The Control Illusion

Within an hour of waking up, I realize that any hope I had of controlling my day is gone. Something, big or small, pops up making it clear that outside events will impact my plans regardless of my desire for control. Today, for example, I had three separate and unexpected events appear before noon. One was resolved successfully, but the other two still have me pulling my hair out.

The idea that I, or anyone else for that matter, have control over life is clearly an illusion, one that I turn to on a regular basis despite how often I’m proven wrong. Sometimes, for short periods of time, I maintain the illusion with success, quickly moving from one project to the next with little interference. Other times, an hour doesn’t go by without some chain of events interrupting my schedule.

When we’re little, we perceive the adults in our lives as having control over our lives. Parents told us when to go to bed and teachers told us when to pay attention. As a kid, I believed that being an adult meant that no one could tell me what to do. I would have the control. Thus, I couldn’t grow up fast enough. Like all adults, I’ve learned the hard way that, in some respects, I have even less control now than I did as a child.

Technology aids and abets the illusion. PDAs, cell phones, email, the Internet, and TiVos—supposedly these items make it possible to do more and manage it better, to be in control. But they only introduce more opportunities to take away control by increasing the points of contact for distraction.

I’m not telling you anything new. If anything, you’re probably mentally adding, “well, duh,” as you read. Maybe the next sentence will make you pause. What might life be like if I/you/we gave up the illusion of control? How much time and energy could be saved if I didn’t wake up every morning anticipating that I would control the events of the day?


3 Responses to “The Control Illusion”

  1. August 18, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    While I agree that control is just basically a story we tell ourselves to get through the day, I think most people need it to feel safe and secure. It’s an illusion (and a crapshoot…) but feeling that you dictate some measure of will over your life is important and sane.

    This post came at the perfect time for me – thank you!
    Hope you’re well.

  2. August 20, 2008 at 10:28 am

    As I begin my inexorable slide into middle age, I am starting to suspect that control is possible once you figure out what is really important in the “doing” and “being” arena of your life for yourself. After that, everything else that wants your attention with their infernal beepers and alerts can then just go jump in the lake and confer with the fishes. The world starts to conform to your new shape, whether you are conscious of it or not.

  3. 3 Britt
    August 20, 2008 at 10:54 am

    @Jane: You used two words that I think capture the sentiment perfectly: safe and secure. I think we’re still more bothered by the unknown than we care to admit.

    @Dave: Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that…I think that’s might be why I have less patience with each passing year for things that aren’t a part of my current routine.

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August 2008
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