Is your need for control blocking your success?🚫
You know that “uh-oh” feeling when you’re in over your head? Well, I experienced that on a recent holiday ski trip to Vermont.
There I was, at the top of the steepest (and longest!) slope I’d ever hoped to ski, ready for a fun challenge. But not a few minutes later, weather conditions worsened and everything started icing up.
Despite all my efforts to gain some control, dig my heels in, and clutch my poles tight, I kept catching the edge of my ski – spinning out – then falling…like a starfish. Ouch!
And the constant awareness that my friends were waiting for me at the bottom of each slope only added to my frustration. Losing confidence by the minute, I pulled over to the side of the mountain to negotiate a particularly icy incline.
I was uttering some colorful four-letter words to myself when out of the blue came a jolt of relief…A ski instructor! And as he sailed past me, seeing me struggle, he yelled, “Relax your limbs. You’re too tense and rigid.”
Huh? Could that really be true? Was all my struggling due to trying TOO HARD?
I was a little dubious, but I took that advice and launched myself back down the mountain, and guess what? Magically, I stopped falling. I even started enjoying myself again.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt so impatient for something to happen that you practically put a death grip on it?
Whether it’s making friends, advancing in your career, or getting fitter, it’s possible to latch on to the outcome so tightly in our minds and with our actions that it actually produces the opposite result.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a goal and the resolve to go after it with everything we’ve got, but sometimes the better plan for building confidence in a new endeavor is to do LESS.
So, if your tendency is to ramp up the intensity of your effort when things aren’t playing out the way you want, I suggest trying the three strategies below to help you let go of your need for total control.
Quick Confidence Tips For Letting Go To Build Confidence and See Results:
Embodied: Assess the kind of energy you’re bringing. Sometimes we all need to pause and audit our own energy. That means asking yourself, “What kind of channel am I tuned to right now?” Often, I find that I’m overly controlling in a situation because I’m engaging in black-or-white, win-lose thinking. For example, the energy might be “I’ll never learn to ski and I suck at this” or “I have zero friends and the fact that no one called me this weekend is proof of that.” Can you relate? Audit your energy output now and see what you’re giving off. If it’s dire or overly negative, it’s time to loosen up your attachment to that thought and balance it out with some rational counterstatements. An example of a rational counterstatement might include, “Everyone has their challenges when learning to ski. Today I’m falling more than unusual but I can figure this out.” Or you could say, “I’m feeling kind of down about my friendships lately but I’m going to choose to use that feeling to reach out to more people, rather than pull away.” Remember that your energy should be working for you, not against you.
Mindset: Admit your vulnerability. The truth is, struggling through any habit change or new learning path is a vulnerable pursuit. It requires us to put ourselves out there and be willing to not look perfect all the time. It’s much easier to stick to what we know, to keep doing the thing we’ve already mastered, and to get a nod of approval from others. That’s why it’s important to empathize with yourself and realize that being a newbie, a learner, or a person trying to change their habits or expand their world is courageous. And to know that part of that leaves us feeling exposed and at risk. That’s okay! Try to repeat to yourself, "I don't need to be perfect to grow," “Small progress is great progress,” and "My vulnerability is a measure of my courage.”
Interpersonal: Tell your story, warts and all. The funny thing about opening up about our struggles is that we tend to give other people more latitude than we give ourselves. Across several experiments simulating vulnerable situations (for example asking for help or taking responsibility for a mistake), study subjects consistently perceived a vulnerable action in a more positive light when someone else went out on a limb, rather than when they did it themselves. The learning here is to be willing to share your struggles and journeys with others! You will not only feel lighter (I know I do after telling you about my ski day on the verge of tears), but you'll also build a bridge to others and let them in. That very well may enable them to lessen their need for control and help them share something meaningful as well. Sometimes owning your “struggle story,” and being willing to tell it, is just the liberation and freedom you’ve been craving.
It’s an awesome realization to find out that when we loosen our grip, the world doesn’t fall apart. In fact, sometimes it’s all we need to go from intense friction to gliding on our path – and enjoying it as we go.
In what area of your life could you employ the art of “letting go” to ease the tension enabling better results? I’d love to read about it in the comments.
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