Losing Control, Making Peace

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.

Havelock Ellis

In a previous blog post, I shared a story about a great social media interaction I had with a popular U.S. airline a few years ago. Today, I’m here to share a not-so-great story about that same airline.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a visit, and I was flying from my hometown of Kansas City to Spokane, Washington for a vacation, with a short layover in Denver. Before even leaving Kansas City, I learned that my connecting flight from Denver had been delayed three hours. I would be landing in Spokane at 3 a.m. – which was 5 a.m. in my home time zone.

I was angry. I felt helpless. And when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted to drink, I had to stop myself from saying “An on-time departure from Denver, please.” Instead, I took a deep breath and politely ordered a Sprite.

Later, I decided to check the plane’s location and see how much time until landing. When I looked at the map, the image I saw threw me for another loop. Literally, the plane had made a looping zig-zag, and I could tell we weren’t headed toward Denver anymore. Instead, we were backtracking away in the opposite direction. Bad weather in the Denver area meant that we were being diverted to Wichita to re-fuel – Wichita being a city I could have driven to faster. I wasn’t sure if we’d even make it to Denver at all.

At some point, I finally started to understand: there was really nothing I could do. Confined to my window seat on that Boeing-737, all I could do was keep breathing and try to remember that there was nothing I could do. Really, the only option available to me was making peace with the fact that it was going to be a long night.

There are so many points throughout our lives – from plane rides, to the workplace – that we want to have control. We all have a deep need for control. We want things the way we want them, without other people meddling or messing things up for us. Not having control makes us feel insecure, uncomfortable, and threatened.

Most of us strive for that control, sometimes to the point of unhealthiness. This can be particularly true in career-focused societies, and even more so in the entrepreneurial lifestyle. When you feel entirely responsible for every aspect of your business, it’s especially hard to relinquish control in any capacity. Worst-case scenarios flash through your head.

According to Cheryl Cran, author of The Control Freak Revolution, you might have some control issues in your professional life if you answer yes to any of the following statements:

  • You’re proud of never taking vacation time.
  • You feel angry when others let you down.
  • You’re always “swamped.”
  • People ask you a lot of questions (because they’re afraid they’re not doing it right).
  • You actually believe that no one else can do what you do.

A lot of it comes down to the idea of trust. You may believe that you can’t trust anyone else as much as you trust yourself. This isn’t an inherently bad trait, but it certainly can lead to a lot of additional stress in the workplace.

Learning to delegate effectively is an art, and it may come more naturally to some people than others. But surrounding yourself with those you trust might help make the transition to delegation easier. Little by little, learning to lean on the people you trust can help alleviate some of the discomfort that comes along with feeling like you’re letting go.

At Brieffin, we also use the practice of mindfulness to guide our professional work. Being mindful of when we’re feeling “out of control” can also help to re-center us. It can turn an anxious feeling into an accepted one (even if it’s not entirely welcomed).

Even just acknowledging how you’re feeling can help take some of the feeling’s power away. Recognize that feeling without judging yourself. The need for control is not a character flaw or a weakness – it just is. When you’re not sure what to do, breathing more is always a good solution. Breathe and focus on what’s around you.

Mindfulness is about focusing on what’s real in the here and now. And while you can’t control everything – or, let’s face it, much of anything – in life, you can control your breathing.

And in the end, I was “lucky” that my flight to Spokane was delayed. After arriving super late in Denver, I was still able to make my connecting flight. And while the whole ordeal to get halfway across my own country took longer than it would have for me to fly back to Madrid, I took a deep breath, stepped off the plane, and felt grateful that I’d made it. Even if it was 3 a.m.

Our Moment of Bliss

“Don’t know how to tell myself just stop, breathe.” – RKCB (Elevated from In Contrast)

Join our playlist on Spotify and take a moment to just stop and breathe. Namaste.

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