It’s What You Can’t Control

I am either incredibly foolish or very fortunate. Last year my husband and I ventured to go against well meaning advice and decided to build a house. Not just any house, but a completely custom straw bale house. For those of you new to alternative building – straw bale is an incredibly efficient, well proven, green method of insulating a traditional timber frame house.

It was incredibly exciting. We found the perfect land, hired a wonderful architect, found an adventurous contractor, and broke ground last January to start on the ride of our lives. What an experience. Aside from the expected scenario everybody who’s built before you warns about – double the time and way over budget, I’m finding the real challenge is having essentially no control over most of the project. Unpredictable weather, unreliable subs, it’s a domino game of staggering proportion.

So, for me, someone who likes to think I have a measure of control over my life – it’s been a major crash with reality. What I’m learning (kicking and screaming) is I can either chose to get buried by the stress and freak out every time things don’t go as I want or expect them to, or find ways to make friends with the inevitability of what I can’t control.

As I’ve been thinking about this current and potent experience of mine it occurs to me that it’s also a reflection of life as a business owner as well. Despite your best efforts, customers come and go, trends change, the price of gas doubles. Things out of your control occur all the time regardless of your best and most noble planning. And, just like in my personal situation, how I choose to respond in my business means the difference between a stressful, overwhelming and frustrating life and one of relative peace.

I admit – this is not an easy shift to make. At an early age we learn to control our environment to keep us safe and in charge. That may feel like a good thing, but paradoxically, can we ever really be in control of anything? How do you find the balance between feeling you have volition over your reality while holding the awareness you don’t? Here are two thoughts that are helping me negotiate this delicate balance.

Distinguish between what you can control and what you can’t. For example: You can’t control the rising cost of raw materials to make your product, but you can control who you buy from. Here’s where you have choice and can exercise your power as a consumer. When you are faced with a situation that feels overwhelming, ask your self what about the situation you can control and what you can’t. Take action on what you can control and invite yourself to let go of what you can’t. True empowerment lies in discerning the difference and taking clear action where you can. I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer, ” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Experiment with the difference between the words command versus control. What meaning and feelings do each of these words conjure up for you? For me command connotes a sense of being in charge, the ability to respond and take action. Control feels tight, tense and fear based. Think of yourself in command of a situation rather than in control and see if it helps you make this powerful shift toward accepting how reality is enabling you to respond in a new way.

I am fortunate. As for my house, and my process, the house is beautiful, it’s coming along just as I envisioned it. I still have no definitive move in date – and I definitely want that to be different. However, I do feel in command of my ability to communicate my needs to my building team, and stay engaged with what I can influence. I am learning to more fully utilize these tools to make my life more peaceful and I trust my builder is fully using his tools as well.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!

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