Blog ideas and free time have been in short supply lately. However, something I found in my inbox today struck me as a worthy topic, especially as we’re still hoping that the eternal presidential election cycle will actually come to an end. The topic is how little in our lives we can actually control and how to respond to all that we can’t.
It’s not a new issue or a new solution. People have been using the Serenity Prayer for guidance for ages, praying for inner peace in situations over which they have no control. It’s no surprise that copies of this often sprout up in work spaces. How many of us have dealt with work situations where we felt like we had little control, yet found our hearts pounding in anger or frustration over the unfairness of it all, spent time complaining to others, losing sleep, and even gaining weight?
The piece I read, “Loosen Your Grip,” by Gregg Krech of the ToDo Institute, asks readers to list all the things they don’t have complete control over. My list includes the weather, the stock market, the feedback I get from different critique groups, moods of people around me, my overall health, war in the Middle East, ISIS, and the outcome of the upcoming election. The latter is on my mind more often than any of the former.
Krech’s advice is to “Loosen Your Grip.” He says that as events in our lives spin out of control, “Often we respond by trying harder to control what we can’t control. We tighten our grip.” Unlike most therapists, he acknowledges that usually we can’t control our thoughts and feelings. He advocates the Japanese philosophy of “letting things be the way they are instead of trying to make them the way we want them to be.” Instead of “things,” substitute “people, relatives, friends,” and you’ll immediately understand his point. Since much of what happens to us is uncontrollable, Krech says: “You don’t have to orchestrate everything… Even your heart has found a way to keep its beat without your vigilant efforts.”