If I’m honest, and I think if most of us are, we will find that we are control freaks. Perhaps we’re not the type of people that line up all the items on a dresser in a strict fashion, but in our ways, we like to have control.
We like our routines, when we get up when we want to and sleep when we want to. We like days that are ours to own, ours to fill up with whatever we want to do. Paint. Draw. Nap. Write. Play video games. Eat. Walk. Sleep.
Our desires seem harmless enough. We want to travel to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower. We want to pass our classes and graduate. We want to spend our summers doing internships and turning our internships into full-time jobs. We want good things for ourselves. And so, we’re control freaks.
If we had our way, nothing would ever get in the way of our dreams, right? A straight path to success written in our definition is what we think is best. No one likes when there’s traffic on the way to work. Or the ruined blouse on the way to the interview. We don’t like it when things go wrong. Specifically, when we think they go wrong.
So yes, we crave control. In fact, we prepare so that things go our way. In the case of a job interview: We wake up early. We practice questions. We choose our outfit the night before. We try the route. We even practice getting there. We check the weather. We research traffic patterns. We prepare so things go our way.
When we’re in control, we feel like everything is going right. Our dreams have come into fruition, and in our reality, we find the fullness of joy. When we’re in control, we feel certain. Our worries and concerns fall back into our minds. Because there aren’t any when everything is going perfectly.
The funny thing about control is that we don’t have it.
There is free will, there are decisions that you can make every day, but make no mistake when I tell you that you have no control. This is a reality check for whenever you think everything has gone just right: you are not in control.
You don’t control the weather, you don’t control the people around you, you don’t control the machinery you own. One of the greatest lies you can believe is that you can control it all.
Life has its highs and it has its lows. In our desperation for control, we are running from what always comes and goes: the uncertainty life brings, the pain and heartache of every season, and the inevitability that everything will change.
Practice this exercise: Write down your perfect day. From the time you wake up to the moment you rest your head on your pillow, detail all the moments you envision for yourself. Maybe you wake up to sunlight streaming through your windows. You make some breakfast. You feed your cat. You take a stroll around your neighborhood. When you return, you wash the dishes. You take a shower and your day begins. You decide you want to go to the park. You go to the park, spend a few hours reading. When you return home, you make a sandwich for lunch. You have friends coming over in a few hours, so you begin making dinner. You go to the grocery store, buy your ingredients, and return home. You cook, you change, you eat, surrounded by all your closest friends. Later in the evening, you change, journal, and head to bed.
While it’s a beautiful thing to have one day just the way you like it, it’s a terrible thing to try and make your life fit this context. On the surface, it doesn’t seem so bad. After all, you have everything you want.
The thing about your desire for control is that you will get everything you want, but it may not be what you need. Maybe that job that you’ve been trying to get is as amazing as it sounds. But if you take it, you’d be missing out on all the relationships the other one has.
Maybe that apartment is a little dingy, but you’d be missing out on the amazing view it has of the sunrise. Maybe that college is full of prestige, but you’d be missing out on the leadership position that could launch your passion.
Often, we are so consumed by what we cannot control, that we don’t ever stop to think why the heck life threw this curveball in the first place. We don’t always see so clearly what the present has to offer us when it doesn’t look exactly like the plan we made in the first place.
Besides, whoever told us that we were the best ones to figure out what’s good for us? Most of us are so young.
Maybe that person you think you want so much in your life is going through something that could hurt you. Maybe that opportunity that passed you by means you’ve been saved from 20 years of misery. Maybe that move you’ve dreamed of kept you from seeing the place that makes you want to stay.
There is so much of life to be lived, things we need to live through. If we lack a lifetime of experiences, how should we even be deciding what the next 20 or 30 years of our lives should look like?
As much as it sucks not to be in control, it’s better that we don’t miss out on all the amazing random ways life can bless us. There is a blessing in every season if we choose to open our eyes to everything that is beyond what we control.
In what ways has life surprised you lately? In what ways are you glad you aren’t in control?