“If you want real control, drop the illusion of control; let life have you. It does anyway. You’re just telling yourself the story of how it doesn’t.” — Byron Katie
I’m not going to lie to you. I really hated that quote. I hated it because on the one hand, it made me feel powerless. On the other hand, it’s correct and it makes my years of thrashing against the tides of life seem stupid.
My higher self would be looking on and laughing to himself and thinking, “He puts himself face-down in water and then convinces himself someone is drowning him.” The water was probably there for buoyancy of some sort but I feel my feet get wet and I assume I’m about to be a victim of life.
It’s as author Adam Hansen wrote, “We are the descendants of the savants of risk aversion.” It’s no wonder we assume the worst and then try to take matters into our own hands. Not only have we seen news about people being victims of natural disasters and abuse, we too were traumatized growing up. What’s more is that we were too young to put it into proper context.
We then grow up still thinking that life is unsafe and volatile, so we invest in our Armageddon bunkers and stock up on Twinkies and canned peaches in the form of tons of money and/or romance. With these, nothing can hurt us. It’s impossible.
And yet, it is in trying to get these things that we feel the most pain and suffering. Hilariously, we continue down this path because we simply cannot afford to not get the things that we think will keep us safe. And we won’t stop until we’re too tired and we surrender to the elements.
That’s when something unexpected happens. Everything begins to work.
We were told by people who were successful, who had what we wanted that we need to work hard. We took them at their word. They were figures of authority and proof. Sadly, that entrepreneur that came to your high school assembly that one time didn’t have enough time to explain that this is not true for every aspect of life.
She couldn’t tell you that some things actually already work and are working. She also couldn’t tell you that there are things that you cannot control. They make it seem like you are the master of your destiny, with the ability to change fate with the power of decision. It is true, except when it’s not.
For example, if you’re a freelancer, you can land a big contract, but it might not be with who you expect it to be. But because people are so hung up on getting a specific outcome, they end up with nothing. Or, they want a big contract but won’t look at a couple of smaller contracts.
Or, they want happiness and won’t look at the good that’s happening around them. As I said, they have a certain image of what that’s supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to be fulfilled, so if they don’t get that, it’s like they got nothing at all. Onlookers will call them ungrateful. In truth, they’re essentially blind.
I hope you see the ramifications of this. This kind of closed-mindedness is what causes people to kill themselves because they have to be with a specific person, or give up on their dreams when they are met with some resistance.
We need to bear this in mind: the mind is equipped to find problems, and while it is equipped to come up with solutions, it does so with limited information. It doesn’t have all the data, so when the mind comes up with a solution, please do not think that it is an actual solution. It is very likely not to work, and if it does, it didn’t work because of what you thought.
The way things get solved is just as Katie mentioned in the quote above. You have to give it over to life and let it deal with it. Christians call this “letting go and letting God” and it is one of the things I absolutely wished I maintained when I left the faith.
This is where religious folk got the rest of us beat. They believe that “a man’s life is not his own” to quote the prophet Jeremiah. I would argue that some take this notion too far, but if you can be sober about it and rest the Western obsession with individualism just for now, you might just feel your blood pressure drop to a healthy level.
Fact is, how can you possibly direct your life when you know so little about what’s going on? Even when you amass volumes of data, you’re still restricted by the whims of others. Even if you learn to manipulate them, you lose yourself! No matter how much you thresh against it, you keep yourself in a bind that gets tighter and tighter.
So what exactly do we do?
1. Live in accordance to your values. This is life working as it should be working. Just honour the truth of who you are, and you’ll be okay.
2. Investigate why you want what you want. For example, you could be trying to get money to pay bills and buy food, but you could also be trying to get money to make yourself look important and to gain respect from people you don’t even know or like.
3. The mind will naturally cook up a plan of action. Take it. While the plan probably will not lead you to the goal in the way you think it will, taking action will cause the path to open before you.
4. Be open to what can unfold for you. Your values will not be violated, as long as you don’t violate them. Life isn’t out to get you. It has your back and gains nothing from you not living a fulfilled life.