In my conversations with coaching clients and with men, generally, I keep hearing this word “control” thrown around without the slightest bit of critical reflection.
“I have to get control over my life”
“I have to control things at work/at home/in my relationship”
“I can’t seem to control myself ” (in reference to eating/drinking/porn consumption/etc.)
I hate to be the one to break the news, but life doesn’t take kindly to control. Not your life. Not my life. Not anyone’s life. What’s that saying? “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”
Not only do you not have to take control, fellas. You cannot take control. The idea of sailing smoothly through a world that’s perfectly safe for you and your family is nothing short of a delusional fantasy.
Now, I’m not saying you should stop caring about your work, relationship, kids or doing what you reasonably can to keep them safe. I’m just pointing out that maintaining a belief in a world that bends to your will will cause you a lot of grief.
So, stop trying.
Think about it: In such a world, there would be no room for any change, any learning or any growth – those things that, arguably, make living worthwhile. Better to let go and learn to live comfortably, with a caring heart, in an innately uncertain world.
That’s what I help men do in coaching.
Over time, I’ve learned that when men start talking about control, they are usually trying to express a sense of helplessness. True to form, they skip over the fact that they feel helpless and move right into trying to get rid of the feelings – through exerting more control. It’s an absurd cycle.
Without someone to pull them out of their delusion, these guys will conclude that they, personally, must be doing something wrong. Then, they’ll double down and try even harder. And when it still doesn’t work, they’ll start to feel ashamed of themselves, resentful toward others and cynical about the possibilities for their life.
That sucks. In my book, a man who puts his tremendous natural energy into being cynical is nothing short of a tragedy.
So, gents, next time you find yourself lamenting over your lack of control at work or in your relationships, I recommend shifting your focus. Instead of asking yourself the question: How can I control this situation/person/etc.?” do a quick check:
What are you actually feeling?
Anger? Frustration? Helplessness?
Once you’ve identified that … do nothing. Just feel the damn feeling. See how long the it lasts. Yeah, seriously, time it. Thirty seconds? A minute? My guess is that if you just leave the feeling alone instead of “fixing it” with your mind, it’ll be gone in about 10 minutes.
I’ll write about this feeling-through-feelings technique in the future. For now, give it a shot. Report back on your findings.