Feeling out of Control?
Recently I have been struck by the stark difference between two philosophies of living. Let us call the first one “Do Something” and the second one “Wait, Let (as in, let it come to you).” The relationship between these two philosophies is the subject of much conversation in my work as a mental health therapist.
Traditionally, many of us have been taught that hard work is what pays off in life. People are not likely to come knock on our doors with an opportunity—unless it is an opportunity to buy something we do not want! To get business, we must go out and get leads and network and do, do, do. We must DO something. Perhaps it is the American way.
The Wait, Let philosophy, goes something like: don’t chase, don’t beg, don’t stress. Just relax. It will come to you. Make your wants, want you!
“What in tarnation is that?” was my first response. Seriously? We do nothing and just wait?
For most of my life I have believed that we must DO something to make things happen.
For example, I used to stress more when a client cancelled or went somewhere else. If a client terminated or disappeared, I would feel hurt and fear there would be no replacement client. “Oh my gosh! I must DO something!” I thought to myself. I must go network and meet people and pass out my business cards and post on social media sites to “get my name out there.”
As time went on, however, I began to see instances of this latter philosophy (wait, let) happening in my life. If a client disappeared, another one would come soon after or a previous client might return to therapy. I started to feel more of a sense of things falling into place, of things working out.
Years ago, Richard Carlson wrote a book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. The subtitle is It is All Small Stuff. Among the many topics, he rebuts the idea that laidback people cannot be super-achievers, but that is a topic for another blog. The philosophy behind Don’t sweat the small stuff aligns with which philosophy above? You tell me.
Questions arise for any deep thinker: In the Wait philosophy, do we have no control? Do we just do nothing? Will our wants really begin to want us? Is it really going to work out every time? No, it is not. We all know instances of businesses and relationships failing, of bad things happening to good people. For example, family violence (power abuse) is more of a rule than an exception. It is naive, I think, to say or believe things will always work out. Obviously, things do not always work out. There is, however, evidence that those who believe things will work out weather disappointment better than those of us who are more realistic, but that, too, is the topic for another blog.
Performers and sports people often talk about the flow state or getting in the flow. Flow is difficult to define but it goes something like this: performing some activity in a way that feels effortless although we are exerting effort. We are in the zone. I can always DO DO DO, but I am more likely to be frustrated than find the zone. I need to stop and settle down. I need to get into the FLOW state, where it just seems to go well with minimal effort. The flow state is more akin to the Wait, Let philosophy of life.
Like many things, there is a continuum from Do Something to Wait, Let. So, how would we know when to WAIT and when to DO? Maybe in trusting (Wait, let), we are doing something. We are not waiting and letting so much as we are trusting, which is doing something. Perhaps we should say, simply, “things can improve” or “things often improve.” Or maybe we need not say anything. What do you think?
Blue Cross Blue Shield. United Healthcare. North Carolina State Health Plan
Planting a tree analogy. Fallow ground.