2020 has been a year to remember. Although a lot has happened, I try to find the silver linings in it all and hope there is something that we can all learn from and be better going forward. Out of everything that has dawned on me, the realization that once we let go of wanting to control everything is when we truly become free. And I know it’s not easy, I get it. Us humans crave control. It’s how we focus from one task to the next, trying to identify a sense of certainty, safety (physical or psychological) and predictability. Our amygdala (fight or flight brain) is constantly trying to assess if there’s a threat and controlling something, or the illusion of control, helps us sleep better at night. It's why we’re all craving to go back to ’normal’. And through this all, I’ve found once you let go of this notion of control and only focus on yourself, things become a lot lighter in life.
And letting go of control has its place in leadership and in life.
Leaders, especially aspiring and new leaders, have this tendency, desire or pressure to have to an impact. It’s what they hired you to do and that added sense of responsibility sits with you. You need to step up as a leader, influence, manage and even control your team towards an outcome or result. In that well intentioned belief of wanting to help, you start to impose what you think is needed to get there. And why not, as an individual contributor, this approach got you where you're at. But if you're wondering why there are so many articles, courses and blogs on leadership it's because of this very fact - it's not that simple.
The moment we let go of trying to control your team, is the moment we gain trust with them and with ourselves. Moving from an individual contributor to a people leader forces people to let go of the one thing that they understood got them their results. If I do X, I will get Y. It’s a formula that you can repeat, perfect within reason and expect a certain outcome. For those that live in detail, it provides a road map of expectations and a sense of control that us humans crave and need.
When we become leaders however, this all goes out the door. We learn that we cannot control others, and that my actions do not necessarily equate to results for my team. What I did yesterday as an individual does not work today as a leader. There are an infinite number of factors out in the world that are beyond our control and knowledge, so why do we assume we know everything and why do we assume we can control everything? The moment we let go of the need to control people, situations and outcomes, then we can be free to explore what is possible and what is needed to create the future that you want as a leader and for your team.
As a leader, identify what you stand for and the values you want to exemplify. Put that out to your team and live by your standards - the rest is not up to you.
This pandemic has created a lot of fear, anxiety and negative emotions that have sent shock waves across the world.
When will this end?
When can we get back to how it was before?
What will that new normal look like?
We strive to know what is a head of us, at least in some shape or form. And we’ve adapted as the weeks and months have gone by. The truth is no one knows what next week, month or year is going to look like. No one can control what others think, feel or do. And even if we do, it can all change in an instant. We can chose to live in fear or we can chose to accept that we can only control what’s inside of us, how we react to situations and our attitudes. The moment we let go of the need to know what will happen, what other people will do and how things will turn out and just focus on our own actions, thoughts and behaviours is the day we can feel joy.
I know it’s not easy, I struggle with wanting to control everything myself, from what people think, feel or say to how my 3 year old acts, eats and sleeps. I’ve been hard wired over the years to control things in fear of health and danger. But recently I’ve started to understand that in the end it doesn’t matter, we only have the present moment that’s in front of us and the thoughts, attitudes, and perspectives that we can control. Everything else is not up to you, so why bother spending more time than necessary on something you can affect. Live simply with yourself and lead others the same way.