“How would your life be different if…You stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day…You free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Life would be so easy if everyone did things our way. Right?
We expect the dishwasher to be loaded just so. We jump to “Let me show you how to…” before the person has even asked for help. For those we live and work with, we’re ever ready to remind them of the things they are responsible for, how far along they are with
these tasks, and the time we expect them to be completed (based on our schedule, of course).
So, let’s look at what these situations have in common.
All are based on our expectations. We have an image of how things should be done or when they should be finished or why they should even be done at all.
I don’t think any of us consciously chooses to wear the badge, “my way or the highway”, but isn’t that really what we’re doing to others?
As my mom used to say, “Who died and made you queen?” She probably said this because she didn’t want any competition!
So what happens when someone doesn’t match our expectations? We get angry. We build resentments. We even may become bitter.
None of these things are good for our relationships, or for us.
How much energy do we use keeping track, unnecessarily explaining, or wondering/worrying about when things will be done? And how much resentment do we heap on ourselves when our expectations are not met?
You know where this is going…
Just. Let. Go.
An important life fact: the things that we can control in our lives are limited only to ourselves. Much as we might love to, or think we can, we can’t control others, not even our children. Scary thought, huh?
Let this concept sink in.
We can only control ourselves.
So, let’s revisit some of the earlier scenarios, seen through the lens of “I’m not in control of this person.”
Loading the dishwasher: Ask yourself what’s more important, having someone load the dishwasher (giving you time to do something else) or having it done the “right way”, knowing that the outcome will be an argument, stress or anger for you and others? I mean, really, how important is it? We’re talking clean dishes, not a life-threatening disease.
Jumping in and providing the “how to” before it’s been requested: What if you asked the person if they would like some suggestions? If they say “No”, you have your answer. So move on.
Reminding someone of their responsibilities and progress: Put yourself in their shoes. How does it feel when someone is constantly nagging you? Right. It stinks and it usually leads to anger. People know what they’re responsible for—they’ll either follow through or not. Give them the dignity to succeed or fail on their own. Cheer them on when they succeed and deal with the failure after it happens.
Something else to keep in mind: if there truly is a deadline, state it clearly, and then allow the person to figure out how to meet it. Far too often we keep that information a state secret and then get upset when the invisible deadline is not met. Vow that you’re going to play fair.
I guarantee that when you stop trying to control those things out of your control, you will, indeed, free yourself from fruitless worry, find more time for yourself, and eliminate a whole heap of resentments.
Your Call to Action
As you go through your day, notice where you have expectations for those in your life. What’s driving those expectations? What would change in each relationship if you go of the need to control?
Me? I’m working on giving up my Queen of the Universe crown, for good.