One of life’s harsher truths is that there are many aspects of life that fall outside of our locus of control. Although we each have the power to make choices that influence the outcomes of certain circumstances, our environments can throw twists into life that can leave us feeling vulnerable. During stressful times, we may feel desperate and defensive, searching to regain charge of life. Some circumstances are entirely out of our control, such as when an illness befalls a loved one. However, we are entirely in control of our attitude. Difficulty in accepting limitations of control can be the result of fears, anxiety, and perfectionism because control gives us the illusion of security.
Frequently, control issues reveal themselves in relationships with others. Strategically influencing others to follow the path that is most in your favor causes problems. The key to overcoming control issues is learning to accept the things in life that you cannot change. Accordingly, resisting acceptance of the outcomes over which you are powerless can leave you to dwell on the past and it can also create worry about the future.
There are some tools to help you accept what you cannot change and focus on what you can control:
1. Practicing mindfulness is one way to work on acceptance, let go of some control and manage anxiety about the future. Focus on all of your senses in this moment. What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? What do you feel in your body? It is natural for the mind to wander, but when it does, gently redirect that attention back to the present moment. This practice impacts a sense of acceptance and appreciation for what “is” as opposed to what we want it to be.
2. When noticing frustration or disappointment about a circumstance, ask yourself what you can change within yourself that will improve the situation. Will an adjustment to your perspective improve the way you feel? Most likely it will.
3. Get busy. What do you enjoy doing? If you enjoy exercise, a hobby or time with friends or family, then get going and enjoy one of these activities. As we engage in activities we enjoy, we shift from an anxious state of mind to one in which we can access our reasoning and put things into perspective. This is valuable in helping us to let go of things that are outside of our control.
4. Sometimes the very best things happen when we are not in control. Things can turn out surprisingly well, or better than had we charted the course. Even when the circumstances are not what we would have wanted, we can grow and learn from the challenges.
It can be stressful when you are faced with a situation where all you can do is wait to see what happens. The future is uncertain and even though that may lead you to feel apprehensive, just remember that when you worry about what is uncertain, you have the option to focus on what is certain. Feelings of insecurity may be unavoidable, but have faith in yourself that you can withstand whatever life brings you.