How to escape the « Total Control » Black Hole – Happy Brains

How to escape the « Total Control » Black Hole

[:en]Ever experienced that moment of panic, of stress when things don’t go the way you want?

Like when a client cancels an order or a lead tells you that he won’t be your contact any more as the company got restructured?

Or when you are ready to leave on a great vacation, that you have scheduled a year ago and well organized, but one of your kids gets sick?

And what about the hours of long work on your project that got thrown out of the window because now you have a new manager who has a new vision?

I could go on and on with this list and you would for sure too.

Why do you panic? Why does your brain go ballistic? And what can you do about it?

Well, first let’s make this very clear:

You can’t control what isn’t under your control!

Sorry, but none of us can use “the Force”. At least not on this planet.

But your brain craves, on the rational level, for more and more and more data. You love consciously to collect as much information as possible to rationalize any decision you make (most of you reading me are now used to the way the brain decides, if not read some of my past articles or contact me).

You, as a self-centred decision making machine and living organism, have that personal conviction that you have the “Total Control” of your actions. Your rational self is deeply convinced of that and will run like a hamster in a wheel for hours, days to make sure all parameters are under control. Just have a look at the many “to-do lists” on your desk or on your monitor. Scary, isn’t it?

By setting such a frame you help your brain to control a stable environment, one where there is no change. Because we hate change! Our system 1 craves for familiarity.

Change! Et voilà! This is where it goes wrong. Your brain doesn’t like to include de “change parameter” in its plans.

It prefers to pull you in the “Total Control” Black Hole, because this is where it feels great. As you are smart, you know you are in that Black Hole. Here starts the inner fight, and the stress grows and the panic builds. And here you start questioning yourself “Why isn’t s/he calling back?”, “What if the email got spammed? Did the email get spammed? Did I used an inappropriate word? Did I send that email?”, “Will the weather hold?” … And the killer question: “What have I done wrong?”

As you are all excellent professionals there is a huge chance you did the best you could and haven’t made a mistake. At least on that side.

But you are still doing something wrong: you live in the “Total Control” Black Hole!

How could (I don’t write “can” on purpose as this is not for the weak) you get away from the “Total Control” Black Hole? Is there a way out?

Yes! There is!

Let me tell you a short personal story first: having done a lot of skydiving I often got the comment “Hey, Thomas, why are you skydiving, this is a very dangerous sport?” Sure, it is, but we knew one thing and accepted it: there are risks of course BUT we did all that was possible to control the risks … and accepted that something could go wrong once out of the plane.

Accepting that something could go wrong freed-up a lot of brain power to stay ready to react to any unplanned change and adapt!

If you are in “Total Control” mode, you have already lost, you can’t embrace change.

You will never, ever, get the “Total Control”! But you can get ready for it.

Let’s see how.

Take the example of a superb lead you are working on for month now. You did all you could to get her/him to talk to you, ask for your help, request a quotation. Last step: her/his reply.

The usual option is to get your stress level up and go back to the “hamster in a wheel” configuration.

Now, let’s get out of the Black Hole. Why not tell yourself, your brain, that you did great and if there is no reply or the deal gets cancelled, or a dinosaur attacked or whatever, well then this deal shouldn’t have happened.

Yes! A former engineer and scientist is trying to tell you to let go! How non-Cartesian is that?

Trust me it took me ages to be able to start doing so and feeling much better. Don’t get me wrong I still do panic and wonder “what the f…. is going on?” when at a given time a group of leads all tell me that they have to delay etc.…

But at the same time, I know that I did right because they don’t say “No” but only “wait”. Subtle, but once my brain got this my life became more relaxed and I can move on!

Yes, this is the way to extract yourself from the “Total Control” Black Hole.

Accept that you have done great, see the positive in what just tried to make you lose control.

What didn’t happen as planned is the opportunity for something new, some other project or deal or date you have on your plate.

Accept change, and move on, and smile![:]