What Can You Control? (Blog Post for All Control Freaks)

My twenty-year old daughter, Amber, is a self-proclaimed “control freak.” She shared with me the other day how challenging it is for her to be in a situation where she doesn’t feel like she can control what’s happening. I realized that many of us experience a similar challenge.

A few days later, Amber awoke to what my wife and I have come to refer to as an Inherited Purpose attack.  Amber was upset about the amount of money in her bank account. How it felt to her at the time was “I don’t have any money. What am I going to do?” I think most of us can relate to such a feeling. Again, it’s a sense of not being in control of the situation, so, after she’d calmed down a little bit I asked to explore this with her. She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

After reminding her of our original conversation about control, I asked her, “What can you control?” to which I received only a confused look, so I tried again. “Can you control the weather?”

“No,” she replied.

“Can you control the circumstances that happen around you? For example, can you completely control whether or not someone will rear end you when you’re driving?”

“No,” she replied again.

“So, what can you control?”

At this point Amber realized where I was going with the inquiry so she gave me what she thought was the right answer, or at least the answer she thought her dad, the life coach, was looking for.

“My thoughts,” she replied smugly. (Remember, Amber has been raised for her entire 20 years by not one, but two life coaches.  It’s easy for her to drop into the role of smart rat.)

“Really?” I replied. “You can control your thoughts?  So, this morning when you awoke to ‘I don’t have any money,’ you controlled those thoughts?”

Now confused that her smart rat answer hadn’t hit the mark, she hesitated before replying, “No, not really.”
“Okay, so you don’t have complete control of your thoughts? What do you have control of?”

She thought about this for quite a while before shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t know.”

“Well, how about trying this on.  You have control over which thoughts and feelings you hold onto.”

As she thought about that for a moment, her face began to brighten. “So, I might have the thought of not having enough money, but I don’t have to stay stuck with it.” It came out as much as a question as a statement.

“That’s right,” I replied.  “It’s like the old Zen parable that goes something like this.  ‘Thoughts are like birds flying over your head. While you may not be able to keep them from flying over, you have much to say about whether they nest in your hair.’”

This came up again later in the day when I received a message from one of my coaching clients. The client had just completed going through Passage #2 of the Life On Purpose Process that creates a new way of relating to your life purpose by distinguishing the old, cultural perspective that your life purpose is all about what you’re here to do, and then looking at a new way of viewing a life purpose.  The Life On Purpose Perspective suggests that your life purpose is the context, vessel or container into which you pour your life.  This can be a pretty heady, even a transforming shift in one’s worldview.

My client’s question was, “Can it really be as simple as changing the shape of the container that holds our lives?”
My answer to my client and now to you is, “Yes, as long as you remember that simple isn’t always the same as easy, though in my experience it doesn’t have to be nearly as difficult as many of us make it out to be.”

It’s all about realizing what we can control — whether to allow certain thoughts and their accompanying feelings to simply fly over our head or will we allow them to nest in her hair.  The Life On Purpose Process is about helping people to take control of their lives by choosing what thoughts they will hold onto and which they will let pass over head.  It’s both that simple and that challenging.

The best news I can end on is to also let you know that as you become crystal clear about your true, Divinely Inspired Life Purpose and equally clear about your Inherited Purpose, staying on purpose becomes easier. It doesn’t happen over night but it does happen as long as you stay committed to living a life on purpose and practice purposeful patience and persistence.