Understanding Our Need For Control

Written by on March 21, 2017 in Breaking Barriers, Self Awareness with 1 Comment

Understanding Our Need for Control


Every day we face circumstances that test our nerves and ability to keep our life on course, from traffic jams and the weather to unexpected change, and the inexplicable behavior of others. For some, there will be larger life events, a health crisis, physical injury, or the loss of a loved one.

The nature of these examples varies widely, and yet there is a single thread that runs through them that affects us in a very deep way, they trigger our need for a sense of control.

External versus Internal Control

Control is a profound need that most of us try hard to deny, even to ourselves, because there is a certain negative perception. After all, nobody wants to be called controlling.

What we need to understand is that there is a BIG difference between the external need for the type of control that involves exerting power, particularly over others, and the internal need to feel a sense of control over the quality and course of our own life.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

According to psychologists people who have a strong sense of internal control are happier and more successful in life because they believe that their actions have a direct effect on their outcomes and that it is within their ability to create positive change in their life.

  • They believe they are masters of their own fate.
  • They avoid falling into the pits of anxiety and depression.
  • They recover from illness faster.
  • They are more open to new ideas, which promotes personal growth.
  • They take more risks and experience a deeper sense of self-satisfaction.

In contrast, those who have little belief in their ability to control their own lives tend to be easily influenced by the opinion of others, blame outside circumstances for their mistakes and credit their successes to luck or fate rather than to their own efforts.

Cultivating a Sense of Control

No matter where you are in your life now, or what your background may be, it is within your power to develop a sense of control if you are willing to commit to taking responsibility for your own life.

Listed below are a few strategies to guide you and at the end of the post you’ll find links to more related reading.

OWN Your Choices

Accepting responsibility for the role you’ve played in creating the life you are living right now is fundamental to establishing a sense of control. While it is true there will always be things we have no control over, we always (always!) have control over our responses.

Learning to make the right choices for the life you want to create for yourself takes self-awareness and practice, but it is a skill that anyone can master in time.

OWN Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes, but not everyone is willing to admit it. Blaming others, fate or bad luck is giving away your power while admitting and owning your mistakes is taking responsibility for your life. You don’t have to beat yourself up over every little misstep but you can’t learn from something you don’t acknowledge.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. ~Alice Walker

OWN Your Accomplishments

For the same reason, it’s important to own your mistakes, acknowledging even your smallest accomplishments make you feel competent and able to face whatever challenge comes your way.

Most of us have a tendency to focus only on big impressive successes and discount (or completely ignore) the small daily wins. But it is these small events that collectively help us to gain the experience and confidence that leads to growth and more success.

You don’t have to wave a flag to draw attention to your achievements, but you might try writing about them in a journal at the end of each day.

OWN Your True Self

The ability to look at yourself objectively and appreciate all of your quirky bits and pieces without judgment is a necessary component not only for a sense of control but for genuine happiness.

Developing self-awareness enables you to identify and focus on activities that highlight your strengths and develop your weak points, even as you learn to embrace the value of appreciating all that makes you, uniquely YOU.

OWN Your Dreams

It’s never too late to take charge of your life or to dream a new dream … but you must accept that there is a price to be paid. Many of us harbor wonderful, wild, glorious dreams for the life we want to live. Unfortunately, more often than not these dreams are destined to remain on the (mental) shelf gathering dust because we like the idea of the dream, but only if we don’t have to do the work.

We convince ourselves that we’re waiting for the right time or opportunities, we wait for approval or validation from others and eventually we tell ourselves that we have too many commitments, that we’re too set in our ways or too old to start anything new. Of course, these are all just excuses, but they make it easier for us to avoid doing the work to make those dreams a reality.

If you have a dream, why not choose now to take the first step to OWN it. Remember, you are the architect of your life!

You can’t just hope for happy endings. You have to believe in them. Then do the work, take the risks. ~Nora Roberts

The need to feel a sense of control in our lives is essential to our mental, emotional and physical well-being, and all human beings Women Breaking Barriersneed it.

In fact, the very nature of this concept was the driving force behind our little eBook Women Breaking Barriers. This inspiring collection contains the stories of fourteen women who took control of their own lives, often overcoming significant challenges in the process.

You can download a copy for free here: Women Breaking Barriers

I hope you’ve found value in this article and that it’s helped you to gain a greater appreciation for the value of cultivating a sense of internal control. Please consider sharing your thoughts and experiences on this topic by leaving a comment below.

Related reading:
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

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  1. Control. Oh boy what a topic. When I finally realized that I both have zero control and unlimited control over my life, I started (work in progress) to get my act together.
    The trick is always to know which is which within your life. Decisions mine, stuff life throws at you, well, that’s life. I’ve been most fortunate to have multiple people in my world who are shining examples of what to do when life does its best to yank your control away.
    Kick its butt.
    Love the Barrier’s ebook & keep recommending it!
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Carnegie Museum Natural History, PittsburghMy Profile

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