I feel as though I have starting losing control of my own life. Some of this loss is of my own doing, but some is not. The illusion of control itself is an interesting concept to me as far as how much control we can really have. Consider the following strip from Bill Watterson:
As you can see, what we think of as control can become nonexistent in a hurry. I like this strip as a reminder of how things really are.
So what does this have to do with me losing control of my own life?
Back when I was in grade school, I learned (unwilling though that learning might have been) the three laws of motion. In simplistic terms, they are as follows:
1. An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless moved by an outside force.
2. An object in motion tends to stay in motion at the same speed and direction unless changed by an outside force.
3. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Recently, I have begun to view my life a little differently, not so much as a timeline, but as such an object that is subject to Newton’s laws of motion.
Let me explain.
My life will go on with or without my influence as long as it is supposed to. How long is that? I don’t know, nor am I supposed to know. I’m sure that my Father in Heaven doesn’t need my opinion on the matter, but I’ll give it anyway. I think it’s a wonderful idea for us not to know the hour of our departure from this life. If I knew, I could fill my life with sin, debauchery, and other vile habits, and my only responsibility would be to keep track of time so as to be able to make a full confession, repent, and turn my life around completely and totally five minutes before the appointed time of death. Good idea from the viewpoint of the sinner but not really what God had in mind for our test, right?
Anyway, back to the explanation. My life will go on in a straight line and at the same speed (Newton’s 2nd Law) unless outside forces change it. If we can agree on that, then let’s examine what some of those outside forces are. First and foremost is God. There’s an old saying that goes “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I believe that we are allowed to make our own plans for our lives, and that we can implement those plans, but only so far as they don’t conflict with God’s plans. Illness, natural disasters, other people are but a few of the influences that can alter our plans. Remember Job? Here was a man who did everything right and he was full of faith and was prosperous, but God had other plans for him, at least for a while.
The opposing team can certainly alter our plans too. We can start to feel inadequate or undeserving of the fruits of our plans. Where does that come from? We can start to question our own faith in ourselves and in our plans, especially if those plans are in harmony with God’s desires.
OK… so setting aside for the time being those two forces that can change the motion of our lives, what else is there? Well, quite a bit I would say. Other people’s plans for their own lives can alter our motion. Someone else’s agenda can easily knock us off course, especially if we’re the kind of people who are content with just letting inertia carry us through life, and not exerting much outside force to either change the direction or speed of our lives, or to get ourselves back on course when some other force causes an unwanted change.
Sometimes our own lack of focus can change the direction we are going. We can make a plan, a great plan, to do this or that and we make all the necessary arrangements and get everything in place and maybe even put forth the effort required to set that plan in motion. Things are going great and the plan is working out wonderfully because we are monitoring and making adjustments (outside force) as needed and then something distracts us. A new idea spawns a new plan. Someone comes by with an invitation to join their plan. Maybe we just get bored because the plan isn’t moving as fast as we thought it would. With some people, this happens more easily than with others. We stop monitoring the original plan, other outside forces change the velocity and trajectory of that plan, things begin to go haywire, and before we know it the results of our original plan are disastrous and are nowhere near where we thought they would be when we made our plan. Sound familiar? It sure does to me.
Sometimes our own lack of monitoring (called sensory acuity) dooms our plan from the get-go. We make a great plan, prepare it, and then set it in motion only to believe that it will go along as planned without any further effort. Try getting your car pointed straight down the road and then let go of the steering wheel and see how that works out for you. Minor, and sometimes major, corrections will always be needed to keep your plan from drifting off into the ditch, especially in the beginning. Other plans may have to be included in this plan, then others, and then some will have to be monitored more closely than others, and you look up one day and see what was once one simple plan has become something that has taken on a life of its own with many plans intertwined and tangled up looks to be at first glance nothing more than a random unmanageable mess. So we might tell ourselves that we just can’t handle this anymore. Time to quit. Time to cut our losses or save our sanity and move on. Time to make a new plan.
Sometimes other people will sabotage our plans. They might do this out of jealousy or greed. Maybe they do it out of meanness or spite. Maybe they just don’t like me and want me to fail. Maybe we started out with the same goals so we combined our plans together and then they wanted to change their plan. When they apply a force to their plan doesn’t it affect our plan too? Maybe it’s done unwittingly, not knowing that their actions are causing an outside force to alter the inertia of our own plan. Maybe they just don’t care. Even as I write this it seems that I’ve become cynical and untrusting, and maybe I have. I can justify my cynicism though because these things have happened to me and my plans. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes even unknowingly, but they have happened. After a while it begins to wear a person down, you know?
Sometimes our plan just isn’t thought out all the way. Some people dive in head first before knowing how deep the water is. Unforeseen circumstances (outside forces) pop up and we aren’t prepared to deal with them and keep on truckin’, so we shelve the plan for the time being and then usually never get back to it. For every successful plan that achieves its intended fruition, there must be millions and millions and millions that never reached or even really came close to its desired outcome.
Even more tragic than that are the plans that were really awesome, well thought out, all the necessary arrangements and preparations were made, and then fear of failure (outside force) keeps us from giving the stationary object the needed nudge to set it in motion. We start to think to ourselves “Who am I to think that I can really pull this off?” or something of that nature. I’m sure that some plans just shouldn’t be put into motion, so ridiculous or evil or downright goofy are they that it would really be better off to set it aside and move on. More often than not though, it’s some kind of fear or self doubt. And the real tragedy is when those fears/self doubts come from other people who haven’t taken the time or spent the energy to learn all of the different aspects and nuances of the plan, and thus become nothing more than naysayers. We all have people in whom we trust lead us astray from time to time. It’s rarely of a malicious nature, but more likely stems from inadequate information or a lack of shared vision. For every successful plan that achieves its intended fruition, there must be millions and millions and millions that never really even got started.
There are also times when it is completely appropriate to let others tell us what we should be doing (apply outside force). Most of us work for someone else. It is up to that person or someone else that the boss designates, to let us know what our actions should be. When I went to work for my current employer, I agreed to let him apply the forces to the motion of my life that would help him achieve the goals of his plan in return for monetary compensation. That was the deal even though it was never really laid out in those terms. There is always a trade off though. If my boss tells me to do something that goes against my own set of beliefs or morals or personal standards, then I am free to apply my own outside force and either try to make a change in this person’s plan for me, make my own new plan and change jobs, or I can ignore my own rules and let this person have total control over the actions and forces that determine the path I travel, at least while I’m at work. I trust that he will not put me in a position to have to make that decision, or I would have never agreed to work for him. Isn’t that what we all do?
And so goes our lives, in motion, changing speed or direction only when some outside force is applied. When all of that force is from external sources, God, Satan, spouses, parents, siblings, children, in-laws, friends, enemies, bosses, customers, DMV employees, business associates, strangers on the street, members of our church congregations, those two ladies that are talking loudly while I’m in the library writing this, etc… then we have little or no control of our lives. But when we make an effort to decide who will or will not be able to apply an outside force to the motion of our plans and lives, then we can regain some or even most of that control. That having been said, it must also be noted that my faith and knowledge of the workings of the Kingdom of Heaven tell me that the will of God will not be controlled by me, and the whisperings of Satan, while able to be ignored, will not be silenced by me.
So how do we ever even get through a single day with all of these plans in motion, and all of the outside forces that alter our plans, and all of the forces that we must apply to the inertia of our own lives, and all of the decisions that must be made regarding those forces, etc…? I mean, it really sounds like a daunting task doesn’t it, especially when you stop and think that all of this activity goes on during every single waking hour, not to even mention all of the outside forces that continue to alter our lives while we are sleeping and unaware.
Man, I'm tired all of a sudden.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days, and have made some decisions regarding outside forces.
I am tired of letting every little outside force have a major impact on my life. I’m tired of being bounced around like a rag doll on a trampoline, pushed along like a twig in a raging river, or perhaps held back from my desires as though I were mired in quicksand. More often than not though, I basically feel like a ball-bearing in the world’s largest and most frenetic pin-ball machine. Ding-ding-ding as I get bounced from flipper to bumper to bumper to bumper, up this ramp and through a tunnel and down that chute only to be bounced and flipped and bumpered more and more and realizing that I am powerless to stop it or even slow it down. I am done with this pinball life.
I am in the process of revisiting some of my old plans and desires to determine which ones I still wish to pursue. I am also in the process of reviewing my own life plan so I can live the life I was meant to live. There are so many things I want to accomplish in this life and I have allowed myself to become complacent, letting any and all outside forces push me from here to there and having neither the courage nor the strength to push them aside or even to make an effort to apply enough force to get myself back on track. Letting that happen is how I ended up in Missouri in the first place. And I have decided that most of the force that I will allow to change my progress will come from me and me alone.
Oh sure, there will be others who will have some impact, I’m not foolish enough to think that I can live in a vacuum, not affecting anyone and being affected by no one. Aside from God, Sheri will surely be able to apply more force than anyone to alter the direction of my life. My parents, my children, my extended family, my friends, etc… will also have some input, albeit a lesser amount than I’ve permitted in the past. There used to be things I wanted to accomplish in this life, and as I approach what could ostensibly be the halfway point in a 100 year long life, it’s time to take back control, and start monitoring the forces that can alter the body in motion that is my life.
Anthony Robbins says that real change is usually a response to one of two things, desperation or inspiration. Most of the time people will only make changes in themselves when they become desperate. For me, it seems to be more frustration than anything else, which I guess is a form of desperation in this context. I can look down the road and usually see where I’m headed. It’s increasingly rare that I’m happy about what seems to lie ahead. Then I look back and see the forces that have changed the way my life has gone, and as I said at the outset, some of those forces were self inflicted, and others were thrust upon me. I take full responsibility for those which I caused myself. I will no longer be at the will of other people’s plans for me, and I will correct a few wrongs along the way. They say that two wrongs don’t make a right, and I have always believed that, but some things need to be corrected, and some people will answer for what they’ve done.
Apply force when I must, respond wisely and swiftly to outside forces, control what I can control, accept what I cannot control, and keep God and Sheri around to let me know the difference.