The quest for control is one of the biggest drivers of human behaviour. All our lives we seek security, safety and stability. We try to find a philosophy that makes sense of the world and a way of living that makes us feel as though we’re in charge.
But what if we stopped?
Writing on his blog, Zen Habits, Leo Babauta explains why the unrelenting pursuit of control is a recipe for unhappiness. Life is characterised by change. And it’s only by accepting this, Leo argues, that we can set down the conditions for real joy.
There are many things we do to create the illusion of control. Creating organizational systems, making big plans, seeking out clubs and groups to be a part of – they all give us a sense of belonging to something that’s stable. Even negative habits like procrastination and drug-taking are ultimately tactics to distract us from an ever-changing world.
Yet despite all these safety nets we create for ourselves, something always crops up to destroy our momentary peace-of-mind. Deadlines get overshot, friends and family drift out of our lives, we become unhappy with our work. A sense of control may last for a while, but ultimately it’s transient.
The answer is to embrace life’s ever-evolving, ever-changing nature through the practice of mindfulness. We can accept the present moment as it is, nonjudgmentally delighting in the movement of the world, whilst also becoming aware of our own thought-patterns. When we do this, we can shine a light on our own hidden mental striving for control and the strategies we devise to try and achieve it.
Finally, Leo recommends being with this feeling of “out-of-control-ness” as it manifests in our bodies. When we get to know it, we can stop fearing it.
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