Paradigm Shifter #55: Life is about impermanence

Paradigm ShiftNothing is permanent.  But even though we recognize this fundamental truth, we nonetheless are often surprised when things come to an end – or anxious when they don’t come to an end soon enough.

Impermanence is a concept that can be disturbing or even depressing to many people.  After all, we want the good things to continue as long as possible (if not forever).

  • We love the newness and emotional high of a new relationship – yet we are dissatisfied when the newness fades into a predictable routine.
  • We relish the feelings of calm relaxation while on vacation – yet we replace these feelings with anger when we must deal with the backlog of work when we return.
  • We are exhilarated when we are recognized for our professional success – yet we are offended when the people around us forget what we accomplished.

More than anything, we want to be happy in our lives – for as long as possible.  And, for some strange reason, we think (or hope) that bad things won’t happen to us.

Even though we regret the impermanence of the good things in our lives, in the height of a particularly challenging “bad” experience, we forget that “this too shall pass.”  In fact, when it comes to the bad things in our lives, we want them to end – sooner rather than later!

If nothing else, we humans are paradoxical creatures.

When faced with these inevitable challenges, we tend to revert back to the previous good times and then ask ourselves why these “bad” things are happening to us.

But bad things are just as fundamental to life.  In fact, we can’t really cherish the good things in our lives without the counterbalance of the bad.

The good news is that both the good and the bad don’t last forever.  By internalizing this basic truth, Buddhists say that we have the key to happiness, mindfulness, and balance.

When we recognize that life is impermanent, it changes our daily decisions and consequent behaviors.  When we know that nothing is forever, we are not only better able to weather life’s inevitable challenges, but also cherish every moment that we are alive – because we realize that we, too, will come to an end (hopefully later rather than sooner!).

The practice of mindfulness – the act of being present every minute of our lives – dramatically changes the way we live, work, and love:

  • When we recognize that our new relationship will change as time goes on, we better appreciate and are fully present during the good times – we can also bask in the newfound security of growing more comfortable with that person over time.
  • When we acknowledge that our calm feelings on vacation will be challenged when we get back to work, we can make the choice to not get angry about the workload that accumulated during our absence – we can even use our emotional memories of that calm relaxation to take us back into that state even if we are bombarded when we return.
  • When we are humble in addition to being exhilarated when people recognize our professional success, we also acknowledge that memories are short, life goes on, and we need to continue to move forward toward new goals.

Instead of dwelling in the past or dreaming of the future, realizing that life is impermanent helps us to concentrate our minds on the present moment.  Because, after all, the past is but a dream and the future is just an idea, but the present is all that we really have to live our lives to the fullest.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

The Impossibility of “Giving 110%”

MultitaskingIn today’s fast-paced world, we are constantly being told to “give 110%”.  The result (so we are told) is that we will lead a satisfying life in which we enthusiastically say “yes” to all that life has to offer.

It’s a great concept, but it is actually more of a prescription for burnout.

While I firmly believe that it is important to be focused on completing the necessary tasks required to achieve the goals that we want, trying to give more than what is humanly and mathematically possible (i.e., anything over 100%) is misguided.

What’s worse than being told by our managers to “give 110%” is when these expectations are self-imposed – and extend beyond business to all other aspects of our lives.  Because giving more than 100% is impossible, not only are we burned out but we are also exhausted and more likely to fail.

I’ve discovered that “giving 110%” usually involves buying into three specific (but misguided) paradigms:

  1. “Giving 110%” requires multi-tasking and multi-tasking is necessary to achieve success.
  2. “Giving 110%” demonstrates the extent of our passion and commitment.
  3. “Giving 110%” views our brains and bodies as inexhaustible resources.

Multi-Tasking Can Sabotage Success

“Giving 110%” is closely related to multi-tasking – which has become an inaccurate catch-all phrase for “efficiency.”  The sad truth, however, is that multi-tasking works best for tasks that require manual repetition.

But many of us work in situations that require judgment.  These higher-level situations require creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making.  Multi-tasking these types of activities actually undermines our efforts – making us less efficient and even less effective.

We are the most effective when we commit completely to an activity in the moment – whether is is completing a task, helping a friend, or even taking time for ourselves.  This concept of mindfulness (or being present in the moment) means no cell phones, no social media, no television, and no activities that deflect our attention from the task at hand.

Instead of multi-tasking, perhaps we should focus more on single-tasking in order to succeed.

“Giving 110%” Can Also Sabotage Our Passion and Commitment

“Giving 110%” is often viewed as the equivalent of wholeheartedly saying “yes” to something or someone.  Such a “yes” is something that many of us want – from others and ourselves.

There is no better reinforcement of our estimation of the other person’s worth to us than when we focus intently on them and their needs.  Similarly, there is no better reinforcement of our worth to the other person than when we focus intently on the task that they have requested us to do.  In both cases, we are choosing to focus (or single-task) on helping them.

But vowing to “give 110%” to another person’s requests requires going beyond our innately human capabities and limitations.  Not only can it create burnout, but it can also potentially ignite resentment toward the person demanding that we “give 110%.”

When we are angry and resentful, it is difficult (if not impossible) for us to retain our initial levels of passion and commitment to the task.

Sleep Is a Sacred Act of Renewal

Our brains and bodies are miraculous in their ability to process a vast array of our conscious thoughts as well as those simultaneous autonomic responses that keep us alive:  heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc.  With all this expended effort and energy, it is crucial to our physiological and psychological health that we take time for renewal.

Unfortunately, sleep (or the lack thereof) is often the first indication that our attempts to “give 110%” have depleted our resources.  Sleep disturbances and insomnia make it impossible for our brains and our bodies to replenish.

Sleep is sacred, sacrosanct, and critical for human survival.  Without sleep to renew us, we cannot even begin to take the necessary steps to succeed.

In business, we all know that if our expenses (what we give out) are 110% of our income (what we take in), then we will run a deficit and face potential bankruptcy.  Why can we understand this simple mathematical concept when it comes to money…but ignore it when it comes our people?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #18: Never say “never”…and never say “always”

Paradigm ShiftSome parts of life are predictable.  Birth, death, happiness, sadness, success, and failure.

Other parts of life catch us by surprise.  Serendipitous meetings, relationships, and “good luck.”  Unexpected illnesses, accidents, or tragedies.

The predictable events in life “always” happen, but the unpredictable, life-altering events are things that we “never” expect to happen.

Why, then, do so many of us use the extremes of “always” and “never” to describe what will or won’t happen in our lives?

Given the right circumstances:

  • Anyone can do anything – both good and bad.
  • Anyone can become anything – both good and bad.
  • Anything can happen to us – both good and bad.

To compound the conundrum, we humans are hardwired to paradoxically want both stability and surprise.  Yet we are bored by the predictable (the “always”) and caught off guard by the surprises (the “never”).  It’s impossible for us to simultaneously exist on both ends of this spectrum.

But life is not a black-or-white experience.  Life is inherently about the grey nuances – nothing is either totally good or totally bad.

These grey nuances of life are colored by the surrounding circumstances.  The exact same event can be viewed positively or negatively AND have good or bad consequences, depending upon what else is occurring at that time.

The events and results following whatever happens to us (both expected and unexpected) are shaped by our perceptions.  While we can control our actions and reactions to any situation, it is impossible for us to control the thoughts, minds, and actions of other people which help to shape that situation.  We might be able to influence others, but their free will assures us that we can never control them.

The curse and blessing of learning to accept that certain things are outside of our control presents a huge challenge:

  • The curse occurs when – despite our most valiant efforts – we realize that we can’t control the world around us and that bad things can (and will) happen to good people.  It can be terrifying if we choose to view ourselves as pinballs mindlessly being buffeted by the hands of fate in some cosmic game.
  • But the blessing occurs when we finally agree to control the only thing that we can control:  our own thoughts and actions.  We then recognize not only our own self-imposed barriers to success, but also our inherent power to eradicate them.  We finally have the freedom to get out of our own way.

Paradoxically, therefore, we have ultimate control yet we have no control.

The Peaceful Coexistence of Ultimate Control and No Control

Recognizing and accepting the boundaries of our personal control can be invigorating and exciting.  It creates a fertile ground for the anticipation of surprise or serendipity in our daily existence.  We begin to notice the nuances of the circumstances surrounding us and forego rigidly trying to change reality to match our personal expectations.  Living life in this way is rarely boring.

Understanding the paradox of having both ultimate control (over oneself) and an utter lack of control (over others) shatters many existing paradigms.  This balance is the core of staying on course toward our goals and mindfully enjoying the journey because:

  • We acknowledge that some things are predictable and that certain actions lead to predictable consequences, so we consciously act in ways that are more conducive to success BUT…
  • We also embrace the surprise and serendipity that are the “stuff” of life, so we focus on what we can control (ourselves) rather than what we can’t control in order to determine the ultimate “goodness” or “badness” of any unpredictable event.
  • We accept that (despite sounding like an oxymoron) change is constant and we embrace it.
  • Finally, we recognize the futility of saying “never” or “always” to describe what may or may not happen in the future.  After all, life is what happens when you’re planning something else.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak

Control freak words“Take charge of your life!  Control your destiny!  Manifest your desires!”  We are constantly urged to plan our destinies – but, even more importantly, we are advised to control all the actions associated with ultimately achieving our goals.

Many believe that control of self and surroundings is the secret to “success.”  In other words, successful people don’t leave fate to chance – they “take the bull by the horns.”

But this well-meaning advice is challenging in a world that is chaotic, hectic, and constantly changing.  To cope, many of us try to control that which is uncontrollable.

Is it any wonder that so many of us have become stressed out control freaks?

The Control Freak’s Obsessive Need to Control EVERYTHING

While we may be able to influence events and circumstances, we must ultimately face the fact that we humans simply can’t control it all.  But it often takes a long time to realize this basic truth about human potential and limitations.

In an effort toward full self-disclosure, I admit it:  I am a reformed control freak.  Although I shudder when I think about it, like many other control freaks, this is just a small sampling of the ways in which I used to try to control everything:

  • For relaxation, I scheduled in periods of planned spontaneity…in other words, I couldn’t be spontaneous unless I planned for it.  (Ugh.)
  • I rationalized my controlling behaviors as the result of being someone who cares a lot…perhaps too much.
  • I was the poster child for “paralysis by analysis”…and spent countless hours planning my schedule hour-by-hour.  (Ironically, I could never quite grasp why my days tended to rarely go as I had anticipated – in which case, I tried to control even more.)
  • I worried about what the future would hold…and arrogantly believed that I could assuage those fears by trying to control not only myself, but also everything around me.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar?

Control freaks often say that we don’t try to control other people, but the results of our controlling behaviors prove otherwise.  Control freaks are much more prone to micromanage due to a refusal to fully recognize the talents, skills, and abilities of the people around them.

After all, delegation is impossible when you are trying to control everything.

There seems to be one universal blind spot shared by all degrees of control freaks:  although we don’t want others to control us, we forget that others also don’t like it when we try to control them.

In addition, most control freaks are perfectionists.  Both believe that things must be done right (according to our own exacting standards).  Anything less than perfection is unacceptable…and often perceived as an abject failure.

While doing something perfectly is a noble goal, it is also unachievable.  There is always something that could have been done better – which is a good thing because that helps us to learn and move forward.

However, to the perfectionist control freak, it “makes sense” to give up or avoid taking the necessary actions if there is any chance that the result will be anything less than perfect.  Procrastination is the close cousin of perfectionism.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Feeling Good About Letting Go of the Need to Control

The gnawing fear predicating much of the control freak’s behaviors is an often unwarranted lack of belief in our ability to effectively respond to the unexpected.

To a control freak, surprises are never a good thing.  In fact, we try to mitigate this fear by attempting to compulsively control everything around us so that we are never “surprised!”

What we forget is that those unforeseen situations, events, opportunities, or obstacles are an unalterable part of being alive.  In fact, it’s the serendipity and surprises that keep life interesting and exciting.

The stories of our lives are shaped by the unexpected.  Whether the surprises are immediately positive or initially negative, they change our perceptions and alter the trajectory of our lives.

However, I’m not going to lie:  letting go of the security blanket of compulsive control wasn’t easy.  It required a major paradigm shift in how I viewed both the world and my role within it.

What precipitated my recovery?  My tidy little world was turned upside down when my mother passed over 28 years ago after a 17-month battle with cancer.  In navigating the five stages of grief both prior to and after her passing, my ultimate acceptance required three important realizations that shattered my belief that I could (and should) control everything.  I realized that:

  1. The majority of things in life are outside of our control – the only things that we can control are our actions right now and our reactions to whatever happens.
  2. Despite what we might think, we’re never given more to handle than what we can handle – and if it’s particularly difficult, it is an incredible opportunity to grow.
  3. There are no guarantees in life – so it’s foolish to waste even a minute by not being fully present and mindful.

Of course, recovery from being a control freak doesn’t happen overnight.  But I now have a new understanding of a simple paradox:  by letting go of trying to control everything, I not only accomplish more, but also (and more importantly) enjoy the process.

Even better, I am confident about my ability to move forward no matter what “surprises” may occur.

Yes, I still plan.  Yes, I still analyze.  And, yes, I still have control mechanisms in place to make sure that I am on course.  But instead of the compulsive need to control controlling me, I now harness it as a tool to move forward in my life.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #35: Single-tasking is better than multi-tasking

Paradigm Shift“There’s too much to do!!!  Do more with less!!!  Don’t waste time!!!”  These are caveats by which many of us live our lives.

For greater efficiency and financial profitability, many companies now expect their human resources to be able to multi-task in ways that are comparable to the feats made possible by artificial intelligence.

Instead of harnessing technology, it has instead become our 24/7/365 master.  We tend to expect that we can accomplish multiple tasks not just simultaneously, but also at the speed of our computers and mobile devices.  If not, we think that there must be a problem with us.

But the real problem is that many of us ignore the needs and limitations of being human.  We are not wired like computers.  We are not programmable robots.  And that is ultimately a very good thing.

The drive to not only do more with less but also to do it faster is fertile ground for our misguided attempts at multi-tasking.  The primary issue is that there is often very little consideration of the nature of the tasks themselves when we multi-task:  each task is simply a line item on our ever-increasing “To Do” lists.

Recent studies have shown that interruptions (either by others or self-imposed through the process of multi-tasking) actually interfere with our ability to concentrate and ultimately slow down our progress.  In other words, we actually waste time when we try to do too much because our brains need time to re-group in order to “pick up where we left off.”

Any “time savings” or efficiencies achieved from simultaneously working on tasks that involve critical thinking or creativity are thus undermined by the reduced quality or effectiveness of our completion of each task.

So, if the tasks require critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and/or learning, then we shouldn’t multi-task!

There a few other things that I’ve noticed about multi-tasking:

  • Multi-tasking destroys mindfulness.  We’re not totally “present” in anything that we’re doing because we are trying to simultaneously compartmentalize and control competing thoughts and goals.  The likelihood of breakthrough, “a ha!” moments is severely limited.
  • We overlook some of the most important concepts or aspects of our tasks.  Because we’re not present in the moment (i.e., fully concentrating), we tend to skim over documents or conversations.  Then we berate ourselves for missing the “obvious.”
  • We also miss the important nuances.  Since both the devil and the serendipitous discoveries are found in the details, we lose the opportunity to notice either.
  • Finally, multi-tasking tends to draw out projects beyond the time that they should reasonably take to complete.  We have a false sense of accomplishment because we completed 25% of five different projects even though we haven’t 100% completed any of them!

However, there is one type of multi-tasking that I believe can be very effective.  Multi-tasking via technology works precisely because it isn’t really multi-tasking.  Instead, it is actually a form of technological delegation.  The “grunt work” is done by technology, leaving us free to concentrate, analyze, ponder, and use our creativity to solve higher level, more complex problems.

In my own life, single-tasking actually increases my productivity in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.  Maybe that’s because I’m fully focused and using all of my resources to get something 100% done.  By saying “yes” to this particular project or task, I can more readily say “no” to other competing interests.

What about you:  is your multi-tasking propelling you toward the goals that you want to achieve OR is it undermining your path to success?

  • Look at your past history.  How effective have you really been when you tried to do too many things at the same time?
  • Which of your key projects have you actually completed?  Did the completed projects meet your expected standards?
  • How many other projects have “fallen through the cracks” because your attention was focused elsewhere?
  • Have any 6-month projects turned into 5-year odysseys?
  • Of the projects that are still partially completed, how much time would it actually take to finally check this project off your “To Do” list?
  • Are you willing to at least try single-tasking and see what happens?

While everybody works differently, it is critical that we understand and appreciate the most conducive environment and tools needed for us to do our best work.  Single-tasking requires prioritizing what is important – then taking the time to focus on completing the task at hand.

Although it’s against the “norm” of our multi-tasking society, maybe it’s time to be a maverick and try single-tasking in order to achieve the goals and success that we really want.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why Do YOU “Go to Work?”

Why Work - Stress Enjoy Boredom

Jobs and work:  mostly everyone wants one.  Mostly everyone needs one.  But not everyone is happy or productive in one.  In fact, job stress can be a leading cause of burnout.

In the graphic accompanying this article, a highly skilled individual who is in an unchallenging environment will be bored.

An employee who is challenged beyond his or her skill set (and, I might add, did not receive appropriate or adequate training) will be stressed.

But the worker who has found the perfect balance between his or her skills and the right degree of challenge on the job will most likely be happy and excel.

While I mostly agree with this somewhat simplistic approach to job satisfaction, there is a key consideration that is overlooked:  why exactly are you working in the first place?

The reasons why we go to work are as diverse as the individuals in the workplace.  While the relationship between our skills and the challenges of the job are important, our own personal reasons to “go to work” can have a powerful impact on not only our commitment and performance on the job, but also on our propensity to burnout.

Consider these reasons to “go to work”:

  • Simply to get a paycheck:  There is a strong likelihood that we will do the bare minimum that is required on the job – and we’ll probably be the first ones out the door at quitting time.
  • We “have to” (even though it bores us):  Boredom can arise because our skills are higher than what is needed on the job OR we view the work as comprised of routine, mind-numbing tasks.  It is almost inevitable that we will display “presenteeism” on the job – we’re at work, but we’re not really “there.”
  • We like our coworkers:  Because we are human beings, it is impossible to separate the relationships that we have with the people in our work environments from our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the job.  But even though our relationships might be super, if the job itself doesn’t align with our career goals and aspirations, then we will ultimately have a nagging sense that “something is missing.”
  • Our job aligns with our professional goals BUT it is an unethical or poorly led company:  In this situation, we may simply be going to work in order to get the paycheck – but the building stress generally causes us to eventually believe that no amount of money is sufficient to keep us.  But until we find another employer, our stress levels build from the cognitive dissonance between what we believe is right and the environment that thwarts our good intentions.
  • We believe in the purpose and mission of the organization:  There is a greater tendency to commit more of ourselves to the job – in other words, the organizational vision is aligned with our personal values so we believe that our work has a meaning beyond a paycheck.

These are just a few examples of reasons why some of my clients have “gone to work” – as well as some reasons why they left their employers.

Understanding why you, your colleagues, or subordinates come to work each day provides a profound insight into the best ways to motivate and lead them to their fullest potential.  And when employees excel in their jobs, then the company overall reaps the rewards of higher productivity, better customer service, and greater employee commitment and loyalty.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Understanding the Reasons Why We Work 

As a career consultant for many years, I have often been surprised when I’ve asked clients about their career histories:  why they are in their current field, what they want to accomplish, and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals.

Their responses have often surprised me – primarily because many individuals (whether in entry-level or senior positions) often don’t have clear-cut answers to these questions.  They were quite capable of explaining their career history in terms of projects or events.  They could easily express aspirations about their futures in their fields.  But they were often stopped short when trying to identify what they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach those goals.

Once we understand the sacrifices necessary to achieve future goals, we get a better understanding of why we are working in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you aspire to a senior level position entailing extensive travel and long work hours BUT your reason for working is to provide a better life for your family.  The key is to understand specifically what “a better life” means to you:

  • If “a better life” solely means providing material comfort for your family, then you’ll probably do well in this type of position.
  • However, if “a better life” means spending quality time (i.e., fully present and engaged) with your family, then the demands of this job contradict your real reasons for working.
  • When the demands of your job contradict your real reasons for working, then stress and burnout are the likely results.

Finding a job and career that reflect your personal goals and values is critical in creating the life that you want – your job then becomes a powerful reflection of who you really are.  Unfortunately, far too many people are in jobs that frustrate, anger, or even demoralize them.  The only reason that they “go to work” is because they “have to” (usually for financial reasons).

A recent study revealed that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs even though we spend an average of 90,000 hours “at work” during our lifetimes – that’s a lot of hours that cannot be replaced.  To avoid being part of this unhappy 80%, take the time to fully understand what you expect from a job and what you are willing to sacrifice in return:

  • Do the hours you spend at work reflect your own personal goals and ambitions – or is it time spent doing something that you hate in an uncomfortable environment?
  • Is work a “means to an end” – and is it really contributing to your desired end goal?
  • Finally, does your work make you feel good and proud at the end of the day?  If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re working in this particular job, in this particular company, and in this particular way – know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding and acting upon our answer as to why we go to work is fundamental to avoiding burnout.  Not only are we better able to create a new, more productive, and satisfying way to work, but also a richer, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling life as a whole.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #28: You can’t control it all

Paradigm ShiftTo all the “control freaks”:  your life will be much easier and you will be much happier if you recognize that you can’t control it all.

While this advice is easily given, it is often very difficult to receive.  Why do so many of us feel that we have to tightly manage and influence everything that happens in our lives – both professionally and personally?  Has it always been this way?

Or are our attempts to control merely an allegedly “proactive” response to today’s high degree of uncertainty?

There is increasing pressure to “take charge,” “take control,” and “take the bull by the horns” in order to manifest our destiny.  These attempts to control our environment, however, fail to recognize that the only thing that you absolutely can control is your response to any given situation.  That’s it.

Any attempts to control, manipulate, or force changes in your external environment frequently fail – probably because everybody else is also attempting to control that same environment in a way that reflects their goals.

As a reformed “control freak,” I recognize that learning to let go can be pretty terrifying.  Based on my own and others’ experiences, learning to let go is not a one-step process.  Instead, recognizing that we can’t control it all requires transformational changes in our perceptions and beliefs in several areas:

  • Perceptual Change #1:  Releasing the fears associated with being vulnerable.  To many of us, vulnerability represents gullibility and a greater probability of being hurt.
  • Perceptual Change #2:  Recognizing that we are capable of handling whatever challenges come our way.  Too often, we actually minimize what we are capable of doing and becoming, so we try to force changes in our environment in order to “ensure” that we will succeed.
  • Perceptual Change #3:  Accepting that we cannot predict the future.  NOT knowing what can or will happen is actually a good thing.  This requires us to be present in the moment (rather than continuing to “live in our heads” as we seek to control everything around us).
  • Perceptual Change #4:  Forgetting that the only “time” that we can control is the present moment.  The past has already occurred and cannot be changed; the future has not yet arrived and is only speculation.  The present is the only place where we truly live.

No wonder giving up control is so difficult!  These perceptual changes challenge some of the fundamental beliefs and values of control freaks.

But once we can make these transformational changes in our perceptions, a surprising thing happens:  we actually paradoxically feel more free and more “in control.”  Many of the fears about what might happen miraculously vanish.  Rather than forcing behaviors from others, we learn to trust others more – and, if their actions are not what we want, we surprisingly become more tolerant of those actions because we fundamentally believe that we can proactively respond to whatever life throws at us.

It is exhausting to be a control freak.  Even if we are controlling in order to make things better for others, eventually we become discouraged and disillusioned when our well meaning actions are not appreciated.  Why continue to put ourselves through this emotional roller coaster?  Learning to let go might be the secret to learning to fully live.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com