Lose Control. It’s Good For You.
by Annia Baron
There’s an outdated equation running through your head that’s stopping you from living your best life: The more in control I am = the happier I’ll be.
Tick this, do that, text back. Buy this, get that, get it in time. Smash this goal, set the next, and then update your social media accounts to ensure everyone sees how much you’ve got your life ‘together’. My friends, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel on top of things; a sense of achievement is important, and we deserve to feel good doing that. But chasing control of things that are simply never ours to begin with is leaving us exhausted and unfulfilled.
The weather, the bus running late, what mood your boss will be in – all not in your control. The things that go on inside your partner’s head, the choices your friends make, and what others think about you and how they’ll react – all not in your control. We create expectations of how these things should go, and when they don’t, we wonder why? We get upset. We stress and we do what we can to feel in control again. The chase starts all over.
Our motivation for control can be extrinsically or intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic goals drive us to do things because we’ll get something in return, whether it’s money, status, sex or admiration. Intrinsic goals, on the other hand, are those we pursue because the act of them, in and of themselves, is the reward e.g., playing piano purely for the sweetness it generates within you vs. playing for money.
“We create expectations of how these things should go, and when they don’t, we wonder why?”
Scientific research from around the world tells us that the more focus we place on extrinsic or materialistic goals, the more depressed and anxious we’re likely to feel (e.g., The relationship between materialism and personal wellbeing: a meta-analysis by Dittmar and colleagues in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology published in 2014). What we need is a new equation: Lose control (on purpose) + more focus on intrinsic goals = generate greater happiness.
Lose control by walking up to someone random and wishing them a beautiful day, just because it feels good. Lose control by telling people what’s in your heart instead of planning out your conversations because you’re seeking admiration. Go nuts and get on the trampoline with the kids instead of just watching them play on it. Let loose and play too. Be silly. Be real. Be open to how things are unfolding. Dare to be out of control by turning off your phone as you explore a new hiking trail. Drive somewhere new. See something different. Give yourself permission to abandon the to-do list for a moment and choose to reconnect with the experiences that make your heart light up. Lose yourself to dance, sing, write, create, dream, cook, paint, read, rest, share.
Learn something new. Get to know your whole self and what matters most to you. That’s where true control is found. That’s where true joy is generated. So, let’s erase an outdated equation. Let’s lose control, on purpose, more often. ■
Annia Baron is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindset Coach at ReMind Yourself in Hobart. remindyourself.com @anniabaron