Let Things Work Out On Their Own

16 April 2011, by A. Cedilla

Sometimes, you have to take a few steps back to understand that there are that you’re the only one who’s getting in your own way by trying to control too many things.

  • The idiots who keep screwing up the customer fulfillment program: “It’s not that hard, just follow the directions, can’t you freaking show some initiative — no, not that way, this way!”
  • The morons who keep yapping after you to solve their own problems, and ignore your helpful advice anyway. “Why ask me if you’re gonna do what you wanted anyway? Sonofa–” *grumble-mutter-steam*
  • The clueless talking heads in their corner offices who tell you they’ll “take it under advisement.”

…if it seems that everyone is always out to get you, maybe, just maybe, it’s not just them that’s the problem.

Stress is internally generated. It’s a reaction to what happens on the outside. Bet you’ve seen it for yourself in all kinds of situations — something that makes other people blow up just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief, or something that drives you off your rocker leaves you staring bug-eyed at a good buddy when he tells you, “It’s not that big a deal, man. Chill.”

Everyone has their own unique triggers and limits. What sets you off may just be a point of mild interest for someone else. But it still holds true that your stress — and your reactions — come from inside you. And one source of stress is have an issue with control, like trying to hurrying things along to “fix them faster.”

You keep pushing, keep too tight a hold, try to control everything in your environment –even the people– the pressure builds up internally. Even a pressure cooker has a vent — a controlled way of letting off steam. Unless you’re unusually self-aware, the ways you’re used to venting and how you choose to vent can hurt you and the people around you.

Ease up on the things you’re clamping on, don’t put too much of yourself in the fantasy of, “Everything would be fine if people just did what I say!”

The world is big, it’s been going non-stop without having to check in with you. Trying to control everything would be like herding cockroaches, or kittens. Just as you have your thing to do, people have their things to do. Your things don’t trump their things just because you say so.

A better way is to find out what other people want and align your relationship interactions in a way that lets them get what they want while you get what you want at the same time. Negotiation, clarity of intention, communication — these are the skills you need to cultivate, not just having an intimidating presence or a more prestigious title.

Riding everything on things outside of your true influence is a stress you are trained to inflict on yourself. It makes you feel like you’re actually achieving something, when all you’re actually doing is spinning your wheels needlessly.

To get out of the habit, you need to practice letting go. Not practice as in, say warming up and doing piano scales before the main event. Practice as doing, repeating, even if you don’t want to, or feel like it. Start small.

List your worries each night before going to sleep, and get at least a few weeks’ worth of data.( If you’re in the habit of keeping a journal or a daily planner with personal observations, even better.)

  • Writing it out gets it out of your head, and frees your RAM for more important things
  • Writing it down makes you a record of what you’re focusing on and worried about most.
  • Writing it out before sleeping can relieve you of having to worry about it and stay awake.

At the end of that period, see which worries were valid. Calculate the percentage of valid worries versus the things that resolved themselves without your ‘help’. This kicks you out of your rut in two ways:

  • You see what kinds of things worry you.
  • You see how much you worry each day, and over time.
  • You see things that you’ve been losing sleep over weren’t really that important or vital anyway.

And this record, over time, shows you the areas of your life where stress pools. It draws your focus to where you’re worrying and distracted the most , and knowing this, you can take active steps in analyzing the specific areas where a) you can change things b) where it’s outside your influence (can’t change things).

  • If you can change, do it. Deal with it.
  • If you can’t — make peace with the situation, or develop a coping strategy to deal with it. Reduce frequency of exposure, or have someone else who doesn’t mind and isn’t bothered by it attend to the situation.

Another thing: If you can’t change the situation, making peace with something you don’t want can also mean looking at something else that’s good.

Don’t focus on the bad stuff so much. In short: cultivate gratitude. Don’t let the things you can’t change blot out the good in the life you have, and the things you still can do.

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