A Coaching Power Tool created by Katrina Tala Supangco Ocampo
(Freelance Consultant & Professional Coach, SINGAPORE)
Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.
The Need To Be In Control
People often go through life with a plan, a goal, a roadmap. Such is a purpose-‐driven life. When you live life with a direction, you gain energy and it flows in the way of your goal or plans. And this is just a wonderful way of life as compared to living aimlessly or even vicariously through others. However, in our world today we take this purposefulness to the extreme. In our passionate desire to achieve what we set out to do, we don on blinders, rev up our engines and zoom through life straight to our goal. Along the way we tolerate nothing but only those that can speed up the process to the destination. We got everything in order, we are in the zone, in the driver’s seat, controlling our lives. What an awesome place to be! Who doesn’t want to go through life smooth sailing right?
However, as Vinita Wright said, “interruptions are life.” When we encounter these interruptions, we remain focused on the goal and don’t even bother to stop and take a look at what that really is. Instead, we hold on to the wheel even more tightly in our desire to remain in control.
What exactly does it mean to be in control? It is a verb meaning “to exercise restraining or directing influence over (Regulate) or to have power over (Rule).” 1 With this definition, being in control seems to give one such power. Dr. Amy Johnson also posits that “control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome – an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.” 2 We hold on to that goal or plan, even when outside forces are telling us that, what we initially thought what is best, may not necessarily be so now. We stubbornly cling to an ideal, even if it may not make sense to where we are at that particular moment, just like looking at a dead star. But why is there such an attachment to being in control? Dr. Adam Blatner suggests that first it is rooted in our upbringing. We are trained to achieve relative independence by acquiring skills that allows us to fend for ourselves and our family. This basically means we grow up as adults. In that sense we are wired to thinking, we are the masters of our own lives and that entails a great deal of control. Dr. Amy Johnson also suggests that control is actually rooted in fear. 3 We exert control because we are afraid of what might happen if we lose control. Sometimes we don’t even know what will happen – and that makes it all the more scarier, the fear of the unknown!
Exercise 1: What Do You Want To Control?
We all have things in life where we feel so attached to be in control. List down the top 3 things that
you strongly feel you need to be in control about. For each of those items:
- Write down why you feel so strongly about wanting to be in control, and;
- What do you fear will happen if you are not in control?
The Paradox of Control
Being in control however is a great paradox. For one, relentlessly holding on to the idea of being in control may be ineffective or even counter-‐productive as Dr. Blatner suggests. Life is more complex than we make it to be. Consider the poem Invictus by William Earnest Henley, where the popular line “I am the captain of my soul”4 came from. “The ship’s captain is the supreme commander in that isolated world. The irony in that example, though, is that while, compared to anyone else on the boat, the captain has the most control, when it comes to ships in the ocean, that doesn’t mean
very much. Ocean currents and weather, strength of the ship and amounts of fuel, number of crew and whether they are drunk or sober – in fact, this aforementioned range of 8-‐20% control might apply – captains can only “control” so much.”5 Furthermore, when we grow up as adults, we realize that in as much as we have taken over our lives, we are not really totally, 100% in control.6 Life – disease, death and other misfortunes or even unexpected pleasant surprises – happen!7
The Invitation to Surrender
When this happens, we are, more than ever, invited to surrender. Surrender seems to be such a puny word as compared to Control. As compared to exercising regulation and rule as in control, surrender means “to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand, to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another, to give (oneself) up into the power of another, to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence), to give oneself up
into the power of another.”8 Who, in their right mind would want to be in that sorry position? It’s like when the going gets tough, there’s no other way but to give up. However, surrender, aside from the literal meaning goes deeper than that.