When we focus too much on control and maintaining our hold on it—or at least the illusion of it—we miss out on all the opportunities for joy that come our way. Life is no fun when we are so intent on following our plan that we don’t allow for surprises or distractions. The unexpected opens us up to different experiences we’d otherwise never have, and often takes us to surprising new places. Occasionally, we need a pleasant distraction to help us set things right again. Think of all we could be missing out on if we denied these opportunities all because of our plans!
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“One of the greatest joys in life is to be in search of one thing and to discover another.
Before we started our recovery, we were so controlling that surprises struck terror in our heart even when they were wonderful. We just didn’t want anything coming at us that wasn’t planned, structured, and under control. We now realize that trying to control everything has been one of the ways that we have robbed ourselves of the joy of living.
No wonder life has seemed dull at times—we have made it that way. It’s not that the potential for joy wasn’t there. We were just too busy and controlling to notice it.”
It was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I’ll never forget when my sister said that to me as I was graduating high school. I had no idea what she or John Lennon meant then, but I do now. Life takes us places we never imagined we would go. Sometimes those places are dark with sharp corners. They cut, and we have to learn to live with the wounds. When we cling too tightly to our ideas of who we are or should be, what we want to do, and what is going to happen to us… we not only end up disappointed, we miss out on so much. We fixate too much on the negative and how something doesn’t fit our ideals or our plan, and so we miss the beautiful way an experience shapes our life, or the lesson it offers us, or how it makes us a better person.
Life is full of pleasant surprises as well that delight and fill us with joy. They take us to new and unexpected places. Only if we are open to veering off the path we’ve set for ourselves, though. When we hold on too tightly to our need for control, to our plan for our lives, we also miss out. If an opportunity comes along that would be perfect for us, but it doesn’t fit in our plan—what then? Are we really going to turn down a shot at happiness just because it doesn’t meet some arbitrary criteria? Think of all the happiness we could be denying ourselves! I believe people find happiness anywhere, and often life takes us where we are meant to be, if only we are willing to let go of our hold on control and experience the joy of being there in the moment—wherever we may end up.