The Illusion of Control

By J.C. Bailey

My week was a stream of reminders that I am not in control.  I had one of those birthdays with a five or zero as the last digit to remind me I’m not in control of the passage of time.  A friend suffered a stroke and, despite regular exercise and a good diet, found out that he can’t control his genetic makeup.  I attended a fundraiser for Lifeline Chaplaincy where I was reminded that hospitals are full and overflowing with the sick, the injured and the dying.  I was filing some documents at the clerk’s office when I received word that a loved one had been taken from work and needed my immediate attention.  A local attorney was buried Saturday at about the same time a local high school senior was killed in an automobile accident on his way home from a soccer game.  The human condition is not news to me, but I do like to ignore reality and hold on to the illusion that I am in control, even if I’m not.


So, we are not in control.  How should we respond to that realization?  Let me suggest three rational responses.  The first is reviewing our priorities.  What do we really value and are we making choices that reflect our priorities.  It might be wise to write down your priorities and then consult your calendar and credit/debit card records to see if they match up.  If family and friends are important you should see that reflected in the allocation of your resources.  Are you living to work or working to live?


A second response to the harsh realities and brevity of my life is appreciation.  Am I internally thankful for what I have and the people who enrich my life?  Do I express this internal appreciation by communicating my gratitude?  The marriage counselor explained to the husband that his wife was suffering because he failed to tell her he loved her.  The husband responded matter of factly that he had told her he loved her 30 years ago and if he changed his mind he would let her know.  It is good for you to recognize and appreciate your blessings.  It is infinitely more powerful to share your appreciation with others.


The fact that I don’t control the universe doesn’t mean I can’t improve my odds.  Wear your seat belt.  Designate a driver.  Avoid bringing a knife to a gun fight, or better yet, avoid the fight if peace is a possibility.  Seek wise counsel.  That last bit of advice is where we come in.  Providing counsel to people before they are in crisis allows us to choose from a myriad of options and avoid some pitfalls.  Even on the eve of a crisis, you are well-served to speak with an experienced attorney and prepare to make the best of a less-than-optimal situation.  Perhaps the crisis has hit full force.  There may be options and strategies of which you are not aware or are too close to recognize.  Set and revisit your priorities, show appreciation for your blessings and take steps to protect what you treasure.

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