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From Planner to Control Freak

I was lucky enough to spend some time with my family in Disney World this month. My oldest daughter is a self-proclaimed “Disnerd”. It just happened that I was traveling to Orlando for the opening retreat of the Red Hot Visionista program that I co-lead the weekend before the Disnerd’s 18th birthday. We had some airline points to cover the flights, generally the stars aligned and this trip worked out. My daughter has been dreaming about this trip for years and had every day planned out down to the nth degree. She wanted to make sure that she rode every ride and saw every attraction that she wanted to while we were there.

I don’t share this story to criticize my daughter in any way. I share this because I could see so much of

Photo credit: Estee Janssens

myself and my reactions in her. My guess is that some of you will too. While she had done an impressive amount of planning, she still had three other people to contend with. For the most part we stuck to the schedule and saw and rode almost everything. But there were moments where the plan wasn’t going the way she’d envisioned, where we wanted to do something else, slow down, go to the park a little later, try a different lunch spot...there were subtle frustrations that I sensed from her and not so subtle.

The experience got me thinking about the transition from planner to control freak. This doesn’t just come up in the context of vacation, it is relevant in so many areas of our lives; event planning, wedding, parties, family reunion etc. It’s not limited to our personal arena, how many of you organize or deal with team members at work, manage staff or budgets, or plan out deadlines? Perhaps you live with someone who re-organizes the already loaded dishwasher. I will sheepishly raise my hand as someone who has invited friends over and then completely lost site of the joy in connecting because I’ve gotten bogged down in the details of the evening. And how about parenting? We have plans, we think we know how something should go and when it doesn’t it can really trigger our vulnerabilities and bring out the control freak.

So, why does this happen? Why the shift from organized planner to resentful, frustrated control freak?

I’m sure there are many answers to this question. But here is what really stands out for me:

  1. Expectations. I teach about these in almost all of my workshops and groups. In fact I’ve inadvertently written back to back blog posts on expectations (you can read them here and here). Expectations often lead to disappointment. We have an idea of how we think something will go and when it doesn’t we can feel defeated, let down or angry.

  2. Perfectionism. When we focus on everything being or going perfectly we lose sight of what really matters; like the control freak in me that came out instead of enjoying time with friends. I’m sure my friends would’ve preferred that I stay present with the visit than worrying about whether the cocktail was too boozy or not.

  3. Fear. We are afraid that we will be judged, feel like we don’t measure us or that we will miss out. That was my daughter’s motivation she didn’t want to miss out on any of the attractions that she’d been reading about for years.

I bring this topic up to be aware of the shift; awareness is always the first step. When my control freak shows up I feel like the Tasmanian Devil. I have the sense of spinning in my mind, everything seems to move too quickly, I’m not grounded in the moment (or reality) and sometimes I can feel hot.

Knowing the physical signs of overwhelm can help me catch it before my mind catches up.

If you’ve experienced the control freak side what did it feel like? If you don’t know pay attention the next time it comes up. Your body is often aware before your brain.

The next time it comes up, notice it. That is step one.

When you become aware of what is happening take a deep breath or two; however many it takes to become aware of the present moment

You cannot be present and a whirling dervish at the same time.

From there you can plot out your next step from a place of awareness.

Is it perfect? Nope, but neither are we.

And with practice you may be able to reign in that dervish or at least slow it down.

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