Control and Choice

Some of the greatest frustration we experience in life comes from our desire to control. We want to control our destinies. At times, we desire to control others’ behaviors. In reality, the only control we have is over the choices we make…not the outcomes our choices engender.

Control failures

We’ve all heard stories of people who have led exceptionally healthy lives, yet died at a young age. Similarly, we’ve heard of people who drink and smoke heavily and live well beyond their normal life expectancy.

There are goals we’ve set for ourselves and plans that we’ve made for achieving our goals only to find that our plans overlooked some key elements to success. At times, we even find that we need to amend our goals in order to enjoy success.

Parents regularly try to control their children’s behavior only to find later that engaging the child in the decision about how to achieve the desired result is what actually produces the result. Parents learn that the more they insist on certain behaviors, the more their child resists.

Poor choices

I said earlier that the only control we have is over the choices we make. Yet, all too often, we relinquish that control to the emotion we’re experiencing. When we’re angry we say and do things that we later regret. When faced with a task we don’t enjoy we procrastinate, then feel guilty and disappointed in our lack of discipline.

When envious, we bemoan others’ good fortune instead of deciding whether we’re willing to do what’s necessary to achieve (obtain) what we desire. Our excitement over a new opportunity is quickly followed by doubts about our ability to be successful. These doubts often cause us to forgo opportunities that could have enriched our lives.

On the surface the answer to this dilemma seems to be to learn to control our emotions, but is this yet another control illusion?

Controlling emotions?

It is indeed another illusion. We can’t control emotions, they are automatic responses to the situations we face. There’s nothing we can do to prevent an emotional reaction. Nor is there any way to control the emotion once it’s surfaced. You can choose to nurture the emotion or set aside. These are the only two options.

You have the ability to quickly set aside any emotion and return to objective analysis of the situation which will then enable you to make an informed, conscious choice. It’s important to note that the emotional choices (poor choices) we make are made subconsciously. We are reacting to the emotion we’re experiencing without having given any thought to what impact our reaction will have…what consequences we’ll face.

Once you’ve trained your mind to quickly set aside your emotional reaction and begin an objective, nonjudgmental analysis of the situation, you’ll find that the choices you make produce dramatically better results. You are in control of the choice you’re making.

For you

You can retrain your mind to eschew the concept of control and replace it with conscious awareness of the choices you make. To accomplish this, shortly after rising, remind yourself that the only thing you can control is the choice you make. Then remind yourself that the best choices are made when you’ve set aside your emotions and objectively analyzed the situation. 

Each evening, review your successes. Remember, no one bats a thousand. Use the instances when you tried to control an outcome, or someone else’s behavior, to learn from your mistake. As a finance guy I like to use the analogy that if you make a mistake and learn something, the mistake was an investment in your future. If you didn’t learn anything, it’s an expense that you’ll incur again and again.

This simple process of early morning reminders and evening reviews takes only a few minutes a day for a week or two until your brain is accustomed to thinking this way automatically. The payoff is that you avoid the frustration you’ve been creating for yourself because you’ve tried to control things over which you have no control. A small investment with a lifetime payoff.

For our kids

As you live this message, the kids in your life will see how calm and well-reasoned you are. They’ll also notice how successful you are, how readily you deal with adversity and how joyfully you live. Their observations will cause them to mimic your behaviors which will become their default way of behaving so that they too will experience the joy that you do.

When kids try to control a situation, teach them that control is illusory. Then share with them the morning reminder and evening success review process outlined above. Encourage daily employment of this process until it becomes their default way of thinking. Better yet, engage in the exercises with them. It’s a great way to strengthen your bond with your kids…and keep you from falling into old habits.

Feel free to share this blog with those you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”

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) (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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