Control freaks get a bad rep, man.
I never thought I was one, but I feel like over time I have realized that in certain areas of my life I prefer being behind the steering wheel rather than just going along for the ride.
As a teacher, controlling the flow of a lesson or controlling the atmosphere in the classroom is important to me and to my ability to my job well. If I just sat back and let the day play out without pointing it in a certain direction, I doubt much would get done. Over the last year or so, I’ve taken an interest in controlling my finances with more awareness. It’s amazing how much money I burned through in my 20’s. If only I had stock in Chinese restaurants, bars and pubs. Man, I’d be loaded now.
Most recently, and I think most importantly, I have taken back control of my life and it’s progression. I would say, for the most part, I am a pretty laid back, take it as it comes, kind of guy. Not much bothers me, and I am top notch at going with the flow. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with going with the flow, but I never considered what it would be like to create the flow.
What would happen if I began to make things happen, instead of accepting things as they are?
It was around that time that I picked up a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The very first habit that Covey dives into the habit of being proactive.
Proactive-creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
Up until Covey’s in depth look at the power of being proactive, I was living life in a very reactive way. As a young teacher I would react to a students misbehavior, as opposed to proactively creating expectations for my students and myself that were understood clearly by all. As a young adult I would react to a little weight gain with a crash diet and over-trained exercising, rather than proactively maintaining a balanced and sustained diet and workout regimen.
It was as if Covey pulled me out from under the rock I had been living (posthumously even, which is a testament to his lasting work).
Being proactive allows you to be the author of your life, rather than reading your story back after the world around you writes it.
This brings me back to control freaks and their bad rep. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take control, as long as it is with your own life. Being proactive allows you to be that control freak for yourself and dictate how your life will play out. Whether it be a “to do” list in the morning, meditating before the craziness of the workday, or just setting the coffee the night before so it’s not one more tedious thing to do when you wake up; there are so many ways that you can proactively define your day. If you define enough days, you can define your life.
If you’re saying to yourself “I’m not the boss, I can’t dictate the workday” or “I don’t feel like I can control anything throughout my daily life”, you’re not looking hard enough. There are so many choices you can make throughout your day that will proactively put you back in the drivers seat of your life. Start with the smallest action, and let the snowball roll downhill.
Covey also discusses your circle of influence (things you can control) and circle of concern (things you can’t control). Essentially, the more you focus on the things you can control in your circle of influence (your morning routine, your diet, your exercise, your communication skills, etc.), the more these proactive actions grow that circle of influence. In comparison, the more you focus your energy on things you can’t control (how someone feels about you, your boss’ attitude, your bills, etc.) the larger (and more crippling) that “circle of concern” will grow.
Again, the beautiful thing is, it is entirely in your control. What you think about, what you focus on and therefore the actions you take to reinforce those thoughts will shape your life.
So….do you want to be a control freak, too?