January is the time when everyone talks about the habits they want to start, the weight they want to lose, the smoking they want to quit, all the things they can control. But sometimes we put things on that list that really don’t belong: get the perfect job, find the perfect real estate deal, have a transcendent meditation experience. These things are not really in our scope of direct control. So how do you still achieve a big goal that you have no actual influence on? The deceptively simple answer is stop trying to influence it.
It is age-old dating advice (of the most eye-roll-inducing sort) that if you really want to find someone, stop looking. Type A personalities, and very driven people, particularly hate this kind of advice because there is nothing to actually do. This kind of advice for a goal-oriented individual could be likened to telling an angry person to calm down.
Well, the advice is right and wrong. Yes, stop focusing on it, but you cannot stop focusing on something by just stopping you’ll constantly return to the thought and how you are supposed to be ignoring it. Stopping the energy is just one step, you then need to refocus on something that you can control in order to put your energy to work and release the stress of desperately trying to herd the cats that are your uncontrollable goals.
What areas in your life do you want to change but just don’t seem to be budging? Are these things you obsess over and have tried multiple different ways of approaching it without success? If so, this is a great candidate for the something you can’t control title.
When we focus on the things that we really can control we shift our energy and our awareness. For instance you want to buy a house but cannot afford it yet, and despite all of your efforts, you have yet to figure out how to amass a down payment or find neighborhood you are 100% on. Something you can absolutely control in the meantime, is loving where you live now. You likely have also probably been neglecting that topic out of frustration of wanting to save money or request yet another list of real estate agent referrals from your friends. You cannot force yourself to win the lottery to finish your down payment.
However, you can force yourself to deep clean the place your renting, hang up some prints you get at the upcoming Coconut Grove Arts Festival, burn some sage, and maybe hit up your landlord for some nagging repairs. If you are focused on loving where you are right now, the anxiety about buying a place will likely subside, and you won’t have the attention span to have such a tight grip on whether it happens or not and how. When you relax yourself around the topic of saving and open houses, you will be more open and aware, maybe leading you to suddenly see a foreclosure sign in front of a cool house on your way to work that you had missed the last several months.
Focus on the things that are maybe related, but not direct attempts to control what it is that you want to happen. If you feel you desperately need a new job, but have done indeed searches, networking, resume mail-outs, the works, take a step back from the actual hunt. Focus instead on how to use your current position to beef up your resume, is there a project you are interested in? A committee you want to join? This triggers new creativity and removes the intensity from the search, leaving you open to new opportunities and gives you the chance to polish a new skill that will be handy to mention when the perfect interview comes along.
Or focus on a different part of your life entirely; maybe even though your uncontrolled goal is not going well, you feel like you have never been more into your workout routine in your life. Is now the time to focus on a new fitness goal like an obstacle race or marathon? Sometimes just reprioritizing the things that are already going well can make us more grateful for what we have and reminds us that everything is not wrong. It allows us to put more trust in ourselves that no matter how it all works out, it will all work out in the end.
Letting go is not just helpful in finally letting us hit the goal we have had a hold on, it will also make us happier, calmer, and more patient people in the meantime.