November 2016

Auteursrecht: svetazi / 123RF Stockfoto

The day I write this Inspiration – Sunday 20 November – is a stormy autumn day. I’m driving to Ghent in the early morning, the radio is on and I listen to several messages about the fire department and civil protection services working to clear fallen trees, broken branches, collapsed scaffolding and cranes.

My car is pushed from left to right by strong gusts of wind and at a given point I start feeling scared. I suddenly realise that at any moment something terrible may happen over which I do not and can not have any control whatsoever (maybe I should have stayed safely in bed?). The elements of nature make me feel vulnerable and unsafe – distinctly unpleasant emotions.

We want to have control so badly because it makes us feel safe and secure – or so we think. When we try to control something or someone, we think nothing can happen that we do not like or want. We also want to know what will happen, we want to control the future and make sure we have covered everything – so we do not have to worry about anything. We even go so far as devising a plan B for when things would not go as planned. Or we stop doing anything, stop taking any decisions or making any choices, for fear it might be the wrong ones. Then at least we are sure nothing can go wrong.

But do we ever really have control over our lives, over others or a situation? I believe it is an illusion that makes us unfree and unhappy. Does that mean you cannot think about the future or have to live very zen-like in the moment and not make any plans? That’s where the misconception lies: there is nothing wrong with thinking about the future, it only becomes problematic when you try to control it. It is all about taking action with an open mind – taking action to make things happen or initiate processes and then keep an open mind for the results.

When we count on control to make ourselves feel good and happy, we will definitely fail. The only thing a relentless urge for control guarantees is a life full of frustration and disappointment.

So how do you stop wanting to control everything?

  1. Reflect on your convictions about control. Why is it that important to you?
  2. Ask yourself the question: what do I get out of it?
  3. Answer honestly whether control truly gives you what you think it does.
  4. Is it possible for you to accept that actual control probably does not exist?
  5. The next time you feel the urge to control something or someone, try to let go and see what happens – or doesn’t.
  6. Go a step further and look for opportunities when unforseeable things just pop-up. How can you see them as something positive that you can use?

If you have any questions or thoughts about this, let me know. Or do you realise that a desire for control is invading your life, making you unhappy and you want to take action? Contact me for a free sample session.

I have an endless admiration for people who do something about their dissatisfaction by turning it into positive action. Last weekend I went to see the beautiful documentary “Down to earth” (www.downtoearthfilm.com). It tells the story of a Dutch family who changed the course of their lives dramatically 10 years ago, when they became aware of the question (and their dissatisfaction with it) – which values do we want to teach our children in this crazy world?

They left their successful Western lives behind and during five years they travelled around the world with their three young children, looking for a new perspective on life and the world we live in. During this adventure they lived with different tribes on six continents, and they filmed their encounters and conversations with the tribe elders. Not only was their drastic decision incredibly courageous – from their unique experiences they also distilled a beautiful film with an exceptional message. Through this documentary they are now trying to share the insights and wisdom they gained with those who are prepared to listen.

Maybe things were not really that different in the past, but I’m sometimes struck by how much complaining and whining goes on about basically everything: the weather (a classic), your boss, your partner, the train that is delayed, the service in the restaurant, politics, etc.. When people complain to each other this often creates negative energy. When you are in the company of such people, this literally drains your energy levels. Sometimes this results in negative or protest choices – just think about what just happend in the US where citizens are so fed up with established politics they vote for someone like Trump. Which is an action, but not a very constructive one.

Another option is to transform your complaint or dissatisfaction into positive action, like the Dutch family. This is very drastic, but you can also apply this to small daily things. Just try and make a list of at least 25 complaints in your life, things that are not going the way you want. When you have your list, change every complaint into a question or request. How would you like it to be? What makes something satisfying and enjoyable? If possible, direct your request to a specific person, someone who is able to do something about it. And then make those requests for as many complaints on your list as possible. Do not assume that you will get the result or answer that you wish. ‘No’ is certain, ‘yes’ is possible and who knows – the answer you get may be much more interesting than you had imagined.