The Only Three Things You Can Control

The Only Three Things You Can Control December 25, 2017

Our lives are a cash grab. And there is nothing more valuable than the currency of control. If we can determine the parameters, we believe, we can determine the outcomes. Control is the force-field we use to protect our fears. It is the cloud we use to carry our dreams and desires.

The problem is that we cannot control all that much. And as things spiral away from our tiny power to contain, our emotions skyrocket and our ability to think, act, and believe properly plummets.

Life is not all about controlling everything. That is a pipe dream. It is playing God. The peace and empowerment we desperately want does not come from absolute control but from a proper ownership of what we can control and a letting go of all the rest.

Very early on, we learn that grabbing for control has its limits. So, what do we do? Try to manipulate the system. We try to ‘give over’ all control to every person and every situation so that we can blame them for our lack of fulfillment. We passive-aggressively ‘surrender’ control to let us all the way off the hook for how things are for us. We cannot control it all, so we swing the pendulum the other way to assume we cannot control anything. Subconsciously, we are letting everything fail (even rooting for it) so that we might swoop into the aftermath and say, “See, this was a disaster because of ‘them’. I should be in charge now”. We find a false sense of freedom in the “I could do it better if I were in charge” camp, which is the form of control we most often use – subtle, manipulative, subversive, blaming, and sabotage.

The following are the three, and only three, things that we as humans can control:

  • Our Choices – the first thing we can control are our choices. One tendency we have when we see things aren’t submitting to our desire for control is to hand over those few things we can control. We are children, believing if we can’t have all the toys, we’re not allowed to have any. This comes in the form of blaming. We blame others for the choices we make. ‘She made me cheat on her by not fulfilling my needs’, etc. Our choices, however, belong to us and only us. I am responsible for my decisions. The circumstances around me are never powerful enough to deny me my choices. They may limit choice, but they cannot deny my ability to choose.
  • Our Attitude/Perspective: Similarly, there is nothing that can be said or done that denies me the ability to control my attitude and perspective. My wife does not ‘make’ me angry. She does things that trigger my anger. The choice to adopt that attitude is mine. In the same way, we are not slaves to the perceptions presented to us. There are multiple facets to everything that happens in life and it is up to me to control the way I see the world.
  • Whom We Trust: It is entirely within my power to determine whom I take into my trusted circle and whom I leave out. Whether it be God, a family member, specific friends, or ‘no one’, we can control where to put our trust. Trust is a dance between being known and being exposed. It is up to each of us where we allow that authority into our lives.

Of course, there are abuses in all three of these arenas. But this is it. The only three things in life you can control. All of our stress, anxiety, and fear come from a miss-management on our part of at least one of these three things.

We were not created to be in complete control, nor were we created to be completely controlled. The challenge is to own what we were made to own. True purpose, true peace, and true freedom can be found in taking hold of the three things we can control and letting go of the rest.

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  • seth_barnes

    So often people feel out of control. And they give themselves permission to play the victim. So much better to recognize what Victor Frankl wrote about in “Man’s Search for Meaning.” http://www.fablar.in/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Mans_Search_for_Meaning.78114942.pdf – we can be anywhere, even a concentration camp, and still be free.

  • Courtney1959

    I agree. Having read Mr. Frankl’s book, I found it profound and life changing. One thing that may deter most of us from trying to control everything in sight is we don’t like change. If we are alone without God in the World, that makes us very puny and vulnerable. One small shift, and we are gone. We are not victims but an audience of what God is doing in the World.