The Illusion of Control. . .

Man sitting on bench next to woman with hands over his eyes

We humans love to think we’re “in control” – that we’re in charge of the universe and can manage everything in our path. It’s generally a healthy premise because, as researchers tell us, an internal locus of control (that sense of being powerful, having a say, exercising our agency) is empowering.

An internal locus of control allows us to make our way in the world, to make decisions, be ambitious and manage the ordinary flotsam-and-jetsam of life. The alternative has its own challenges. Folks who live with an external locus of control, feel battered and beaten around by the fates of this world. They suffer under the belief that everything is someone else’s fault and that they have very little say in how their lives turn out. It is not an empowering way to live.

Somewhere in the middle, lies the truth. That sense of being “in control” is merely an illusion. Sooner or later, we come up against the limits of our own capacity to manage the universe (or think we do) and the honesty of our powerlessness looks us squarely in the eye. For those of us whose tag line is, “I Got This!” (and I include myself) this moment is a rude awakening.

My moment came about five weeks after that car crash that totaled my car in early November. I’d managed all the ordinary flotsam-and-jetsam of the situation.

  • I’d connected with the rental car agency, my insurance company and the other insurance company paying for the damages.
  • I’d released the car (what was left of it) to the insurance claims consultant, sent back my affidavit of the car’s exact milage and the extra key fob.
  • I’d priced out replacement vehicles, checked with my money manager to see what I could afford, and qualified with my credit union for a car loan should I need that.

I was good. To my mind I could easily say, “I Got This!” – except it wasn’t true!

I began to realize that, as a caregiver, I’d left a huge gap in my circumstance-management-plan. I had all the BIG documents taken care of (years ago, in fact), things like a will, a durable power of attorney (DPOA), a clear healthcare advance directive – the key things you need so that the world you leave behind is well taken care of, tidy and neat. But, what about those first 24 to 48 hours after a life-altering event???

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

What I didn’t have was a clear plan for the immediate circumstances of my own sudden, disability or death – what would my husband do, or worse, what would become of him if I had not been able to climb out of that car-wreck and move right on with my life?

What would the rest of the world have done to manage all the minute details that I take care of moment-to-moment, day-to-day in my immediate absence?? I didn’t have a good answer!

Now, I tell you this for several reasons – and certainly not to frighten you or make you feel sorry for me!

  1. I write this to dispel the myth that we’re EVER really in charge of the universe! We’re simply not. That is not to say we shouldn’t be good planners; thorough in our efforts, especially when our decisions impact other people’s lives – but we’re not perfect planners, and we’re not always prepared for the unpredictable events of life!
  2. I write this to urge you to be as good a planner as you can be – acknowledging that perfection isn’t the goal but noticing the gaps in your own planning is a good place to start. What’s missing? What else is needed in your contingency plans?
  3. I write this to let you know where my attention is headed as we move toward 2022. I’m realizing that my life is complex and kind of messy. I acknowledge that I’m going to need to build a plan to fill that 24-48-hour gap I’ve come to recognize in my own map of the world.
  4. And I write this to assure you that as your coach, and as a caregiver (just like many of you!) I’m still working out the details of my own life (and contingency plans). I’m still putting the pieces together and, even when I make it look easy (and I know, I’m prone to do that) – it isn’t! It is a lot of hard, complex work.

No matter what you’re working on this winter – whether it is a list of New Year’s resolutions, life goals, or even contingency plans – know that your imperfectly-perfect outcome will be of benefit to all those who count on you to be their “in charge of the world” person – the one who’s always “Got This!”

You’ll be fine because, in addition to all the empowerment that an internal locus of control gives us, the Universe really does have our backs – just as it had mine on November 4th this year!

Wishing you all the best this holiday and as we head into 2022!

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

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