If you feel as if you have been swept up in events that are out of your control over the last 15 months, you are in good company. While there are many signs that we are coming out of the deluge of doom (vaccinations, nicer weather, less distressing tweets, places opening for business), we are not ‘there’ yet, and ‘there’ has probably moved! And that may be causing you to worry. You are not alone there either.
Worrying usually comes from our desire to control our environment and outcomes. The more we try to control things however, the more we worry and the more we worry, the more anxious we become.
While it is good to acknowledge that we do have control over some things in our lives (the effort we put into things and our attitude) it is not healthy to think that we are totally responsible for every outcome. When we worry about the things we cannot control, the energy we put into our mental health gets depleted. It is a waste of our time and can lead to blaming ourselves.
If you think you are responsible for the gravity that causes the waterfall to actually fall, think again!
We do not have to resign ourselves to doom by scrolling and pessimistically worrying about all the possible negative outcomes that might be ahead. We can take control of our mind and develop some habits that teach our brain to think differently. While it may not change our first impulse to worry, it may be the next best thing.
Look at where you HAVE control and find balance.
We can remind ourselves about what IS in our control and what is NOT in our control. You cannot control the direction of a waterfall, but you can create a structure to manage where it flows. You cannot control illness, but you can prevent how well you manage your own health. You can give your employees the support they need to be successful, but you cannot make them succeed. You can tell your clients the best solution for their needs, but you cannot make them purchase it.
While we cannot always find the control we would like, there is usually some control we DO have. You cannot control the person who creates friction, but you can change how you deal with them and the frequency and medium that you must interact with them. Finding where your control lies is empowering.
Aim for influence rather than control.
It is really hard to sit back and watch situations and people that make us uncomfortable or that we view as wrong. We worry about someone being angry. We worry about what returning to work will really look like. We worry about what will truly change in the next few months.
I know something for sure: we cannot control others. We can however share our observations and concerns (once – repetition tends to be seen as nagging or begging which are rarely effective in getting someone’s attention. What gets their attention is your nagging/begging!).
We can however change our own behavior. Through THAT, we may be able to influence someone to change their behavior. We can also focus on the positive rather than the negative. There can be genuine praise and appreciation for diverting the water from that waterfall to a better and more useful location. Worrying less about what we cannot control is a stress reducer – something we can all use more of right about now.
And when you stop worrying about things you cannot control, you will enjoy better relationships, less stress, and more success.
There is evidence that those of us who have a balanced sense of control are generally happier. If that is what you are after, focus on building a mechanism to divert the water flowing from the falls rather than cursing gravity. When we reduce the amount of time we spend worrying and trying to control so many aspects of our lives, we can use that energy to devote to the things we CAN control.
We can then sit back and appreciate the waterfall, how it flows, and how much less wet we get!