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How to Stop Trying to Control Everything (6 Starter Tips)

by Hugo

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Life is perfect when everything is just the way you want it to be, right? And in order to get to that point, it’s extremely important that you never stop trying to control every aspect of your life.

If you’re passionately nodding your head in agreement, you might be in for a shock. Life is messy, and there’s a good chance that your need to control everything comes at a big cost. Trying to control everything sets you up for unrealistic expectations, stress, commitment issues and unhappiness.

That’s why it’s a good idea to give up control every once in a while. Here’s why you need to stop trying to control everything, with 6 things that you should give up control over right now.

What makes a control freak?

Some people are more prone to be controlling, whereas others are more laid back. This is not always something you decide to be. In fact, your controlling nature is likely a result of your upbringing, culture, and the way your brain is wired.

The Wikipedia page about control freaks emphasizes this:

Control freaks are often perfectionists defending themselves against their own inner vulnerabilities in the belief that if they are not in total control they risk exposing themselves once more to childhood angst.

In addition, a study from 2015 looked into what causes perfectionism and found that people with control issues are both born and made.

It found that the parenting style you experienced as a child can significantly affect your perfectionistic tendencies.

If you’ve been told once or twice that you’re a control freak, this may be disappointing to learn. After all, if this stressful habit is just part of who we are, then what’s the point in trying to change it?

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Why it’s hard to give up control

Feeling out of control is hard. Giving up control is harder.

This is basic human nature, as it’s beautifully explained by our “loss aversion bias”. Giving up something you possess is harder than not ever having possessed it.

In addition, a feeling of control is generally correlated with safety, confidence, routine and structure. Why would we ever willfully give that up?

It’s because there’s a dark side to trying to control everything. When you try to control too many things, you set yourself up for high expectations, disappointments and – frankly – you’re going to get on some people’s nerves.

To make things worse, a lot of control freaks try to ultimately control things that are uncontrollable.

While keeping your hand on the steering wheel is a good thing, trying to control everything that goes on in your life isn’t.

6 things to stop trying to control

The more you spent trying to control things you can’t, the less energy you have left to control the things you can.

Here are 6 things that you should stop trying to control.

1. Whether people like you or not

You can’t control if people like you or not, so you should stop trying.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to be a nice person. But if someone just doesn’t like you for who you are, even though you’re been nice, then you should stop trying to make this person like you.

2. The beliefs of other people

Whether it’s about religion, politics or believing that the earth is flat instead of round, you can’t control what other people believe. So again, you should stop trying and instead focus your energy somewhere else.

Where should you focus your energy? Maybe try to inspire others by engaging in a friendly conversation about their beliefs?

3. You can’t control the weather

The weather is often the reason we complain. When was the last time the weather ruined your plans? I don’t exactly know why, but for some reason, people just love to complain about the weather.

I find it a bit funny that the weather is actually one of the best examples of things we can’t control. Why do we spend all this energy complaining about the weather, while we could spend our energy focusing on how to adapt to it?

Instead of complaining about the rainy weather forecasts, think about how you could change your plans to work with the weather.

4. Your age

I’m a bit guilty of this one myself, as I often wish I was 25 years old again. It comes up at every birthday, and I’ll say something like “Damn, I’m getting old!

The fact is that we can’t control our age, and we can only try to be the person we want to be.

I try to be as youthful as I can, without turning into some boring adult. Instead of complaining about my age, I try to just be as outgoing as I used to be back when I was still a teenager.

5. Stop trying to control your natural need for sleep

Back when I was still a student, I used to believe that you can force your body to get used to less sleep. I thought 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night would be sufficient. And if not, then my body would just have to suck it up.

I have since grown wiser and across that you can’t control the amount of sleep your body needs.

Some people thrive on 7 hours of sleep per day, whereas others need 10 hours of sleep.

So instead of trying to control how much sleep your body needs, focus that energy on something else!

6. Stop trying to prevent change

You probably heard the following quote before:

The only constant in life is change.


If you identify as somewhat of a control freak, this unfortunately means that you have to deal with a certain amount of chaos every once in a while.

If you spend all your energy trying to cling to habits – or often say “but that’s how I always used to do it!” – then you may need to stop trying things from changing.

Instead of focusing your energy on preventing change, try to accept it and embrace it.

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Wrapping up

If you made it all the way down here, I hope you now know why you need to stop trying to control everything. There are just some things we can’t control, and then there are some things that we shouldn’t even want to worry about. Letting go of control might be hard, but living with the stress of a control freak may be harder.

What’s your take on this? Do you think it’s a good idea to give up control over things? Do you want to share your own experiences? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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