Handling the Unpredictable Nature of Life
By Barbara McRae, MCC
Life doesn’t always seem to make sense. Situations that seemed to be a sure thing turn out to be anything but sure. These events range from a business contract that was practically a done deal until the buyer suddenly left the company to the romantic vacation that was unexpectedly curtailed due to an unexpected emotional blow-up.
The more invested you are in what you thought should’ve happened vs. accepting what did happen, the more you will suffer.
People who have control freak tendencies are particularly affected by the unpredictable nature of life. I know I used to be one. I was a perfectionist; the two are often related. I rationalized that it was OK; it just meant that I had high standards and a different way of doing things. I felt that getting involved in the business of others (Your family, coworkers or friends) was warranted, since they clearly weren’t able to handle situations themselves.
The illusion of control
I used to defend against laying down my need for control. Having an illusion of control gave me a sense of power and helped me feel protected and safe. That’s a potent payoff! Who would want to give that up? Now I realize that my need for control caused me – and often those around me – to suffer. This suffering can result in feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and self-righteous. It can lead to lost relationships and it’s rarely sustainable.
Trying to be in control of what hasn’t unfolded yet – the future – is a futile exercise. It isn’t worth the level of stress it produces. I profoundly experienced this lesson several years ago while still living in Ohio. Due to a long commute, I was anxious to move closer to my job. I found a large condo in a great neighborhood that would cut my drive time in half.
I had a buyer for my current condo and scheduled a double closing back-to-back. Suddenly my plan began to unravel when two days prior to closing, the mortgage company found a $10,000 lien on the property I was to buy. So unless I was willing to pay another $10K to take care of the owner’s lien, I would not be closing. Since I was still obligated to close on my condo (I had agreed to hand over my keys to the buyer the same day), I would need to vacate my home with no place to go!
My real estate agent urged me to consider paying the lien. But that didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t like feeling manipulated; I refused to let the seller’s lien become my problem. With the help of a coworker, I made arrangements to move into temporary housing within 48 hours. It was perfect timing. This apartment was much closer to my workplace and a fortunate break, but I wasn’t happy about moving into a small, dreary apartment instead of a large, beautiful condo. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me, and I didn’t like it one bit!
Stop arguing with reality
Have you ever told yourself, “I need to just let go of that?” Were you able to do it easily? For most of us, letting go is no small feat. You’re not sure how to let go without feeling numb. Letting go doesn’t mean that you no longer care; it means you’re not going to argue with reality. You accept instead of deny. Letting go is taking each day as it comes and looking for the good in it.
I challenged myself to move forward by letting go of my perceived loss and focusing on the future. To move forward, I contracted with a new realtor to launch another search.
Three months later, I found an amazing house and with only a 10-minute commute in an area I never would have discovered had I not been living in that apartment near my employer. The house was perfect for me. It was so much better than the condo I had lost; this house offered everything I wanted, including twice as much space for the same great price. I felt blessed to have been given this huge gift. Had I not been open to turning my circumstances into new and exciting possibilities, I would’ve missed out.
Often we think that making it happen is the only way to succeed. That certainly used to be my mantra: It’s up to me to make it be! I’ve since learned that, while it’s important to know what we desire and to be willing to take action steps in alignment with our goals, we cannot always know what is best for us. There will be times when God (or the Universal Force, if you prefer) will take control for our ultimate benefit. It’s how we respond to events that determines the outcome.
The next time you are tempted to take excessive control of any situation, ask yourself these three questions:
– Do I really know what’s for my (or someone else’s) ultimate good?
– Who or what situation taught me to handle life this way?
– How can I look at this event differently to stop suffering and feel better?
Barbara Campus Calm Parenting Expert