Confidence and Control

The desire to control is evidence of a paucity of confidence…confidence in one’s ability to achieve what’s desired.

Control is an illusion

Confident people know that control is an illusion. They are readily aware that they can’t control:

  • Other people’s behavior.
  • The outcome of an effort.
  • Their own emotions.

Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.

Others’ behavior

Any parent will tell you that they have no control over their child’s behavior. Indeed, the harder they try to control, the more the child resists. It’s human nature. We want to control our own destiny…make our own decisions. We don’t want to be controlled by others.

Similarly, people in leadership roles can recount example and example of challenges they’ve faced in getting employees to do what they wish. Often this has more to do with the leader’s approach than employee resistance…employees resist the approach rather than the task.


The most confident among us are aware that we can’t control the outcome. We can choose an approach to dealing with a situation, but we cannot assure the desired outcome. If we persist by trying different approaches, we will ultimately get a good resolution, but we can’t control whether or not any given approach will produce the desired result.

Less-confident people operate under the illusion that if they can control the situation, they can control the outcome. We see this often in corporate environments in which people place great emphasis on positional power. They relate a person’s position in the organization to an ability to control an outcome. Conversely, highly-confident people are aware of their ability to influence others’ thinking regardless of the position they hold while being equally aware that they have no ability to control others’ thinking.


The highly-confident among us realize that emotions are automatic responses that can’t be prevented (controlled). They also realize that while they can’t control an emotion, they can quickly set it aside and replace it with more objective, less judgmental analysis.

Less confident people see their emotions as something to be controlled. They want to stop their anger, their frustration, their fears and anxiety. Yet, the more they focus their attention on trying to control these emotions, the more their focus intensifies the emotion.

Because control over emotions is unattainable, they repeatedly “fail” in the attempts to control and in doing so continuously diminish their confidence and self esteem.

For you

If you are someone who seeks control, whether over others’ behavior, outcomes, or emotions, retrain your brain to understand that control is unattainable.

You can do this by reminding yourself that control is an illusion. You can influence others’ behavior, but you can’t control it. You can choose which efforts to employ, but you cannot control the outcome. You can’t control your emotions, but you can quickly set them aside.

Spend a few minutes each morning, shortly after rising, reminding yourself of these facts. At the end of each day, shortly before retiring, recall the instances in which you relinquished the desire to control and instead chose to influence, chose an approach or set aside an emotion. 

In those instances when you weren’t as successful as you’d have liked, what did you learn from the experience? How will this help you in the future? We learn more from our mistake than from things that go well so don’t bemoan your mistakes, make them your launch pad for a better future.

For our kids

As you observe kids trying to exert control, ask them:

Dealing with others
  • Can you control another person’s behavior?
  • If not, whose behavior can you control?
  • What could you do differently to produce a better outcome?
  • Can you assure that what you’re proposing will produce the desired result?
  • If it didn’t produce the result you desired, what did you learn?
  • How will that change your approach in the future?
  • Can you control your emotions or do they happen so quickly that they’re unavoidable?
  • Does their occurrence mean that you’re at their mercy or can you set them aside for more objective analysis?
  • When you set aside your emotions, do you find that you’re able to think more clearly and arrive at solutions more quickly?

These questions will help you child gain awareness that control is an illusion and completely unnecessary for producing the results they desire. Not only will they enjoy greater success, they’ll enjoy greater confidence.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, Once again a well done article! While I’m keenly aware of the principles that you describe, I have learned that I have to be constantly reminding myself to “surrender control” to a higher power!

    • dfurtwengler

      Bill, Surrendering control is not natural for us as human beings, but once we learn to do it consistently life gets to be much easier.

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