Have you ever sat down and thought about all the things that have happened in your life that were out of your control? There’s a good chance you wish you could have changed or controlled those events and manipulated them to your advantage.
The fantasy of having control over most, and sometimes all, of what happens to you is a temptation worse than sugar or other stimulants. We think that by having control and having pre-warning, we can guide ourselves towards success.
Thoughts like this are common:
If I knew that person was going to die, I could have spent more time with them
If I knew I was going to lose my job, I could have found another one
If I knew my startup was going to fail, I could have left earlier and not lost as much money
The idea that you can control these types of situations seems like an advantage. More knowledge, better connections, more experience — the list is endless as to what could have helped you control these situations better.
The thought that “if only I had control” is one of the biggest weaknesses and lies I’ve come across.
When you don’t have control, you have power. A lack of control forces you to make decisions that you would have otherwise been too scared, too knowledgeable, or too blind to make. The situations that you can’t control become the ones that teach you the most.
Control is a fantasy because human existence comes hardwired with no control. There’s only one truth that we all face which takes away every bit of control we think we have: you could die at any moment, from any event or thing. Let that sink in for a minute.
Now I don’t want you to be depressed by that fact. There can be some sadness and odd feelings that come with thinking about your mortality. The benefit of understanding you could die at any moment is that it prevents you from overthinking and being obsessed with the idea of control.
There is no real control. No outcome that affects humans can be guaranteed.
Being redirected by the events and things you can’t control is what I love about this idea. The uncertainty and freedom that comes with a lack of control will change how you make decisions and see your future.
In my life, I’ve found that the uncontrollable events have brought about the biggest changes that ended up redirecting me down paths I would never have explored if I had control over them.
Battling mental illness was one of those events that I had no control over when I discovered that I was suffering from it. Through the pain of having to deal with the situation, and ultimately winning, I questioned everything I knew up until that point.
This led me down a path of wanting to share stories and that was what became the catalyst for me to start blogging. The situation is not unique to me either. There are many other writers that I chat to who only started blogging because they were tired of being rejected and not being allowed to do their art.
The very fact they had no control, led them to the idea that maybe they should give it a go and disconnect themselves from whatever happens. All the events that you lacked control over have significant benefits to the decisions you made after them.
The frustrating part about uncontrollable events is that their brilliance is not realized until (often) many years after they occur.
Uncontrollable events seem frustrating, inconvenient and annoying until you’re a few years down the track and realize they were bloody miracles that got you out of your head and made you think more deeply about your life.
Forced change through that which you can’t control guides you in directions that are even better than what you had before.
Getting out of our own way is hard — until an uncontrollable event does the moving for you.
Next time you experience an event you can’t control, reframe the situation into a positive one.
Lose the expectation that you need to know the benefit right now, and accept that there will be a benefit in the future when you’ve been directed down a path you would otherwise have not chosen for yourself.