Whether we like it or not, we’re all control freaks. Each and every one of us wishes to be completely in charge of the things that matter most to us, like our health, work, and personal lives.
And yet, try as we may, there are many things that are entirely beyond our control, regardless of our attempts to exercise authority over them. No matter how much we fear the prospect of failure, regret or even death, often there is little we can do to prevent their coming.
This contradiction, between our hopes to control and our inability to do so, is often the cause of much distress. At best, it leaves us disappointed, and at the worst, crippled with misery.
In the wise words of Lao Tzu,
“Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.”
To free ourselves of pain, we must therefore let go of our desire to control the future. But how?
In the Hands of the Unknown
We can’t escape the fact that many aspects of our lives lie within the firm grasp of the hands of the unknown. Who we’ll marry, where we’ll work, how long we’ll live — many of these questions cannot be answered now, but only with the passing of time.
Logic would, thereby, tell us to forget about the future. To hell with it, it would have us say. We’ll just wait and see what happens. And yet, try as we may, going with the flow isn’t always as easy to execute as it rolls off the tongue.
Not only isn’t easy to forget about the future, but it might not be a great idea, either. There’s a lot to be learned from foresight and rational planning. Issues arise, however, when our tendency to plan becomes a tendency to predict, and subsequently to become fearful about what we think the future might hold.
Furthermore, often our thoughts about the future rarely involve any planning, — only endless rumination over what might come to be.
We can’t ever tell exactly what will happen to us. Even after years of contemplation, our future remains uncertain. We’re subject to many…