Anyone who is trying to manage their life and stress out about it will find this post helpful. Which I’m guessing means it’s for most people.
It’s easy to convince ourselves we have power over things we don’t—as if we can force people and situations to go our way simply by trying or pushing harder.
If this was true, the world would be a lot more secure. People would do what they believed was best and situations will work out the way we expected. Nothing difficult or painful should ever catch us by surprise.
But some things are simply uncontrollable, and it’s exhausting and futile to obsess over them—not to mention disempowering, since we can’t control what’s in our power when we’re fixated on things that aren’t.
This is something I am a recovering control freak. It is scary to trust in the process of letting go, and that everything will be alright.
These days I try to focus more on the latter, since that’s something I Can control. I can’t control what’s coming, but I can control whether I feel strong enough to cope with it, and even make the best of it.
This is why I founded the company. Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal, and it’s why I decided to create this list including fifteen things we can’t control, what we can control instead, of what, specifically, we can do to own our power.
Since I think these are reminders that we all need often, I’ve created an abridged two-page PDF that you can print and hang for daily reference, along with a worksheet to help you let of control. They are both available online.
1. You can’t control: What other people do.
It is your control.It doesn’t matter if you are a part of their behaviour or not.
These are some of the things that you can do. Trust other people to make their own decisions and accept that you’re not responsible for their choices or the consequences of their actions. You must accept that they make choices and have to live with the consequences. You can be open to their behaviors without condemning them or encouraging it. If their behavior is a threat to your mental, physical or emotional health, set limits.
2. You can’t control: How other people see you.
It is your control.Your relationships with others and your perception of yourself will determine how you present.
These are some of the things that you can do. Make a list of traits you’d like to embody in your relationships—kindness, honesty, or integrity, for example—and check in with yourself throughout the day to ensure you’re being the kind of person you want to be. Every night, take a moment to look back on all the things you were proud of that day.
3. You can’t control: How other people treat you.
It is your control.What you do with them.
These are some of the things that you can do. Recognize that their behavior isn’t personal; it’s more about them and their own pain and limitations than you. Communicate how their behavior affects you, set boundaries around what you will and will not accept, and plan what you’ll do to enforce those boundaries and what you’ll do if someone crosses them. You should not be treated with disrespect or callousness by the other person.
4. You can’t control: Whether other people like you.
It is your control.Be true to yourself.
These are some of the things that you can do. Remind yourself that no one is liked by everyone and that you don’t have to win anyone’s approval. You just need to be yourself so you can find likeminded people—people who accept and appreciate you just as you are. Also, list what it means to you to be true to yourself and check in with yourself regularly to see if you’re adhering to your list.
5. You can’t control: What other people think, feel, and believe.
It is your control.What you do with your opinions, emotions, and beliefs.
These are some of the things that you can do. Set boundaries around conversations (which topics you won’t discuss, or what you’ll do to stay calm when hot button issues come up). Remind yourself that it’s not your job to change people’s minds. Look for common ground—something you can both agree on, even if you think differently. And remember that you don’t need to see eye-to-eye on everything to have a strong relationship; you just need to respect each other.
6. You can’t control: How other people internalize things you say and do.
It is your control.When you accidentally hurt someone, your intentions and the way you respond.
These are some of the things that you can do. Communicate how you feel if you fear you’ve upset someone and clarify your intentions if you think there’s been a misunderstanding. Also, trust that other people will tell you if they’re upset, and recognize it’s not your job to read their minds if they don’t speak up.
7. You can’t control: What happens to other people.
It is your control.It is how you respond to their needs when they are most difficult.
These are some of the things that you can do. Acknowledge that struggles help us develop strengths and can lead to pride and purpose, so you don’t need to shelter anyone from pain. When they’re hurting, hold space for them instead of trying to save or fix them, and let them know you’re there, you care, and you want to help however you can.
8. You can’t control: Your thoughts and feelings.
It is your control.They can be attached to, identified with, or acted upon.
These are some of the things that you can do.Be aware that feelings and thoughts can come and go and are not permanent. They also don’t mean anything about you as a person. You can also practice pausing when you have a thought or feeling to allow yourself to respond calmly and clearly.
9. You can’t control: The things that have already happened.
It is your control.You do what you can in the now.
These are some of the things that you can do. Note what you’ve learned from the things you wish you could change so you can do things differently going forward, starting now. To find the positive in the past, you need to reframe it. Make amends if you’ve hurt someone or write a letter (to send or not) to someone who hurt so you can work toward forgiveness.
10. You can’t control: Everything that’s going to happen.
It is your control.What can you do to be more prepared for the unexpected?
These are some of the things that you can do. Schedule in your daily to-do list at least one activity to boost your mental and emotional health—like meditating, journaling, and connecting with your support system—so you feel capable of handling whatever comes at you. Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal offers a wide array of prompts, challenges, and exercises to help with this!
11. You can’t control: The outcome of anything you do.
It is your control.We appreciate your efforts.
These are some of the things that you can do. Put in the time for anything that matters to you, even if it’s just a little every day. Focus on progress, not perfection, so you don’t end up feeling paralyzed. Lastly, remind yourself that you can only do your best, and your best is good enough; and that even if things don’t turn out as you hope, something good can come from the experience.
12. You can’t control: Your body aging.
It is your control.What you do for your body, and what you think about it.
These are some of the things that you can do.Sleep is your number one priority. Drink water every day, move your body daily and eat moderately unprocessed food. You should be focusing on the way your body supports you, and what it allows you to do. And remember aging is far better than the alternative—and as the saying goes, “a privilege denied to many.”
13. You can’t control: All aspect of your health.
It is your control.Your preventative health care measures
These are some of the things that you can do. Stay on top of doctor’s appointments and schedule an appointment if ever anything concerns you—don’t wait. Instead of trying to be always productive, prioritize rest. Minimize exposure to toxins, quit smoking if you’re a smoker, and wear sunscreen regularly.
14. You can’t control: The inevitability of you getting hurt.
It is your control. How you treat yourself when you’re hurting.
These are some of the things that you can do. Remind yourself that there’s no way to avoid pain because the act of avoiding itself is painful. You can learn to be present with your pain and not try to avoid it by using addictive or illegal substances. Talk to yourself as you’d talk to someone you love when they’re hurting, and practice looking for the gains in losses so that every challenge and setback feels meaningful.
15. You can’t control: The fact that there’s suffering in the world.
It is your control.You can either contribute or assist with it.
These are some of the things that you can do.Be a healer of your pain. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. If you notice someone in pain, be there for them and offer to help. Every day, do small acts of kindness. Lastly, donate your time, money, or resources to causes you’re passionate about.
I hope these reminders help you as much as they’re helping me! The shortened printable list can be found here, as well as the Letting Go of Control worksheet.
Also, just a reminder: For a limited time, you can get a free 318-page eBook—Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Overcoming Hard Times—when you preorder Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal through one of the vendors listed here.
About Lori Deschene
Tiny Buddha is founded by Lori Deschene. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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