We Can Only Control the Controllable

Written by Jason Haines

“Many of us rely on our own illusion of control. But when God makes it known to you that you’re not the one steering the ship, be thankful. He has removed the illusion, and forced you to rely only on him.” -Yasmin Mogahed

Why do we think we must be in control of everything that goes on in our lives? Or that we can never seem to let go of being in control? There are many experiences over the years working in manufacturing that have taught me that one cannot control everything in their life. And this past year has exemplified that we cannot be in control of everything happening in our lives. So why do we want to control everything and not just control what we can control?

Many times, throughout life we believe we need to have control of everything that we tend to stress out over things that do not go as planned. Why do we have the need to be perfect? What is the purpose of controlling everything when we know we possibly cannot control everything? Especially when we all know there are things that will happen that we did not expect to happen. So, why not let go of the uncontrollable?

Most of us have that inkling to try and control everything in our lives. Our kids, family, work, and so much in our life. As leaders we want to be able to produce the future for our families, companies, and countries. We do this by not trying to control the uncontrollable, but by teaching, coaching, and mentoring the very people we want to succeed us. Trying to control these areas of our lives usually cause more headaches than we really want. This is an area where we as leaders must become servants to our people.

What are some of the reasons that we feel the need to be in control of everything in our lives and sometimes in control of other peoples lives? Many times, we have areas of anxiety that things will not go the way we planned and hoped for; which causes us to feel the need to be in control. Other times it is past failures that we are unable to let go of and when we lose control and don’t try to keep things in control, we think things will not be good. Sometimes it is our childhood and pressure that we were given from our parents that we could not fail. And lastly, the biggest in the corporate world, is we are afraid that our ego will be hurt if we are wrong and do not control everything.

Ego and pride can kick in anywhere and in any facet of our lives. When ego and pride do kick in, we are in trouble because we are not serving the people that matter to us most. We are not going to get much out of our people that we do not listen to, we bark orders to, and we try to control with everything we have. When this happens, our people will get a fight or flight attitude. This fight or flight attitude causes headaches for all people in leadership and a lot of times our pride doesn’t allow us to understand why we are getting so much of a pushback. We think it isn’t our fault and we have nothing to do with the way things are going, when it is on the contrary. It becomes our fault when we let our egos and pride take over leading to making things worse than better. We think we aren’t wrong and will fight tooth and nail to prove we are right. But as leaders we must remember they don’t fire the team; they fire the coach. Ultimately, leaders must look inside themselves and make sure they are serving their people.

Our EGO, or Edging God Out as described in the book Lead Like Jesus, can get us into big trouble. It can lead to the illusion that we must control everything. Ego is something that we all need, but we also need to make sure we keep it in check. Especially as leaders because we have many personalities that we are working with, guiding, teaching, coaching, and mentoring. These people are looking to leaders to help them with their problems, but to also help with things that will help advance their agendas in life. So as leaders we must keep our ego out of the way. We have to want our people to succeed and see them do the best they can, and if we have an ego in the road we have a tendency to control and only want our people to go the way we want them to go. Ego causes us to be rigid.

When we try to control everything, we are being rigid in our ways because we as leaders are expecting everything to be a certain way, OUR WAY. When things do not go our way, we become stressed and upset about the things we are trying to accomplish. Usually this happens because we didn’t give good, clear, and concise instructions as to what we expected; and we also probably didn’t give our people the autonomy to be able to complete the project. Autonomy gives us freedom and it gives our employees freedom. Not to do as they please, but to make decisions when they need to make decisions if things are not going as planned or not going as they need to go.
When we eliminate our pride and realize that we are there to serve our people through guidance and servant leadership. We do this by eliminating fear from our hearts that if we guide these people they will take our jobs. We must also remember that if our followers do take our jobs it is the will of God that it happened, and he has better opportunity for us ahead. But we must eliminate fear nonetheless from our daily life.

Fear elimination can be hard for any of us to do but is a must when we lead. I know firsthand because I have been in this situation. When I didn’t eliminate fear from my heart in a previous position, it affected my job performance in negative ways. It created a lot of stress, never feeling worthy of the position that I held, and always scared that I would be replaced. I never gave myself the opportunity to develop relationships with my employees. I was unable to show them the respect I wanted to and provide the coaching and mentorship that I wanted to give. I was always dominant and controlling and it wasn’t a good situation. That is when I found the deep mean of Lean management and leadership which is to value all your people and respect those people to the fullest. Trust them and mentor them.

Whether guiding your family or your organization we need to remember that we do not always have to be in control of everything. We are put in stead of the people in our lives for a reason and that is to see them grow and develop over time. These people will be the future leaders and ambassadors of our families and organizations, and they are the people we want to succeed us in the future. So please remember don’t always control everything and make sure we are giving clear and concise guidance to help the people in our stead a way to succeed.

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