Evolutionarily we want to control our environment in order to survive. When we lived in tribes, we needed to be able to control our surroundings to stay alive. So, control is basically one of many human drives.
When things are under control, we feel safe and motivated and when they are not, we feel uncomfortable or sometimes miserable and challenged. In short, our drive or need remains unfulfilled.
There are many things in life that came to us by choice. Things that we can change or to be specific, things that we can control. But this has led us to a perception that we can control everything around us or every aspect of our lives.
That is the reason why we find ourselves so involved in changing things that actually are out of our control.
Think about when you were trying so hard to change what people in your peer group think about you or when you were too anxious about your future that it stole your ability to focus on now, or when you find yourself in extreme pain of self-doubt because someone left you, no matter how hard you tried to hold on.
Once you have the perspective, you’ll realize that no matter how much liberated and independent era we’re living in, there are tons of things that are actually autonomous, and you either have significantly less or absolutely no control over them.
And the more you become aware of such an idea, the more you’ll witness that lots of the thoughts or events that are costing you your mental peace today are actually quite independent of your control.
The more pragmatic approach however is to intentionally distinguish between things that are under your control and those which are not. and then purposefully work on things that you can change as only this will have an impact on final outcome.
Now that’s just all common sense, dumped out in words. YEAH! but as one of my favorite authors, Brandon says, “Common sense is not common practice“.
The Ostrich Algorithm
I am a computer science student, and one of the many parts of our study is to learn about algorithms (step by step procedures) that we can use to solve problems. But sometimes a problem is so rare or expensive to solve that computer scientists actually believe that the best way to solve it is to;
Stick your head in sand and pretend there is no problem.
yes, you heard it right! ostriches do that to avoid sandstorms, that is why it has a strange name. I want you to apply this ostrich algorithm whenever you find yourself thinking too much about things that you cannot change and instead sit in solitude, pull out your journal and jot down five things that you can change or act upon, which will nudge you towards the outcome you desire. And then go that way.
This will not only shift your perspective towards the right thing, but you’ll also find yourself at peace as now, your one in many drives (To be in control), is being fulfilled.
I know this idea won’t solve my problems, but next time I’ll notice myself being anxious about anything, Now I know what to ask myself.
Is it in my control? and if the answer to this question is NO for several times, I know its time to realign myself.
Originally published in Medium