Letting Go of Control...to be in Control
Life is so unpredictable. That’s part of the beauty of it. As human beings, we are biologically hardwired to desire control over the things that affect us the most and get us emotionally charged. However, have you ever considered by letting go of control, you are actually taking back control?Think about it…Recall a time where you felt “out of control” and reacted emotionally. Perhaps it was a traumatic family event, a disagreement with a friend, an argument with your spouse, a work confrontation or simply when you were getting a bit hangry. No matter your personal experience, being reactive versus proactive in these occurrences often haunts your memory, causing you to think those thoughts of “what if…” or “I should have…”Reactivity implies that you might have no control over your own personal response system thus allowing the circumstances dictate your actions. Proactivity, on the other hand, supports that you are able to let go of your control of a situation in order to ebb and flow with conflict so that you may learn, grow and actively participate in a resolution. The goal is to avoid reacting to emotion-driven circumstances that you have zero control over and instead opt to learn how to dance with a stressful situation.
Speaking of dancing, consider this for an example.
Learning to tango with your partner, you already expect to step on each others toes. You are cautious not to step on each other’s toes but when your partner accidentally steps on your toes, you laugh it off. That is a simple example of a proactive response. You are anticipating what is to come and react accordingly before it even happens. Learning to tango with your partner, he/she steps on your toes and you get frustrated. That is a simple example of a reactive response. You are feeling annoyed (shocked,disappointed,upset, etc.) that your partner is stepping on your toes; thus, reacting negatively to the circumstances.So you see being proactive versus reactive is a bit of a mindset but it does not always just happen organically. I think you can develop and strengthen your skillset of being proactive in stressful situations by simply looking at the bigger picture of things before they occur. By accepting that you may be experiencing an emotional circumstance at any given time, you are permitting yourself to acknowledge that certain feelings may bubble up inside of you. These feelings can vary of course. They can be negative or positive. However, how you react to what you are feeling is what you have total control over.
Let me provide an intimate example of a proactive response in order to paint a better picture for you to relate to.
I promptly arrived ten minutes before a scheduled doctor’s appointment after driving 50 minutes to get to the office from my home. Upon arrival, I told the front desk staff I was there to see the doctor. I noticed the confused look on her face. She asked, “Are you sure you are here to see the doctor, I have you down to get labs today?” I replied, “No ma’am. I received my labs last week when I came in and I am supposed to see Dr. A today.” She pulled up my chart to confirm that what I was telling her was in fact the truth and said, “You are right. I have your results here, but unfortunately the scheduler put you down for labs today, and the doctor is not here.” I immediately felt annoyed and thought about a million things I wanted to blurt out in utter frustration. BUT I had to stop myself, recognize my feelings, notice that it was not her fault (even if it was, there was nothing that could change that the doctor was off of work), accept that it was NOT the end of the world as we know it and ask if there is a solution that they could offer that would help me from driving back to the office another day. Long story short, she apologized on behalf of the scheduler and offered to have the doctor call me the next day. I agreed and thanked her for her quick resolution to the problem. Still a little perturbed by the situation, I practiced meditative breath on my drive back home to rid of the frustration I was feeling. The next day, Dr. A called me on my commute to work and went over everything.No my response was not “perfect” per se, but proactivity is not always flawless. What I learned from my example was that the event worked itself out with little to no work from me. However, I realized that the next day I was disappointed that I even allowed the situation to make me feel frustrated. After reflecting a bit, I came to accept (as I may have to revisit a few times before I fully accept it) that feelings, negative or positive, are essentially inevitable. Proactive responses are not meant to be perfect. In fact, proactivity has a bit of a learning curve and may take some patience until it begins to feel more natural. The way I see it is that I was able to ebb and flow in the situation despite the negative feelings that were coming up instinctively inside me. Moving forward I am holding onto the saying, “plan for the worst, but expect the best.”