Let Go of Control: What Getting Lost on the Metro Taught Me

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Leadership Coaching

I sometimes get stressed out about things I can’t control. I worry about what will happen to certain loved ones, their health, will they have enough money to live on and pay for their healthcare needs, will they move here to be close to us. The list of things I worry about goes on and on. 

But lately I’ve been thinking about my thinking.

What if instead of worrying about this endless list of things, I started thinking about trusting myself to manage whatever comes up?

What if, instead of wrestling with this concept of needing to be in control of things, especially scary or stress-inducing things, what if I let go of those feelings and trusted that generally things will work out?

How would I benefit if I let go of needing to control everything?

Are there times in my life when I didn’t have control, and yet things worked out? How would reminding myself of those times bring me peace?

There are lots of examples:

  • It all worked out with my father’s recent illness even though we had little control of anything. He passed away, but through a long-term care policy he and my mother took out 20 years ago, we had enough money to pay for the memory care he received along the way.
  • It all worked out when my spouse retired from his first career and began a second one, and we decided to live in Virginia.
  • It all worked out when I decided to open my own consulting and coaching firm, SparkNonprofit.

The greatest benefit to me is the release of the tension, and the peace and calm from acknowledging that everything will be ok.

When have I handled unexpected things, and handled them well?

There’s a lengthy list.

My dad’s Alzheimer’s and how we ensured good care for him. My grandmother’s car accident. Our unexpected relocation to Maryland 20 years ago. The legal details I had to manage in 2007 when we moved to Italy and brought our dog Bailey with us. The time I left a full-time position to take a chance on running my own company.

Even the amusing incident in Italy that happened when the metro train in Pozzuoli stopped without warning. 

It was a weekday morning in the winter of 2008. I was headed to a market in downtown Naples on the Cumana metro line. 

I rode for two stops and then suddenly, the train stopped. 

I couldn’t understand the train announcement because it was in Italian, and I could only speak a few simple phrases and sentences at that point.

Everyone got off the metro and walked downhill towards the water. I had no idea where the crowd was going or why. I just followed the crowd. 

Everyone stopped at a bus stop, and when the bus came along a few minutes later, everyone got on. So, I did too. 

I had no idea where the bus was going or the name of the town on the destination sign. 

But I realized it was 11 a.m. and I had about six more hours of daylight until it got dark outside. So, I had six hours to figure out how to get home. 

It all worked out, and the outcome wasn’t nearly as bad as my worries. I made it home fine, and it didn’t take long to get there.

I made many more trips to downtown over the next two years and began to think of my trips and outings to new places in the city as little adventures.

What have I learned from these experiences?

What I learned from all these situations is that I can try to control the situation, but that control is just an illusion.

I can worry and fret and stress about what may happen but spending that energy doesn’t change the outcome.

That usually things work out all right.

Mainly I’ve learned that I can choose to see it as an adventure and a learning opportunity, and I can trust myself to handle most things that come along.

I don’t have to struggle to control a situation. I just need to think about it in a different way.

I’ve got a good record of handling unexpected things that have come up in life, and I can trust myself to handle them in the future.

Are you struggling with control?

If this resonates with you and you struggle with control, please reach out to me. Schedule your free 30-minute call.