The most stressful jobs, I have heard, are those that have a great deal of responsibility
and no power. Many of us have, or have had, these jobs: teachers and nurses who
have the lives of others in their hands and yet have no say about how things
are run; middle managers, who are responsible for the smooth operation of a company
but have no say in the leadership; and so forth. The factor that makes these
jobs similar is that the employee feels that he or she has no control of the
Lately, it isn’t only on the job where we, as a society, are feeling we have no control. Many of us have dutifully funded 401Ks and IRAs only to have the money we put into them disappear. Some of us have worked and struggled to achieve a position that we assumed we could hold forever, only to have the job disappear through no fault of our own. Young people have studied hard and spent four years or more in college, just to find that there are no jobs. The unifying factor in all these scenarios? The person’s belief that they have no control over the circumstances of their life.
There is just a whole lot going on right now that we have no control over. It isn’t our fault, we didn’t cause it, and we haven’t a clue how to fix it. When this happens, people seem to search for just about ANY way to regain a semblance of control. Perhaps we become dictatorial around our homes, or struggle to control our bodies through excessive dieting or exercising. Conversely, some of us give up and hide for a time in a shopping mall, a bottle or constantly searching the internet. As understandable as these methods are, they really don’t work.
I have been told by my guides that things really will never return to "normal." We are entering into a new way of living and the adjustment is going to be a little rocky. They say to hold on and enjoy the ride.
How do we do that? I suggest that we start by spending some time focusing on what we do have control over and then enhancing those aspects of our lives. Many things are outside of our individual control (the stock market, housing prices, the job market). But, we have true control over what really matters.
For example, unless you are in prison or in a very restricted environment, you have control over at least eight hours of each day. Yet, very few of us intentionally and mindfully plan and control those hours to optimize their joy for us.
We also have control over how we spend at least a portion of our money. True, we all have to pay taxes and a few other things. But, many of the ways we think we must spend our money are really choices we are making. For example, once we recognize that we choose to live in this big house, rather than thinking I must live in this house, we have regained a tiny element of control.
We have, again for at least eight hours a day, a choice about who we hang around with. We have a choice about what we eat, wear, read and watch. We make the decision about what we tell ourselves and how we feel about it.
Once we acknowledge how much true control we have over our lives, two things happen. First, a sense of calmness comes over us and fear leaves. Second, this sense of calmness spreads to the others in our lives. It is one way we, as individuals, can change the world.
We are starting a new year. Instead of making the usual list of resolutions, why not make a list of all the things you can control in your lives. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.