We like to believe that we are in control and have some sort of say in the way things will turn out on a day-to-day basis. Many of us get frustrated when things do not go our way and we do whatever we can to try and change the situation to produce the outcome we were hoping for. I have come to realize that the more I add in my life the more control I need to relinquish to an external source or sources. Though I will mention God in this post know that I am not pushing that on anybody. We all believe in some source of energy or power that gives us strength, for me that is Jesus Christ.
With my work, I have realized that there are things that I am good at and things that would be better handled by someone who is either better at it than I am or enjoys doing the type of task more than I. I have relinquished control in some areas of my personal life as well. For example, I know how to change the oil in my truck, but it’s not the best use of my time, so I take it somewhere that will do it a fraction of the time for a fee. I believe that life should be a healthy balance of control and the relinquishing of control. The problem is that I am kind of bad at relinquishing control.
I remember being told to “focus on the things you can control,” which basically means don’t mess with things that are too hard. While there is some truth to the statement in certain situations, it can not be a hard rule for life. There are some things that may seem uncontrollable that you will need to take control of. You can’t walk away from everything.
When it comes to rising up and controlling external situations, I am pretty good at that. I can run meetings, give talks to groups of people, organize teams, and just about anything else that is external. I have been learning that I am not that great at controlling myself, especially when it comes to my mind. From the outside looking in, most people would probably say that I look like I am relatively in control of my life, but I am not. I am learning that I have actually been losing control over the course of my life, hanging on by a few threads.
I have a busy mind. I mean we all do right? When are we not thinking about something that we have to do or something that someone else needs? Especially after we become parents. There just isn’t time for it. We spend all of our mental energy keeping everything else external alive and neglect ourselves in the process. The world has also given us countless outlets we can use to medicate ourselves with rather than spending that leftover time with ourselves. Do we ever have to be alone with ourselves? Not really, there is an app for that.
I have always led myself to believe that I had relinquished control over most things. I would tell myself that I would do my best and that the rest was up to God. Hard work and faith was my mantra. When I would have a couple of tough months financially and then get a big job, I would thank the Lord, but inside I also knew it was because I had done the work to get me to that point and it was only a matter of time before I would get new work.
I have always kept myself busy. Even when I was a kid, I always had to be doing something, even if I was by myself. As I grew older, I actually felt good about the fact that I was ok being by myself. I worked well by myself. I liked to read. I even traveled by myself. I was fine around people and I was fine by myself. I was “fine” until recent months when I started digging into myself a bit more. I may get into why I started digging into myself in the first place in another post, but it was bound to happen anyway. Getting married, having my first child, and turning thirty all in a two-year span definitely changed me. Now that I am closer to forty and am a year away from celebrating ten years of marriage, I have been looking inward a bit.
This last week I realized that I don’t actually like to be by myself. The more I looked at every situation where I was by myself I realized that every moment of that alone time was filled with a distraction of some sort. I recalled situations where I was home alone while my family was gone and I would just binge watch a show on Netflix. In the moment I would justify it as finally having time to watch a show I was interested in but I knew my wife wouldn’t be. I also fill just about every other time with something. Escaping from myself ranges from listening to loud music to consuming an entire season of a tv show. It’s not often that I have the kind of time to consume a season of a show, but it has happened a few times since Netflix Streaming became a thing.
I realized that I also tend to avoid groups of people as well. I don’t do well at mixers and social events unless I know people outside of that situation. I will fight through it and have a few conversations, but I usually dip out early. When I travel for work, I look forward to some alone time but quickly change course to wishing I was back home with my wife and children. You are probably starting to see the pattern here. I don’t have much control in this area of my life.
When the stakes are high, I can quiet my mind and focus extremely well on the task at hand. The problem is that the stakes usually have to be high. I perform well under the intensity of the situation. It’s when things are idle that I have a problem. When there is money in the bank and none of my clients have immediate needs, that is when I have issues focusing. This is when I decide that I don’t like my phone and perhaps I should go buy a new one. Maybe my laptop just frustrated me so it’s probably a good time to switch platforms from Apple to Microsoft. My downtime has to be consumed with something, and it’s not a healthy way to exist.
I also find myself filtering what is happening around me. I often focus on the immediate needs and filter out everything else. I will admit that I self-correct quite quickly in this area. I tend to be more self-aware in this area and can see when I have gone too far down a rabbit hole.
I overgeneralize things often by taking a single fact and making the entire situation revolve around that single fact. Sometimes I am right in focusing on that individual item, but other times it is to my own demise. I also can overgeneralize my weaknesses and put too much emphasis on a single flaw rather than looking at the bigger picture. This is why I am often all in, or nothing at all with most things. If I can’t be all about it, I’m not about it at all.
I am also good at magnifying and minimizing things often blowing something out of proportion or giving something else too little consideration.
I take things personally. Even though I have a thick skin from years of putting myself out there in the business world and on the internet, I still initially take things as a personal attack. Sometimes things are a personal attack, such as a troll in a YouTube comment trying to hurt my feelings. Other times I take a simple criticism as if I was just told my entire life has been done wrong.
Besides having a false sense of control I also allow myself to believe that there are external situations controlling me and keeping me from what I really want. Internally, and sometimes externally, I blame my inability to achieve certain goals on having to work to pay the bills and keep everything above water. These frustrations usually come out of me being frustrated over some overgeneralization I made about some other aspect of my life (If you are confused by all of this, try being in my head).
Most of us have a picture we have painted of the kind of person we want to be. Some of us are very good at seeing every detail of that picture and can visualize how each brush stroke relates to their life. They know just how each aspect of this painting will come to life and the kind of fruit every detail will produce. I, on the other hand, see myself as an 8-bit image these days. I know that there is a shape there that I want to resemble, but I can’t see the details clearly.
As a man, I am good at compartmentalizing things. Everything has its own box and stuff goes in those boxes. Boxes are easy to go between, but it’s hard to see from one box into another without leaving it. This way of dealing with things may have taken root at an early age for me because there are habits I have that are deeply rooted and are at the core foundation of some of these boxes.
Control is an interesting thing and I am learning more about what I should control and what I should not within the context of what is healthy. The majority of available information out there tells you that you need to change the way you think. It makes you feel like everything you have been doing up until the moment you decided to buy this book was a mistake. Our world vilifies people without knowing the full story. It’s scary to be open and honest about our shortfalls. With that said, I wanted to make it known that I am on a path to having a healthier balance of control in my life. It’s going to start with the core, which is me. I can’t better manage the things external to me until I learn to better manage the core of me. I can’t rely on the false sense of control that I have given myself the majority of my life. I can’t just accept things as they are without looking into them enough to assure I’m not just giving up.
It’s going to take more than me. I know that I can not do this alone. I have always been kind of closed off when it comes to certain aspects of my life. I may seem very open to some because I have been blogging for ages and share a lot on social media, but it has often been surface level stuff that doesn’t go too deep. Most of us are ok with sharing surface level stuff. It’s when it comes to the deep parts of our being that we get afraid and keep the rest of the world at arms distance. There is a lot more to this, and I have a lot more on my mind in regards to this subject. I think that becoming aware of the situation is the biggest step to correcting something. It’s when we are in denial that we have a false sense of control.
For those of you still reading, what has been your methods for overcoming the noise in life? What do you do to be alone and be fine with being alone? I am very interested to hear what you have to say about control, self-control, and generally being ok. Share your thoughts in the comments section, or send me an email through my contact form if it is too private to post here.