Updated: Apr 15, 2020
If you want to overcome anxiety you have to take a long hard look at your relationship with control. If you hope to find peace you must learn to let go of your need for control. Our relationship with control is the most damaging relationship we have, for it was built upon nothing more than an illusion. You seek to control the things outside of you when you have not yet mastered the things inside you and when you have misconceptions of what you are and are not responsible for.
As a world we are facing a moment of uncertainty like we have never before. It is not just affecting some of us, it is affecting all of us. We are being forced into an experience in which we have no control, where uncertainty is inevitable. This is a feeling that many of us have spent our lives avoiding. Doing everything we can to assert some control over the world as we know it, falsely believing that we have control over things outside of ourselves. For far too long we have carried a limiting belief that, if we just do this or don’t do that, then we will be safe. Believing that if we allow ourselves to let go of control our world would fall apart. Yet unknowingly we have built our lives upon an illusion, an illusion of control. For, what we thought was keeping us safe was actually holding us back.
We seek control for one reason, to try to find safety and security. Desperately searching for any way to protect ourselves. Believing that control will bring us peace and contentment. Yet what we find, if we allow ourselves to see it, the more we try to control the more fearful and anxious we become. For no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we do, there will always be something outside of our control. Something we did not foresee or could not stop. With this “illusion of control” driving our behavior we find ourselves holding tighter and tighter, making more fear-based decisions, living and experiencing less as the years go by. This fear-based living, this growing anxiety inside of us, stems from trying to hold onto something we never had in the first place.
If the coronavirus can show us one thing, it is how little control we actually have over the world we are living in. For most this scares us to death. But what if we widened our lens and shifted our perspective and learned to lean in and let go, then what? It sounds so nice in theory to be able to lean in and let go, to be able to go with the flow as they say. Yet how do we do that? What are the steps we take to get there? Is it irresponsible? Most importantly, how can I do it and feel safe and secure? For most of us the very thought of letting go causes panic. Yet, true peace comes from leaning into uncertainty instead of fighting against it.
Peace is found in letting go of our need for control and allowing ourselves to see the beauty that exists within the uncertainty. Peace and serenity are found when we finally accept what is and focus only on what we truly are responsible for. When we try to control, we limit things to only what we know. If I am certain of one thing, it is that I do not know everything and neither do you. So why not be open to all that exists, instead of limiting yourself to only what you know.
I believe our ability to let go of control stems from two things; how well we know ourselves and a true understanding of personal boundaries. You have an opportunity right now, like no other, to dive into yourself and get to know your own soul. We are being forced to take the time to sit inside ourselves. The distractions we have used to occupy our time are taken away, if we are willing, we can spend this time to grow and refine ourselves. This is an opportunity for self-reflection, an opportunity to get to know your own values, needs, wants, and desires. To take a deeper look to see if your actions align with your values. To understand what you are and what you are not responsible for. So, you ultimately can learn to let go of the rest. What is going to happen is going to happen. What I want to know is how are you going to think, feel, and behave as it unfolds before you? Maybe more importantly, is this who you want to be?
Letting go of control and leaning into the uncertainty does not mean we become irresponsible and no longer take action in our lives. Indeed, you will find it means the exact opposite. When we are able to let go of the things we cannot control and truly understand what we are responsible for, it frees up our time and energy to focus on the things we can control. It is what the serenity prayer has been trying to teach us all along. “Grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.” Letting go of control is all about gaining the wisdom to no longer waste your energy on the things you cannot change so you have more energy to focus on the things you can.
This is a brief worksheet helping you to be able to sit inside yourself and understand your own values, wants, needs, and desires as well as a clear understanding of what you are and what you are not responsible for.
Self-Reflection Exercise #1
Close your eyes for one minute and think about 3-5 of your happiest moments or 3-5 things that bring you the most joy. The moments that you find yourself feeling the most peace and contentment. When you open your eyes write down the things these moments have in common. This is what you value most. These are the things that feed your soul and align with your values.
Self-Reflection Exercise #2
Close your eyes and think about the times in your life you feel the most stress. The times when you find yourself feeling the most overwhelmed. Open your eyes and write down what these things have in common? Then answer these questions:
What are you trying to control that is outside of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?
What are some things you are trying to control that you have no control over?
What burdens are you carrying that are not yours in the first place?
Self-Reflections Exercise #3
Take a moment and think about the way you were spending your time before coronavirus and break them up into two categories:
Things that align with your values Things that do not
Then ask yourself these questions
When this is over what do you want to pick back up and what do you want to let go of?
Do you spend time everyday doing things that align with your values?
Self-Reflection Exercises #4
Understanding what you are responsible for: You are responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You are responsible to make the best decision you can, in the moment you are in, with the information you have. You are responsible to make sure your actions align with your values.
Understanding what you are not responsible for: You are not responsible for the outcome because you cannot control it. You are not responsible for other people's thoughts, feelings, or behaviors because you cannot control them. You are not responsible for fixing other people's problems or changing their outcomes because you cannot control them.
Take a moment and write down what you personally can do in this situation, what you are personally
responsible for. Reflect on every aspect of your life; mental/emotional, physical, financial, energetic/spiritual, and relationships. I broke it down into the phases that were outlined in “Utah's Recovery Plan”. Think of the phases like if someone was drowning, we all kinda feel like that right now, what would you do?
Urgent Phase: This is the moment you would throw them a life preserver. This is what you personally can do right now. Immediate things to keep yourself, loved ones, employees safe. Whether you are working or staying home what can you do right now. I love the acronym W.I.N (What Important Now). Take it day by day.
Stabilization Phase: This is pulling them back onto shore, assessing damage, and checking vitals. When it is deemed safe from the health care professionals what can you do to start integrating back into normal life? How do you want to think, feel, and behave at this time? What are you going to pick back up and what are you going to let go of? What have you learned or implemented during this time that you want to continue to do? How can you make this transition without fear-based decisions? What can you personally do to help the economy, support your family and friends, and community at large?
Recovery Long term: How do you want to have this affect or improve your overall self in the long run? How do you want to conduct your life so that your actions align better with your values? What tools and skills will you continue to implement to live as your best self? How will you conduct your life so that you are better prepared for life's inevitable pitfalls and setbacks?
When I know myself, my values, needs, wants and desires outside of anyone else's opinions. When I understand what I am personally responsible for and even more importantly, what I am not. Then it is so much easier for me to let go of everything else, allowing life to unfold as it inevitably will. The only things you have control over, the only things you are responsible for, are your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. THAT IS ALL.
Everything else in your life is outside of your control. You are not in charge of the outcome, you are not in charge of other people's behavior, you are not in charge of their reaction to your behavior, you are not in charge of anything outside of yourself. You are in charge of making the best decision you can, with the information you have, in the moment you are in. You are in charge of thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that align with who you want to be. EVERYTHING else you can let go of.
We take personal responsibility for what we can not because it will give us control over the outcome but because it will align our actions with our values, this is where peace is found. Peace is in the moments where we do the best we can, in the moment we are in, with the information we have. Then we choose to accept what is and let go the rest. Those questions are an introduction to the tools I have used to get to know myself and to align my actions with my values. It has allowed me to take personal responsibility for the things that I can do and gain the ability to let go of the rest. I have found that this has brought far more peace into my life than control ever did. I hope it will do the same for you.
If you visit my YouTube channel,Living Consciously Meditations, there is a meditation titled
“Letting Go of Control.” This is a great way to practice the skill of letting go of controlling things you have
no control over and taking personal responsibility for the few things you can control.