“Stop trying to control everything and let the chips fall where they may”
We, humans, are smart, to some extent.
But we’re weird. Like, really weird.
We often try to be something that we’re not. No, I don’t mean faking who we are, I mean we expect from ourselves to have powers that no animal has (or will ever have).
For instance, fortune-telling is impossible. Only con-artist will deceive you to believe that they can do it. So, it doesn’t make sense to expect that we humans should be able to see the future.
However, deep inside, we want to know the future in order to figure out what’s going to be painful and what’s going to feel good, what’s going to work and what will fail, who will stay and who will leave.
If you look at this desire, it’s nothing but an attempt to control the uncontrollable. It’s a desperate attempt to be in control. He who is in control is certain and won’t feel anxious or afraid. Won’t feel stupid or uncertain because s/he doesn’t know what might happen. It’s also a desperate attempt to stop anxiety.
You might think that this is a rare and extreme desire, but most of us are guilty of wanting to control the uncontrollable. It’s clear in the way we don’t take action sometimes. It’s clear in the way we over-think some situation.
Here are few examples:
- Wanting to ask someone out but being uncertain about their response. So, we over-analyze everything they do. We stalk them and try to figure out what’s going on in their mind. We don’t make a move until we’re 100% sure. And because we are never 100% sure, we never make a move.
- Wanting to change your job but being afraid of doing that. Being afraid that people would judge you. Being afraid that you would be broke. Being afraid that you would be in a position where too much is demanded of you. And as a result, you’re stuck at your same job feeling very bad and yet doing nothing but over-thinking.
- Wanting to start a business but being paralyzed by the possibility of failure. So, you spend nights analyzing the marketplace. You spend thousands of hours reading about what works and what doesn’t work. You do your best to come up with the perfect business idea and launch a flawless product. But most of the time, you’re just sitting there analayzing everything and doing nothing.
To have such a control over anything, you need to have a lot of information about this thing. To have unlimited control, which what most of us want, you need to have an insanely ridiculous amount of information about that thing.
And that’s why it’s impossible to have such control. You can’t have that amount of information about anything in life, no matter how hard you search.
This is an unpleasant fact of life. You’ll never have absolute control. You’ll never know all the answers that you want to know. You’ll probably never understand everything.
That means you have to deal with lots of uncertainties and doubts. Lack of absolute control and absolute knowledge will breed uncertainty and doubt sooner or later.
To be able to survive and take action despite these uncertainties, you need to give up your desire to control everything. To be able to stop trying to control everything, you need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. This is the point that I want to take further in the rest of this article.
I define uncertainty as the possibility of failure. The possibility of failure is what produces the uncertainty and the anxiety and the fear.
There’s always a possibility of failure, rejection, or disappointment. And that freaks us out.
But in fact, to be able to grow or change anything that you want to change, you need to be comfortable with the possibility of failure, else you won’t take action and persevere. You need to be comfortable with uncertainty.
Being comfortable with uncertainty means being comfortable with this possibility of failure, rejection, disappointment, or hurt.
So, the desire to control everything is actually nothing but an attempt to avoid getting hurt. It’s a symptom that we’re not comfortable with the possibility of failure/uncertainty. We dread uncertainty, so we try to seek ultimate certainty, which we’ll never get. An empty circle that will lead to nowhere!
In my book The Art of Change, I discussed in detail how an entire phase of change is based on your ability to handle uncertainty (the possibility of failure and pain). It’s called the growth phase and it’s all about your ability to withstand the pain.
As simple as that sounds, it’s hard!
I’m going to tell you, there’s no easy way to become comfortable with uncertainty. There’s no comfortable way to become comfortable with the possibility of failure.
In fact, it’s supposed to be hard. That’s the entire point. You must withstand that pain.
Below I’m going to give you few suggestions on how to do that. Much more like a coaching session. However, notice that these suggestions aren’t going to be quick fixes. This is a long-term solution and it’s going to take time and even be painful at times.
The following suggestions are steps that should be taken one by one. Together, they construct a process. A process that is designed to change the way you look at failure.
By changing the way you look at failure, you’re going to, slowly, be comfortable with failure and uncertainty.
Here we go, follow these steps:
- What does failure mean to you in the first place? First, ask yourself, “What has to happen in order for you to feel like a loser?” Being rejected X times? Failing X times? Failing in a certain way? Embarrassing yourself? For example, if I got rejected by him/her, it means I’m not good enough. If I failed this time, it’s all gone and I’m done. Find your own definition, you need to be aware of it.
- Challenge your definition: if you’re reading this article, and have reached this far, chances are you have an extreme definition. You need to challenge this extreme to destroy it. Who said that getting rejected X times means that you’re born to be a failure or unworthy of love? Who said that you can’t solve this problem and grow from it? Who failed miserably before and then succeeded? Who said that you should stop now? Challenge the already existing, and unhelpful, definition of failure in order to destroy it. (Read: 71 Thought Provoking Questions to Shake Your World (In a Good Way)
- Work on a new definition of failure: we need something that we can handle. Something that won’t destroy us. First, get over your shame of failure. It’s not a shame to fail at something or to be rejected. In fact, it’s unavoidable and you must fail somehow in your life. Second, you need to learn how to pick yourself up from failure. That alone can help you define failure differently. After that, get a definition. Failure means giving up. Failure means not trying your best. Failure means settling and stopping. Failure means being a coward. Failure means not trying. And condition yourself to believe in this new definition by repeating it, acting upon it, and reading success stories that back it up.
- Work on a new definition of success: people who have an extreme definition of failure usually have an extreme definition of success too. That is, they make it very hard for themselves to feel successful because they have too difficult rules. They never feel proud of themselves because of their extreme definition. That needs to change. You want to start looking at success in a different way in order to, paradoxically, be OK with failure. Success is trying your best. It’s about fighting even when you’re not sure whether you’ll make it or not, but you rather take a chance instead of wetting your pants wondering, “what if?”. It’s about daring to dream and about daring to go out there and actualize the dream even though you might fail. It’s about risking failure. It’s about putting yourself out there. Since I’ve started to consider success as doing my best even though I might fail and I’m taking bold actions and be satisfied with the results no matter how it turns around. It’s better to try and fail than not try at all.
- Imagine the worst case scenario: when you start trying to control the uncontrollable and over-think the situation, I want you to do this. Imagine the worst scenario possible. The worst thing that will ever happen. Imagine your worst nightmare come true, and write it down.
- Approach it with your new definition of failure: take your worst case scenario and think about it again using your new and empowering definition of failure. Chances are you’re going to feel a lot differently about the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is scary because it makes your previous definition of failure a reality. With a new and empowering definition, it should affect you less if not at all. Work on your definition of failure until your feelings toward the worst case scenario become less intense or change entirely.
- Approach it with your new definition of success: do the same with your definition of success. Take your worst case scenario and think about with your new definition of success and see how you still can succeed. Work on your definition of both failure and success until your feelings toward the worst case scenario naturalize or at least become less intense.
- Repeat and condition yourself: most probably, the transformation won’t happen right away. It can but let’s take the worst-case scenario. Try again and again. Keep conditioning yourself until you’re there. Condition yourself by repeating this process and also by reading success stories and applying this process to any situation you find yourself trying to over-think and control everything.
I want to add something very important.
Always keep taking action. Never stop taking action. Always do something. Keep moving by taking action. Always. No matter what. take action.
While writing this article, I thought that some people might get this advice wrong.
I’m saying, “Stop trying to control everything.” I’m not saying, “Stop taking action.”
Apply the 7 steps process above but keep in mind that you should never stop taking action. In fact, that, always taking action, has to be in your definition of success.
The above process should change the way you look at failure, and success, and also neutralize your feelings toward the worst case scenario. That will help you handle uncertainty better and quit the desire to control everything and over-thinking everything. It’s not to be used as an excuse to stop taking action.
So, yeah, stop trying to fight uncertainty but never stop taking action.
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