Think about how much time you spend planning. You plan your meals. Plan your day. Plan your vacations. Plan your wedding. Plan your family and plan your life. The question is how well is that working for you? How many times have you painstakingly planned something only to have the bottom drop out at the last minute? It really shouldn’t be this way, but it is.
So does that mean we don’t plan anything? No, but we can learn to become more flexible. Here’s a few ways to start thinking a little differently about planning and ease your control freak tendencies.
- Notice your patterns
Chances are you didn’t become a control freak overnight. You’re need to plan is directly connected to your need for security and adequacy. While planning may give you a feeling of being in control of life and the people around you, it’s an illusion. Your ability to control outcomes begins and ends with your own thoughts, attitudes, actions and beliefs. Your beliefs become the catalyst for your behavior. The first step in learning to relax and stop micro managing everything is to begin to practice noticing your behavior and thought patterns. Start by paying attention to what you tell yourself about the need to plan everything. Write down your thought patterns. Notice the triggers that set your need to plan and control in motion.
- Learn to think differently
Being a stickler can be good in some areas of life, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that even the best-laid plans can go up in smoke. We can easily get drawn into what therapists call cognitive distortions. These include “all or nothing thinking and catastrophizing.” For example, we may tell ourselves “If I don’t plan my day, nothing will get done.” Nothing means that not one thing will get done. Is that really true? No. You would have to lie in bed all day for nothing to get done. Catastrophizing means you blow things way out of proportion and assume the worse possible outcome. If nothing gets done, what do you tell yourself? Things like: I’m inadequate, I have to be responsible, I am a loser, or I have to please others, are all negative self-defeating thoughts. Try and replace them with positive counterstatements. “I’ll prioritize my list of things to do and if I don’t get to it all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still adequate,” is a good example. After all, tomorrow is another day!
The one thing we are all guaranteed in life is change. Learning to adapt to life’s unpredictability will afford us a lot less anxiety and mental stress. When we plan our lives so rigidly we set ourselves up for disappointment when things don’t go our way. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t control life and the people around us. How do we move toward accepting what we can’t plan for? Being convinced that all the stress and anxiety that goes along with it is not profitable for our wellbeing. As long as we’re convinced we have to make perfect plans, we’ll continue to drive ourselves into the ground. Do your best and forget the rest!
- 4. Face your fears
No matter how much we know intellectually that we can’t plan for everything, we still try. We generally don’t give up until the usual coping strategies we have found for making life work go up in smoke. In the long run we would do better to face our fears and deal with them head on. Facing our fears means unpacking the underlying beliefs that drive them. Ask yourself what you believe about your performance, the performance of others, and the world around you as it relates to having to plan and control everything? How does planning protect you from feeling insecure? Does it make you feel more in control? Are you willing to surrender the need to control and trust things will work out with God’s help?
Most people look at surrender as weakness but it’s really the key to freedom from the need to control. When something upsets us it’s because we have a goal in mind that generally involves someone else’s behavior and that goal has been blocked. We get upset because we’re usually demanding a right of some kind in the moment. For example, if my husband doesn’t pick up after himself and I get angry, it’s because I’m making his “neatness” a goal. It’s a good goal but the problem is I can’t control him. After years of living with a “messy” it gets me heated when he leaves things all over the place for me to pick up. I can certainly draw boundaries around his sloppiness, and I should, but if I surrender the right for him to be a neat person and accept his faults I can walk in greater peace and rest.
How about you? Has the need to plan for everything making your life more stressful? Start today by trying some of the above mentioned strategies for change and go have a cup of coffee and relax!