How to Take Control
You know when you open your front door early in the morning and the heat and humidity SUCKERPUNCHES you in the face? No? Just a South Florida thing? Anyway, I am talking about those days where it is so mind-blowingly hot, and you find yourself cursing at the weather gods for being so cruel.
Whether it is too hot or too cold, too rainy or too dry, too windy or too stale, the weather is a prime recipient for our relentless urges to complain.
Although we complain about the weather when it is anything shy of perfect, I believe we all know, at least somewhere deep down, that our complaints aren't going to change the situation. We have some level of understanding that no matter how much we plead, beg and persuade, mother nature will do what she has always done: whatever she wants.
We know that rain doesn't really go away because we beg it to come again another day. We understand that the weather is out of our control. It is this knowledge that I am intrigued by. Because we know that we can't change the weather, we generally find peace within whatever it brings.
We can't stop the rain, so we bring an umbrella. We can't turn down the heat, so we turn up the A/C. We can't control the weather, so we find things that we can control, and these things make our lives more comfortable.
I started thinking of this whole concept when I opened my front door the other day and walked directly into a semi-impenetrable wall of heat and humidity. I cursed at the weather gods, I complained, and I ultimately moved on, knowing my complaining was only making things hotter and stickier. Then, I began to wonder, why don't we take this same attitude into other areas of our lives? Why don't we separate the controllables and the uncontrollables in other aspects of our day-to-day?
The global environment we are all currently living in is the perfect opportunity to practice this idea.
I think we'd all rather go about our lives like normal, with no threat of falling ill or unknowingly infecting someone else. We'd all rather see our friends, have in-person meetings, get to go to work or school, get to go out or stay in; we'd all rather simply live our lives how we want to lives our lives.
We want "normal," but that is not the situation we're in, is it? And so, like the weather when it is less than ideal, we complain.
"Why do I have to work from home?"
"I hate wearing masks!"
"Learning online is stupid."
But, like the weather, does our constant kvetching change our situation or solve any of our problems? No. No, it does not.
So why do we spend so much time complaining?
With the weather, what is in our control and what is out of our control is easier to see. In COVID times and in many other areas of our lives, the line that separates the two seems much fainter.
Before we go any further, let's give firmer definitions to the "controllables" and the "uncontrollables."
Simply put, controllables are the things that you have a direct ability to change, while the uncontrollables are the things that you have no impact on, no matter what you do.
Social media is an excellent example of this. We have zero control over what other people post on social media. No matter what we do, we cannot filter out everything we do not want to be exposed to. However, we do have complete control over how often we expose ourselves to what we see, a.k.a. we control how often we go on social media.
In these other areas of our lives, we should continuously be taking stock of what is and what is not within our control. When we understand the difference, like we do with the weather, we are able to take ownership of the controllables and find peace within the uncontrollables.
Now, finding peace within the things that we cannot control does not mean we have to like what is going on. We can not like what is happening and still be at peace. We can do this by controlling the things that we can control.
At the root of it all, the concept "control what you can control," is about making a choice. The majority of the things in our lives are neither good nor bad; it is the power or lack of power we place on something that gives it meaning.
So, when we step outside and find ourselves drenched in sweat by the time we get to our car, we can choose to believe that is a terrible thing; we can stand there and complain, or we can get in our car, crank up the A/C, reach into our glovebox for our emergency deodorant and go on our way.
We may not always be able to control our situation, but we can always choose how we see it.