have their merit, but we all have to accept that life is unpredictable.
The only things we can truly control are our actions. To me, that’s both freeing and empowering.