One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever been given is to control the controllables and let the ‘other stuff’ go! Why then do we not take this advice? It’s so simple and easy to understand but we fight it, challenge and freak out when something changes outside of our control. Time to let things go!
Going through our journey of life we have stages where we are more malleable and adaptable to things going on around us than at other times. Consider the scenario in your twenties when anything goes in theory, we roll with the punches, dust ourselves off and get back up from the knockbacks and smile in the face of adversity. We seek challenges, comfort zones are stretched daily and at the end of each year we have a long list of successes, failures and things to attack the following year.
Then things change around the ages of 30-60, whether this is because of families coming along or just the simple size of responsibilities, debts and commitments. We grow and we stop loving surprises, seek fewer challenges and look for more security and safety. Anything that rocks this balance creates stress and anxiety, we need to control everything going on. I recall many years ago helping to load the car with all the detritus that is accompanied by a toddler but I did it in the wrong order. The sequence seemed logical to me and everything looked like it was there. However – we know where this is going – I’d messed with the system and the toy – you know the one – that toy didn’t make it into the car. All my fault I had messed with the system, the watertight process that brought calm to our lives. I soon learnt.
Take that into our business lives, investments, property and so on we all want control of what’s going on so we know where we are heading, are able to balance the books at the end of the month, pay the staff, the mortgages and of course feed the family. Change that happens outside of our control can flip the balance and cause stress, to manage this better we look for more ways to take greater control of everything in our lives so these unwanted surprises are reduced and happen less often – this is where we become a total control freak.
60+ The only area of control we focus on here is health and wealth. Are we fit and able to do what we want to do and have we got the finance to do what makes us, our families and our community happy? Life becomes simpler again, the focus on controlling everything changes as the simplicity of life is to control the controllables and let go of the ‘other stuff’ that is exactly that; ‘other stuff’. Going further here, as described many times by people that work in hospices and care homes, people at the end of their lives tend not to live with regret for the time not spent in the office or doing the ‘other stuff’ but their focus is categorically on family, friends and their community.
I am reminded of a phrase that is used in wife’s business where she works with the sandwich generation – these are those in the middle zone of life who have responsibilities above and below them ie children that are dependant and parents that have become their dependants. It’s tough making decisions for people you have taken direction, love and inspiration from throughout your life to date and now you are in charge of the small stuff governing their lives.
Clearly there are times in our lives where we are able to control everything that is going on around us and others when we have to roll with the cards that are dealt. I recall a friend of mine asking what was going to be the hardest part of parenthood for him? He was a very active sportsman, hard worker and independent person while in a very loving relationship. He kept pushing and I eventually answered with a one-word answer – spontaneity – that will get on a bus and not return for the next 20 years.
What is the ‘other stuff’ for you? The non-essentials, the things you could live without and not die, regularly this is referred to by many as 1st world problems. The Wi-Fi has crashed, the car has a puncture or the prospect said no. All of these are frustrating and potentially challenging scenarios to deal with and with a little thought, creativity and support they can all be managed – nobody dies! Get it into perspective.
In order to keep our sanity we need to focus on controlling the controllables and letting go of the ‘other stuff’ that doesn’t matter, the more spontaneity we can manifest and create in our lives while still having the foundations of health and wealth will generate more fun and laughter for all. This is me speaking as a member of the sandwich generation who can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel where spontaneity and selfish gay abandon lie, I wish! The message to myself and you is to stop taking life so seriously controlling everything and have some more fun, embrace a little change and laugh some more. A coach of mine prescribed daily laughter, watch a box set of your favourite comedians every day to remind you how to laugh – a daily dose of Blackadder, Tim Minchin, Billy Connolly or Michael McIntyre, it won’t hurt and you might enjoy it.