The urge to control is deeply embedded in our nature. We believe that control is the answer to all of our problems. If only we could get control of the situation, then everything would be ok! Control is only an illusion, because of course we can never really dictate what we or other people do, no more than we can decide the outcome of events. They say old habits die hard though, for good reason: When under duress, we tend to fall back on our established patterns and routines.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Our illusion of control dies very slowly. The more changing and uncertain our lives are, the more we fall back on our favorite illusion that if we can just get in charge we can control everything. We have forgotten that there is a difference between control and facilitating good work. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, management consultants, developed the concept of a back-up style for managers. Regardless of how much management training people have, or how intelligent or educated they are, under stress they resort to a back-up style, and that back-up style often is one of trying to control the situation. Unfortunately, control never works. It isn’t even possible. That’s one reason we feel like such failures.”
How could we not feel like a failure when we continue to try something that never works and never will? Yet it is so hard for us to let go and recognize that our instincts are wrong in this case, and control will never be an option. It is one of those hard-won lessons of life to discover that what we have always considered to be a fact in life is in actuality a fallacy. Control doesn’t exist, and it is not an option, no matter how much we may wish it to be. Whether we are trying to manage other people or manage ourselves, we must remember that it takes understanding and guidance to achieve the results we want. We must patiently seek to understand what motivates someone, and then reward and encourage that behavior in a way that makes sense. It is no easy task, but then anything worth doing is rarely easy. One thing is certain, though: Control is not the answer.