Are You Willing to Let Go of the Illusion of Control?

The title of this blog is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot this past year! I can tell I’m in the midst of some sort of personal transformation because I’m struggling. I’m doing much more self-talk than usual and my awareness of being “myself” has escalated.

Sounds fun, right?

Fun? … Maybe not the word I would choose. However, it’s been interesting and I’m gaining insights each day, which is exciting.

Women hand watering the backyard grass with a garden hoseOne key “transformation” that is happening for me is this notion of “letting go.” I must admit I have a natural tendency to want to have some control in situations and in the workplace, we are often expected to control outcomes … the desired/expected outcomes. The need for control may show up as being “controlling,” aka micro-managing. When others see us as controlling, it’s not a positive view. In fact, being in control is hard work. It comes with heavy burdens and not much fun. So why do we want to be in control?

While there are times that things go according to plan, chances are it really had little to do with your efforts to control the situation.

One of the personal battles I have with “letting go” is related to the aspect of my professional career that requires me to be creative. I’m constantly looking for new and creative approaches to offer fresh ideas and perspectives to my clients. Balancing the need to adhere to the project timeline, budget and deliverables while being open and creative can make for some sleepless nights.

I recently listened to a Coaches Rising podcast with Michael Neill as he talked about concepts from his recent book, The Inside-Out Revolution. A way to characterize a key message of the book is the famous quote, “10% of life is what happens to you; 90% is how you respond to what happens to you.” What we do with what happens to us determines our life experience. I enjoyed it and will need to re-read as it’s a bit of a mind-bender and a bit too deep to dive into via this blog.

However, there was something that I took away and am beginning to apply in my day-to-day work to tap into my creative nature.

Control is about limiting or restricting freedom. There are good things about controlling your budget or timeline. However, when it comes to doing my work, I need to get those creative juices flowing and let go of structured or limited thinking. It’s a matter of giving up the comforting feeling of being in control in the hope of discovering greater freedom – the field of possibility!

When it comes to being creative, I’ve found that too often I allow my “thinking” to clog up the freedom and natural creativity that’s inside me … in all of us. I can get lost in a world of my own thinking and attempt to “fix” my experience versus letting things flow and see how my experience evolves.

I’ve written about mindfulness before and this is one aspect of being mindful that I’m just now discovering. Tapping into creativity starts with observing myself and noticing when my thinking starts to look more important or real than my creative potential. I have to be mindful enough to notice when I need to get out of my head and be open to the freedom of mind.

So how do I do that?

This is what I’ve found to work for me:

  • Slow down – Find quiet space through solitary meditation or going for a walk and listen to the sounds of nature. Breath deeply.
  • Walk away from my computer – Get up and move. Do something other than thinking about the work or project.
  • Recognize that all I can do for now is all I can do for now and don’t put additional pressure or stress on myself to save the day. I can handle the situation with a combination of common sense and insightful action.

What happens when you get the knot out of the garden hose? The water begins to flow freely!

The same is true when tapping into your best creative self. Be open and let go of all the tangled thoughts and the mind can also flow freely!

I’d love to hear from you and learn how you are unleashing your creative nature!

When we listen without anything on our mind, we become receptive to wisdom that comes from beyond the reach of our own experience.”             ~ Michael Neill

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at