Some people need more self-discipline and organization in their lives. Some people need less. To those who like to be in control (like me) the challenge is to let go of micromanaging my life, other’s lives, and the world.

It is only relatively recently that I’ve recognized my love of control as a potential problem. Generally I think of myself as a reliable, organized person who makes plans, gets things done, and meets deadlines. This is good! It makes my life work more smoothly and others can rely on me. But then, in an instant, came “the fall.” Recovery from my broken arm has taken a lot of time and dependence on others. I had to give up control. All this got me to thinking about the bigger fantasy of being able to control the cosmos.


  1. Know Yourself – On a continuum of 1 – 10 do I tend more toward the obsessive-compulsive, over-controlling side or more toward the laissez-faire, chaos side?
  2. Balance: Being organized, planning, meeting deadlines, etc. is good, but it can be overdone. Since I know that this is a strength of mine, my challenge is to develop my spontaneous, being present to the moment, and acceptance of uncertainty side.
  3. Process vs Outcome: One sanity saver I learned in parenting is that I am responsible for the process I use in parenting my children – not the outcome. This keeps me from judging my self-worth based on the success or failure of my children. Now I need to apply this to other life tasks. For example, I diligently plan my public talks or meetings. BUT, I can’t control whether people will agree with what I say or apply it to their life. I can’t control whether a group will choose to act.


  1. Other People. I can try to persuade, inspire, or enforce consequences but we all have free will. I can carry a small child to his/her room for a time-out but I can’t guarantee the same bad behavior won’t happen again. I can’t control traffic that might make me late 🙁 .
  2. The World: I can’t personally prevent a nuclear war, devastating weather, world poverty…
  3. What Happens To Me: I can slip and fall through no fault of my own. A drunk driver can hit my car. A jealous co-worker could spread lies about me which result in my being fired.


  1. The Way I Treat Other People: I can treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity, whether or not I think they deserve it.
  2. Taking Actions that Impact World Problems. Although I can’t dictate world peace, I can join organizations that work for peace, protecting the environment, reducing poverty, better race relations… I can become politically active since that is a way to make positive change beyond just individually recycling or giving food to a food pantry.
  3. My Time and Thoughts. If I take #2 seriously, it can quickly lead to over-commitment and stress. This is where the circle of seeking control can spiral out of control. I have found that it’s important to do something, but not everything. Prioritizing how to best use my time considering my talents, interests, and other obligations is the key.

Thoughts may be even harder to control than time since they are often prompted by feelings that rise up unbidden. The temptation is to feel overwhelmed and discouraged about mistakes or what’s yet to be done. For me, the following practices help me tame these negative temptations and be gentle with myself:

  • Developing a spiritual foundation (See Richard Rohr’s meditation, We Come to God by Doing It Wrong,  and the 5 minute video, Happiness Revealed for ideas.)
  • Being in community
  • Taking time to laugh (at myself and the fantasy that I can actually control the universe.)