Science tells us that we will increase our sense of well-being, and our sense of living more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives when we acknowledge that we can’t control what happens to us. The late Jim Rohn explains this beautifully when he said “The best study of life is how it is… not how you wish it to be!” This is about recognising and accepting the reality of the world we live in. Dr Henry Cloud sums this up in his book Integrity by saying “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
City traffic will often be a moving car park. The queue that you’re standing in will often seem to move slower than the one next to you. Finding a car park at the shopping centre will often take longer than your actual shopping. Of course the plane you’re waiting to board for your anniversary holiday will be delayed. The meal at the restaurant will take longer than you’d like to arrive and when you wash your car of fire up the barbeque it’s going to rain for sure.
OK… so maybe I’m painting a fairly pessimistic picture here, but my point is that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.
Like I’ve said already, we’re an odd lot we humans. Research by Dr Ellen Langer suggests when we feel like we’ve got more control, we tend to increase our sense of well-being; we are healthier and happier.
Now if you think about these two concepts of control, there’s a potential paradox.
(1) We can’t control what happens to us in life
(2) When we feel more in control we are more healthy and happy
A three pronged intentional approach to the Paradox of Control:
The discipline of a three pronged approach to intentionally dealing with the control paradox to help you live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life is to first focus on the control we have over the way we intentionally choose to deal with the realities of life (the good, the bad and the indifferent)… controlling our thoughts, feelings and intentional actions.
The second is to accept mindfully that life is what it is and often we will not be able to control what happens.
And the third important strategy is in the intentional goals we set and the intentional actions we take to give ourselves the best possible opportunity of positively impacting our futures.