Julie Adamen is the principal of Adamen Inc., a national consulting and employment firm specializing in the community management industry formed in 1997. She is a recognized expert in community management, community management compensation and association and management company operations. She is a prolific author, educator, motivational speaker and trainer for community managers and Boards of Directors. She is the author and publisher of online classes for managers, Community Association Management 101, a series of online classes for community association management professionals and volunteers.
Ask any control freak why they feel the need to control people and events. If they can articulate an answer, it is likely they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t. By implication, that means the controlling person must take on much, much more than that for which they are truly responsible or paid for. It also implies hubris: The control freak feels that only they know how to make things work out, that there is only one solution and it’s the one the freak came up with. Now take a step back: Is this you? And aren’t you exhausted?
I know. I used to be one who tried to control as much as possible. I worked so hard (look at me!) so defiantly, I led with my chin and dared anyone to outdo me or outsmart me. I walked around with one big, fat chip on my shoulder, thinking there was absolutely nothing wrong trying to force square pegs in to round holes. It wasn’t pretty and yes it was exhausting, frustrating and made me angry.
What a mistake.
Because the moment I let go of trying to control people and events, let go of trying to force things to happen… Of letting what must be, be… Things DID happen, and not the bad things I had spent years visualizing and trying to prevent. This is when I knew “what must be, shall be” was a basic truth, and the reason everything seemed so hard, like such a fight personally and professionally, was because in my hubris I thought I could affect or control outcomes of events or actions of people. No, I couldn’t. What I could do was humble myself, and realize that I could not control what was not mine to control. Here is what I know about letting go of false ‘control’ and understanding this truth: What is meant to be, shall be. I understood then, as I do even more so now, that this is good and it will build more good in my life and the lives of those around me.
Letting go of the “ego of control” gives you joy, peace and freedom. Freedom from having to think up myriad scenarios of action or reaction to each and every person or event you come across. All you need to know is that when you do your best at any given thing or relationship; that is just about all you can do. And it’s enough, bringing you that joy and peace within yourself as the worry and fretfulness and “what ifs?” fade away.
As those feelings of frustration, exhaustion and the resultant anger diminish, you will find you have clear eyes that can see what is actually in front of you and not some version skewed by your self-aggrandized ego. And what is in front of you? Doors! Wide open doors of personal and professional opportunities for you to walk through. Doors you didn’t even know were possible will present themselves, usually at just the right, yet unexpected, time. This is the great gift of surrendering your faux-control: Allowing what will be, to be, bringing about outcomes that are unforced, natural and right.
Once I developed this mindset and embraced its concurrent freedom, I saw the wisdom of empowering those around me. I encouraged people to become leaders and decision makers, to seek out solutions and alternate courses of action to accomplish goals. Best of all, I learned to let people make their own choices and occasionally mistakes, so they could create a better them, and in the work-related world, a better team. This was a giant step forward in successful leadership for me. I had captured the control freak genie and didn’t put her back in the bottle, I let her evaporate. I also realized that it was not my job to control my clients, but to help them actualize their goals through good guidance and then to let go of the results. That is “what must be” becoming what “will be.” The shift is one of working with the world rather than against it. I was no longer pushing the rock uphill.
“What must be will be.”
Last month’s article announced that indeed, I have been fired from a job. Well guess what: I’ve actually been fired three times in my adult life. In keeping with last month’s article about the (sad) process of termination, I can tell you that every time it happened it was done incredibly poorly and made me feel terrible. Yet, each event eventually led to something much, much better, because everything really does work out like it’s supposed to, if only we let it. What Friedrich Nietzsch said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” is true. If we allow it, that strength provides us the opportunity to develop wisdom. That wisdom comes full circle: The constant stress of trying to control things of which we have no control is exhausting and debilitating, robbing us of peace, joy, creativity and the ability to see the doors of opportunity and success in front of us.