It’s one thing to advise people to release things they cannot control; it’s another to actually do it. Changing our perspectives sounds simple; making that shift often is a more complex undertaking. Recently someone asked me an interesting question: how do you stop engaging in long-standing yet unproductive emotions and activities such as worrying or to fretting over things you can’t control? Here are four concrete suggestions:
- Distinguish clearly between the things in your life that you can control, and the things you cannot influence. (For a description of how you might do this, please see our article Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life.) Completing this simple exercise enables you literally to see what things you need to release because you cannot control them. Having this visual will help you raise your awareness of those things, which means you will be able to make conscious choices about what to focus on - i.e., the people and things you can influence.
- Enlist the help of one or more partners who agree to help you recognize when you are holding on to those “uncontrollables.” This further raises awareness of unproductive behaviors and helps you re-focus on and choose healthy behaviors. You can do the same for your partners.
- Recognize that it may take time to ease into a new way of thinking that allows you to release the things you can’t control. It’s not necessarily easy to stop worrying or being anxious or feeling like a victim. If that’s the case, try this technique. A friend who is a cancer survivor has a wonderful way of coping with her occasional lapses into victimhood: she has a pity party for herself. She sets a timer for between five and thirty minutes, depending on how badly she’s feeling, and for that period of time, she focuses intently on how very sorry she feels for herself. Once the timer goes off, the party is over and she moves on.
- Be kind to yourself. Set realistic expectations, and do your best to meet or exceed them. Forgive yourself when you don’t, and keep moving forward.
Each one of us has the ability to take charge of the quality of our life experiences; whether we do so is entirely up to us. We get to choose between experiencing life as a victim or as a healthy individual. Which will it be? Let us know!
Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.
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