Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Steve Marquez of the spartan penguin
Let’s face it; learning to lose control is not something that is high up on most people’s agenda. In fact, for many, the exact opposite is true as they move through life trying to gain control of everyone and everything.
People try to control people, they try to control things, and they try to control all that happens around them. Like some kind of cosmic conductor, they try to get life to fit perfectly to their whims and wants.
This is crazy, because there is very little that you can control and the result of trying to control things that you can’t is frustration and anxiety.
Think about it.
It’s helpful if you start with the big stuff like the ocean and tides, or the sun rising and setting. These are obvious events that happen daily over which we have no control. Closer to home, many people think they can control the people around them like their partners or work colleagues. Can they, really? The short answer to that question is “no”. It is possible to manipulate or influence, but control, “no”.
In fact there is very little that you, as an individual, can control. Try writing a list of everything you are in control of and everything you are not. Really think about it. You’ll find that you have a very long list on one side of the page (things you can’t control) and a very short list on the other (things you can control).
When I did this exercise I found that I only really had control of two things:
- my thoughts and beliefs; and
- my actions or behaviour
That was it.
What a relief
If, like me, you’ve spent much of your life trying to control everyone and everything then this realisation (that you actually control very little) can be both terrifying and liberating at the same time. Ultimately though, it came as a relief for me.
No longer did I have the gargantuan task of running the world, instead I was only responsible for me.
The realisation is a powerful one that brings a peace and serenity to life if you can learn to lose the (false) concept of control, to let go, and to find acceptance in the moment.
Find peace through acceptance
Acceptance is the key. Can I find acceptance in the moment, in all that is? Can I be at peace with life exactly as it is showing up right now? These are important questions.
Two practices have helped me immensely with this. The first is the use of the Serenity Prayer which goes: God [insert whatever you wish here], grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. The second is meditation which is all about focussing on the moment, on the now, being present.
Acceptance brings peace. The struggle (to control) stops. You cease fighting. From there all things are possible.
Start with your sphere of control, with your thoughts and actions. Ask yourself whether you can think about a situation that’s bothering you differently. Change your thoughts if necessary. Act from a place of love and compassion. If you do this over a period of time then those thoughts will become beliefs, which will drive your actions. The world, which is always just as it is, will suddenly become a magical place rather than a source for stress and anxiety.
How to change the world
Having talked about a world where you control very little it might seem strange to talk about changing the world but bear with me. Life and where it takes you, in my view, comes down to two things:
- divine inspiration; and
- human perspiration
Acceptance and letting go are not about relinquishing all responsibility. I firmly believe in divine inspiration; that people, events, circumstances are put in our path for a reason. I also believe that we have a role to play as individuals and that’s where what we do control matters: our thoughts, beliefs and actions. Right thought and right deed result in better choices.
Unfortunately though for many of us, me included, this working on ourselves (our thoughts and actions) requires some perspiration. The results are worth it though.
So, how to change the world? I believe that this can be done one attitude at a time. Have you ever noticed how someone smiling at you in the street can change your day? The same principle applies here.
When you let go of control, when you find acceptance, when you live in the present, when you develop a positive attitude, and when your actions speak louder than words, then the world (people) notices. It rubs off.
Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”. He was right and maybe, just maybe, the world can be changed for the better: one attitude at a time.