Letting go of needing things to be a certain way

Letting go of needing things to be a certain way

by | Jul 6, 2018 | Resilience and Equanimity

I had a scary moment recently.

I tripped over backwards and found myself on the ground in the path of a big horse who was, at that moment, a little out of sorts and out of control.

Luckily, he was calmed down and I quickly got back on my feet, escaping with nothing worse than a sprained wrist and a fabulously colourful bruise.

My injury meant I was ruled out of most activity for the rest of the day – no driving, no carrying, no cooking… Rather marvellous, I hear you say! I took up position on the couch with an ice pack.

But sometimes it’s not so easy to be out of action.

If you’re a bit of a control freak like me, it can be hard to accept that other people do things a bit differently to how you do them. Even when it is something as simple as preparing a Thai green curry or hanging up the laundry ?.

This got me to thinking about a line from my favourite guided meditation (‘Cultivating Kindness’ from Open Ground):

Be open to letting go of needing things,
to be a certain way in this moment.

This is offered as a way of practicing ‘equanimity’ – a spacious quality that allows us to work with change rather than against it, providing an evenness and balance of mind to tolerate difficulties and appreciate the good things that come our way.

(Those of you familiar with our leadership wellbeing survey, the GLWS, will recognise that this is in the title of one of our wellbeing domains – Resilience & Equanimity).

My reflections this week are on how this notion of ‘letting go of needing things to be a certain way’ might be helpful to our readers, as well as any leaders (and their teams) that we work with on their wellbeing.

So, from a self-confessed control freak, here are my thoughts on letting go…

Control freak = a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation. Is this you? Maybe a little? Do you have difficulty in allowing other people the final say, rarely stepping back or letting others drive things forward, worrying that the outcomes might be below par? Do you have ‘certain ways’ of doing things, and do you think these are the ‘right’ ways?

This might apply at home – the ‘right’ way to load the dishwasher, fold the towels, hang the laundry or fill a supermarket trolley. Or at work – the right way of crafting an email, preparing a board paper, writing a blog, planning a project or running a meeting. You might find yourself re-writing the work of your team in order to ‘get it right’.

If you recognise yourself in any of these examples, how well is this working for you? What are the downsides of these behaviour patterns?

I reckon these are predominantly to do with relationships and time – you threaten your relationships by being critical, and you soak up your time by having to do everything (to achieve your standards). Neither of these is good for your wellbeing, incidentally.

If you feel motivated to try a different approach, here are some quick tips:

  1. Challenge your thinking:
  • Is my reaction useful?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • How would a person who is more ‘easy-going’ respond?


  1. Take small steps to relinquishing control:
  • Ask for help more often on tasks (at home and at work)
  • Stop trying to shoulder all the burdens yourself (martyrdom is overrated)
  • Look for responsibilities in your working week that you can delegate (genuinely) and put the time into doing this.


  1. Practice controlling your emotions rather than everything around you
  • Accept that not everything will go as planned –and that’s OK. A large portion of life is laced with unknowns.
  • Take a full and deep breath before reacting to ‘imperfections’
  • Avoid the urge to correct people when they are wrong


  1. Reflect on how your need for control is impacting those around you:
  • Are you irritable with other people when they do small things ‘wrong’?
  • How empowered are your team or colleagues to use their creativity in accomplishing a task?
  • Are you stifling the opportunity for others to learn?
  • Do you really want your relationships to be marred by ongoing criticism of those closest to you?

Get our guide to better wellbeing

Download our Collection of Wellbeing Insights – an eBook full of our favourite and most practical tips and strategies you can start using today.