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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 3 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY Show, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Letting Go of Control

Control

It’s easy to pretend we’re in control of every aspect of our lives. Societal norms and tireless advertisements reinforce this message: you run the show; life is what you make of it; have it your way. You are the sovereign king of your own bite-sized kingdom.

But much of what occurs around us day-to-day is utterly outside our jurisdiction. We don’t know if that oncoming Ford pick-up is going to veer left-of-center and collide head-on with our vehicle. We can’t possibly predict that a maniac is going to rob the bank as we drop-in during our lunch break to cash a paycheck. We can’t anticipate the brutal storm that floods every basement in the neighborhood.

No matter the amount of rigorous planning, the unexpected will occur.

Last week, we announced Ryan’s private mentoring sessions, and the first-day response was astounding. Everything was progressing swimmingly—Ryan’s mentoring calendar filled up for nearly two months—but then, unexpectedly, our website crashed, our files were corrupted, and it would take a couple days to restore everything. In the meantime, no one could access our site, and thus no one else would know about Ryan’s big announcement. Upwards of 5,000 people visit our site each day, so being out of commission for two days was far from ideal. Rome was burning and we couldn’t locate an extinguisher. The problem was simply outside our control.

We’d never experienced a major website outage before, and we didn’t know what to do. As far as we could see, we had two clear options: 1) panic, or 2) let our friends at Dreamhost (our hosting company) work their magic. If we panicked, the site would still be down, but at least we’d be in control, right? Panicking, after all, is just a strange way to regain order in an otherwise disorderly situation. This type of control, however, does no good, and is in fact harmful, unproductive, and detrimental to our mental health. However, if we relied on our hosting company to fix the problem, then we were letting go of control, placing our faith in someone else to do the right thing, which can feel like being stripped naked, exposed while waiting for someone to fetch us dry clothes.

The simple fact is that we are not in control. Not of everything, at least. Instead, we control our odds, and if we place ourselves in the most ideal situations often enough, then, odds are, things will sway our way more often than not. Everything else requires a little leap of faith.

Perhaps letting go of control is the best way to regain total control.