Updated: Feb 7, 2019
While it sounds paradoxical, the sooner we realize we can't control other people or the world around us, the more control we have.
For as much as we preoccupy ourselves with trying to control our circumstances, situations, other people and basically everything in the world around us, it is all for naught anyway. The fact of the matter is, we can't control others or the world around us. It is out of our control. The more we cling to the idea that we have any control over these things and other people, the more frustrated, angry, irritated, worried, and disappointed we are and continue to become, when things don't work out as planned. It is with these emotional reactions that we lose control over our life.
We typically demand how the world around us needs to be in order for us to be okay or happy. Therein lies the problem. Since we can't control the world around us, we can be in a constant state of stress over it not being the way we want and we lose control over emotions and then react out of them. Most of the time this only makes matters worse.
Oh sure, we can make plans and put all our thoughts and energy into those plans to ensure that what we wish to do in life works out exactly the way we want it to, and situations might very well turn out the way we want. But make no mistake, the Universe has its own plans for us with every situation we find ourselves in, and so then things may not work out the way we want.
But you know what? It's alright. It's more than alright, it's perfect! For all the imperfection we perceive in the world around us, everything is exactly as it needs to be, and perfect, whether we like it or not. Late to work and the light turns red? How do we know if perhaps that light turning red didn't keep us from getting into a car accident seconds or minutes later had it stayed or turned green? We don't know, but accepting it is part of our ability to control our own life. Perfection lies not in our perception of how things should be, but in being exactly how they need to be.
It storms, our team loses, the car breaks down, people cut us off in traffic, we're late to work because of traffic, or the light turns red when we're in a rush, it's too hot out, or too cold, the neighbor decides to mow his lawn at 4:00 AM and wakes us up, people don't live up to our expectations, we get sick, injured and we will die, and on and on it goes. Not a single one of those things are in our control. But it's still alright. We do control ourselves. The sooner we realize this and embrace it, the sooner we will live a life of joy and contentment and we will find that we have more control than we thought. It's just that the control is about us controlling ourselves, instead controlling the world around us.
If we really want to be happy, we need to just let go of our expectations and "go with the flow". We can't control everything anyway. Once we realize we can't control other people or the world around us and we learn to let it go, it is one of the most liberating things we will ever do. There is such a great feeling in this sense of freedom.
I'm not suggesting we stop making plans or arranging things to the best of our ability to increase the odds of things working out in our favor. Not at all. Daydream, make plans, set intentions, keep a positive attitude and do everything that actually is in our control to create our life as we desire. Just let go of your expectations as to the outcome. If we've already done everything we can that actually is within our control, then all we have to do is then let it go and see how life plays out and accept however it turns out, because the rest truly is out of our control anyway.
We create our life to the best of our ability, but that doesn't ensure anything except that we did our best. That should be sufficient. What happens after that is out of our control. Now with that thought in mind, when things go awry (and they can and will at times), how we react to what happens is in our control. We're not in control of how life plays out, but we make the choice in how we handle what happens. If everything works out as planned, how wonderful! Enjoy it! But if things don't work out, there isn't anything we can do about it anyway, so at least appreciate that we can't control it. We can learn to let go of our emotional attachment to how life plays out and thus take control of our life.
A lot of these situations and people we experience in life are going to bring up emotions like anger, frustration, irritation, sadness, etc. and we are entitled to feel those emotions. But if we can understand that we have control over our emotions that these situations bring up, it becomes empowering. So then if something happens that might make us angry, in our awareness, we can pause, let that emotion go, and just deal with it properly. That is real power and that is truly living in the present. Because whatever happens in life, the very second it happens, it's now in the past. Letting go of our control over situations, but controlling our reaction to them allows us to live in the present, instead of clinging to our emotions and dwelling on the (even not so distant) past
Life happens. Oh well, time to let it go and move on to this present moment. Learn to let go of the idea of control. Control that which you can...you. Live happily in the present and leave the past where it belongs. You see, in order to have more control over your life, you have to give up or surrender your control over the things you can't control anyway. Your power lies in control over your own self.