I recently hired an executive coach. Every coach needs a coach, right?
After my first session I wondered if I’d regret the next 8 months because that’s how long I committed to working with my coach. He said he works with “powerful people.” I thought: “ok – that would be me.” And I know most people would never call me out on my bad behavior, because after all, a lot of people think I’m awesome.
NOTE: This is why I need a coach.
I didn’t like what he told me. He said I like to be in control. Right. Who doesn’t? So what? What’s wrong with that? And what are you going to do about it???
NOTE: More reasons I need a coach.
As my clients know, when I invest in my personal and professional development, I usually share my insights and learnings if I think it will be of benefit. But, keep in mind that as of this writing, I’ve only had 2 sessions and I’m not ready to bare my soul to anyone quite yet, let alone to the thousands of people who receive and read this blog, most of whom I don’t know. Although those people are probably the safest people for me to come clean with, since we don’t know each other.
Why is it easier to share our secrets with people we don’t know than those we do?
My coach advised me that I should observe the times I want to control things… not resist or try to change anything… and just notice what I notice about what, who and when I want to control.
Geez. This is a full-time job.
I can’t even relax without trying to control everything.
I tried a form of relaxation therapy called Float Therapy or Sensory Deprivation Tank. It’s been around since the 1950’s and has gained popularity recently for many of the health benefits including, stress reduction and lowering blood pressure. Research shows it can ease symptoms from jet lag to depression to brain fog.
Cool. I’ll just jump in the pod, float in 1000 pounds of Epsom salt and relax for an hour. I’m strong. I’m powerful. I can do this! The reviews say I may experience mind-blowing creativity, spiritual awakenings and deep relaxation. Oh Boy!
I can’t breathe.
It’s hot; I need air.
My nose itches.
My neck hurts.
Why am I doing this?
Oh, right. I want to relax and learn how to not be in control of everything.
How much longer do I have to stay here?
The guided meditation they’re playing is ridiculous.
Stop it! Relax! Breathe.
The next thing I know, I hear a soft bell and gentle voice from the speaker saying: “It’s time to get out of the pod. Take your time to shower and dress.”
My first 20 minutes were clearly not relaxing. I was overthinking, over-analyzing and under-relaxing.
And there it was: I was an under-achiever in the relaxation department.
How can you relax when the chatter in your head is trying to anticipate, control, analyze or figure everything out?
Once I surrendered to “the float,” to the stillness and weightlessness of it all, I drifted off to nowhere.
So float therapy was one of my first admitted adventures into the land of no-control. And I survived and actually enjoyed it – enough to do it again!
The weird thing about trying to be in control is that most of us realize that there are so many things out of our control, but we still try to micro-manage things. Our brains (and other people) tell us that micro-managing every thought and action isn’t a good thing to do. In fact, it often produces results contrary to what we really want.
So why do we keep trying to control things?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – please respond here:
Marty Stanley, Certified Speaking Professional, is an author, national speaker and consultant on personal and organizational change. She’s committed to helping people and organizations thrive through accountability, integrity and joy. 816-695-5453 858-432-6764 firstname.lastname@example.org www.alteringoutcomes.com
I have been a fan of yours for over 15 years. Our company culture incorporated your chart “victor/victim” and we hosted you as a featured speaker.
Regarding your control topic, I too tend to control. But in reflecting, it is mostly in new things or things that are not repetitive. I don’t care an ounce about paying the bills or scheduling oil changes. But I do care and want to control painting a room, vacation plans, best route to take, etc. why? I think it is because no one else is doing it, cares to do it or has communicated their thoughts…maybe that’s it! I love a hearty dialogue!!! Maybe my control feels overbearing but I am dying for some great dialogue from others on their thoughts. Hmmmm, I have to get better at drawing out communication without it feeling like an attack.
Score another one for you!
Overland Park, Kansas
Thanks Kerry! I like how you’re distinguishing the things you want to control and those you don’t. What would happen if you didn’t jump in when no one else does? I’m curious!
Your article came at a good time. I needed to read and reflect and learn. Thanks for sharing.
I also try to control the uncontrollable. I know that I can only control myself and my reactions to people and situations, but there is a security and safety when I think I’m in control. It’s a false sense of security and safety, I might add.
For me, I think it comes from fear. If I am in control, I won’t have surprise stresses and pressures and can deal with life and the myriad of decisions in my own time and when I feel I’m at my best. But life doesn’t navigate on my time frame or my terns. Other people manage their own thoughts and behaviors and my role is to listen, learn, respect and let go. So, facing my fears is the key to my letting go of control. Having the grace and confidence that I can step by step walk the unknown and difficult. It doesn’t have to be graceful (often it is not) but I do need to keep moving forward.
I’ve rambled….but thank you for helping me and others with new insight.
Becky – thank you for your reflections! They are not ramblings! Hopefully as we get older we will move forward and keep trying acknowledging our fears but not being stopped by them – graceful or not!
Thank you for sharing your insights.
Great article Friend – It is so hard to give up control. As I get older more & more things are totally out of my control – work & family life. I have always been good at listening & not judging but sometimes even though particularly with my girls it is out of my control I have noticed my worrying level has gone up. I am working on this – they are awesome woman & stand on their own. It is hard when they don’t need you as much any more.
Thanks Debbie! Interesting to hear you say that your worrying level has gone up as you try to release control! I wonder how many other people feel that way too.
Wanting to total control is a reflection of and directly related to a lack of Trust in others. “No one can do it as well as me!”
Just my opinion.
Thanks Joe! Trust (and fear) are big factors! Do you think it could also be a lack of trust in your own capacities or abilities?
This is the first time i have commented on one of your articles although I read them with great interest. Why do I try to control everything? I think I know what is best for others. Yes, that is egotistical and very presumptuous of me. I work on this what must be a most annoying habit of mine all the time. I taught high school and was used to telling others what to do to learn history and earn good grades. I used that as an excuse to be Ms. Bossy-Pants in my private life. At age 70-plus, I realize I don’t have all the answers and don’t have to always be right or have the last word. Why am I this way? Well, I was the oldest of three children,, my birth sign is Leo, and I have always been small physically. I was a rebellious teen fond of reminding my placenta of my constitutional rights. Being outspent and opinionated and bossy was me. While I am still a work in progress, I am practicing listening more and talking less and accept that I do not always know what’s best. Does this mean maybe I am growing up? Keep up the good work! Hugs, Judi
Dear Ms. Bossy Pants – Thanks for your response and explanations. That’s why I love you! Even if you are growing up!
Staying in control is a way to be safe, confident, and allows for our self esteem to grow. It can be a very good thing. When it doesn’t work is when we try to control others that aren’t interested in being controlled. That is not a good experience. Controlling everything seems to also create independence. Just a few of my thoughts.
Kim – thanks for this perspective! I like the concept that controlling things can create independence. I wonder if it can limit our experiences too…
Fear. pure and simple
Wendee – Fear of what?
Hi Marty. It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch. We’ve both seen some big changes in our lives! I haven’t moved across the country, but I did move out of my miserable, toxic environment. I have a new life!
I think I want to control because of fear. I’m afraid someone is going to make me to do something I don’t want to do. I’m afraid I won’t be able to say “no.” I’m afraid I won’t have a chance to have my say, and I have so much to say. I’m afraid someone else can’t handle the situation as well as I, because, after all, “I know so much,” and “I’m always right.”
It’s also this darn thing called perfectionism. I’m afraid it’s a family trait. For a long time I thought it was a great thing . . . to be perfect. Ha!
I figured out it is way too stressful to keep up that facade, and people really don’t appreciate that attitude. And I really do care what people think. Because, you see, I am a people pleaser.
It’s interesting that I found your post in my email, Marty, and opened it. I’ve been working on my own control issues. I’m calling it “detachment, with love.” I recently went to an Al-Anon event with a friend, where I learned about this “attitude.” My experience has been with co-dependent relationships. I guess I thought by taking care of everyone else I could avoid taking care of myself. I want to change the course of my urge to control, to take care of myself. It’s a journey, and I need help! I’m so thankful to be in a safer place, and to have awesome support!
Thank you for investing your time and attention in me, Marty. You made an impression on me, and helped me in my journey. I use the tool you gave us when you came to speak at ABWA: “TWA.” They don’t always line up, but it’s a goal to shoot for! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and giving us something to think about. God bless.
If I have a plan, I am less anxious.