A Coaching Power Tool Created by Prianca Naik
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Letting go and control are concepts that are at odds.
Control is a false sense of security in which a person feels they have power over something. It also creates tension even when a person feels like she has it. People who tend to try to control often strive for perfectionism and people-pleasing. Trying to stay in control and hold onto certain things creates tension in the mind creating more rigidity. This space is the substrate for easily falling out of balance.
Everything changes from moment to moment; hence, there is a distinct amount of uncertainty from moment to moment. Resting in this uncertainty and finding peace is the way to let go and find a sense of equilibrium.
We always have control of ourselves and our thoughts. This is a powerful concept that can create an inherent sense of security to keep us feeling safe. However, this practice leads to dissatisfaction because it is impossible. Instinctually, our need for survival leads to our desire for control to feel protected and safe.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines control as having “power over.” Human beings frequently seek power as a means of achievement and fulfillment. This innate desire often functions as a core motivator in human beings along with bleeding into our personal lives.
The only thing certain in life is uncertainty itself. However, we constantly try to counteract that. In an attempt to make life tidy and more manageable we often try to control our surroundings. A prime example of this is a perfectly planned-out trip to the Bahamas. Every detail is included in the itinerary from a resort included breakfast to a day trip to Atlantis followed by happy hour and a late dinner. Naturally, one might look forward to this trip for months. Then boom! A hurricane makes travel impossible and the dream of the trip is never realized. This is a prime example of plans going out the window and how we have no control over anything besides ourselves.
When our brain is trying to gain control, it is in a perpetually exhausted state. People often find it easier to turn their attention outward than to actually look inward. Thinking we can control the world around us is a delusion many find comforting. However, in truth, we can only control ourselves; the power to do this is within ourselves.
Many of my clients are highly functioning physician mothers who find their lives very chaotic. They continuously plan to counteract the unpredictability that life inherently brings. This gives them a false sense of control. But the truth is that plans go awry constantly due to external factors. We cannot control other people, situations, or the future. Hence, it is actually a waste of time to expend energy on controlling anything but oneself.
In juxtaposition to control, letting go often leaves us feeling helpless. Letting go of that which we cannot control, ie everything outside of us, allows us to focus on our own.
You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway. ~Steve Maraboli
Letting go is the opposite of control. We relinquish control and allow whatever will be to be. Although this process can be scary, it ultimately leads to greater control of our own human experience. By letting go, we can embrace stability from within us and ignore our surroundings. Ironically, this gives us control of our lives and allows us to feel more fulfilled and stable. By knowing we can control ourselves and our own experience, we can let go of the role of the outside world as a major influence in our lives. Letting go is actually liberating and gives us more control over our experience.
Letting go involves surrendering to what the universe might send our way. We stop resisting circumstances. To let go, we need to understand why we try to control. Letting go of small matters before tackling letting go of larger things is a practical, easy approach. One must shift her perspective to expect surprises and change.
In our natural search for happiness, many of us grew up with discomfort surrounding change. Greater ease and freedom can come from accepting change and a lack of control-allowing the rhythm of life to unfold naturally.
Many of us find we are frustrated and afraid of situations that we cannot control. Automatically we try to gain control of these uncontrollable circumstances and find ourselves feeling more out of control than ever.
While what other people do does affect us, it is up to each of us to choose our response. We can allow external factors to motivate or control us or we can choose to focus on letting go.
Coaches support their clients by helping them to recognize and reframe their view of themselves and their surroundings. The client often tells me they struggle with the unknown and want to have control. In trying to get control, they attempt to diminish anxiety. This struggle leads to inherent restlessness and unhappiness. My clients are physician mothers who feel overextended, overwhelmed, and stressed. They identify themselves as control freaks. They try to control their spouses, their children, and their environments and often feel out of control. They look for satisfaction and happiness outside of themselves, which is a set up for failure. The more they seek to control and external validation the less happy they are.
Learning that they are in control of their thoughts, which leads to their feelings liberates and empowers clients. This inner power does not need to control the outside world. By letting go of the control, in fact, it is gaining more control.
- Why do you want to be in control?
- Is there a tie between being in control and people-pleasing/perfectionism?
- How much of your time and energy is spent on things that are not working?
- What purpose does being in control serve?
- How has trying to control situations hurt you in the past?
- What would letting go look like for you?
- What is your fear of letting go?
- What is the worst to have happened?
- By letting go, what might you gain?
Shifting perspectives visualization:
Working on our own control issues as coaches can aid us in shifting our own perspectives as we ask the client to let go and say goodbye to control. Lead a visualization along with questions about the sensory (visual, auditory, olfactory) experience of changing outlooks to get in better touch with the work of letting go.
- As a coach, how do you try to control and let go?
- How can trying to control a situation affect your relationship with your clients?
- What can you do to manage your own struggles with control and letting go to optimize your relationship with your client?
- How can you support your clients in the process of relinquishing control?
It is our natural need to feel safe and secure. Therefore, we seek, search and act on what is needed to be in control so we do not feel falling out from places and running off track. However, continuously going back to serve this need, deprives us of the chances to realize, understand and acquire what is truly needed to take us to another level of growth. By letting go, we can be free from the desire to be certain and live in absolute predictability. This realization will be helpful and liberating, allowing us to look from a different viewpoint, gain insight, and pursue growth.
This power tool of In Control Vs Letting Go is not only applicable in self-fulfilling happiness but many other aspects and niches of coaching as well.
Hawkins, David R. Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. Hay House, Inc., 2018.
Rubin, Gretchen. “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.” Amazon, Harpercollins, 2018, www.amazon.com/Happiness-Project-Tenth-Anniversary-Aristotle/dp/0062888749.