Letting go of the struggle for control is not as hard as it may seem.
It begins with you making a decision to do so. The hardest part is putting your decision into action.
One of the main obstacles to action is failing to recognize the difference between what you can control and what you cannot control.
Falling back into the old control agenda where control is not possible is a surefire way to stay stuck and to allow anger to sidetrack you from what you want your life to be about.
To get unstuck and stay that way, you’ll need to develop greater ease in the early detection of situations where control is possible in your life; those are the places where you need to spend your time and effort working.
The exercise below is designed to help you to do just that. Think of it as a sort of review and preparation for the hard work to come.
Exercise: Differentiate between what you can and can’t control
Read each statement and then, without giving much thought, note the numbers which you believe and can be controlled by you. Don’t note the numbers where you think the situation is outside your control.
- What someone else is thinking
- The choices I make
- Others being on time
- How I respond to other people
- What other people value and care about
- What I say in a situation
- The thoughts I may have from time to time
- The direction I want my life to take
- How others respond to me (my choices, actions, and expressed thoughts and feelings)
- How I behave with respect to other people
- The choices others make
- How I speak with other people
- The behavior of pets (mine and others’)
- How I respond to my thoughts and feelings (positive, negative, neutral)
- Whether other people follow rules or standards
- Whether I am on time and follow through with commitments
- What others do
- Whether I follow certain rules or standards
- Whether other people like me
- Whether I prepare for tasks and do my best
- What I feel at any point
- What I do with my precious time on this earth
- Experiences in life that do not directly involve me (weather, equipment failures, political decisions)
- My values and what I care about
Now go back and look at the numbers that you noted. All the odd-numbered statements represent situations where you have absolutely no control.
You may imagine otherwise; but if you go back and think carefully, you will see that you truly do not have control in any of these scenarios.
Your mind may say you do or “should have” control of some of these odd-numbered situations. This is part of the problem. Remember, when you struggle to control what you cannot control, you will only end up feeling hurt, angry, and disappointed.
Anger needs this struggle to grow. When these situations show up, you need to recognize them for what they are, stop, and then look for places where you can exert control over your choices and actions with an eye on what you want your life to be about.
The even-numbered situations represent a sampling of life situations where you do have control. They share one thing in common: they represent your actions, what you say or do.