Being in command out of control

Do you feel like the world is spinning faster these days? Are there too many things happening simultaneously? Is the pace of your life too fast? Are you looking for a way to keep things under control? How can you control people and events around you when deep down you know you can’t even fully control your own life?

These are popular questions of our era. We all desperately look for answers. We desperately read how-to books. We eagerly learn about “the Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.” Yet, not much changes… Have you ever wondered why?

We want to control our lives. But maybe in the universe there is no such concept as “control”… Maybe it is not even a real human need but simply a desire or an illusion…

I know how you feel. It is difficult to even entertain such thoughts. After all, we, the modern man, grew up with a heightened illusion of control. We are the descendants of generations, who spend their entire lives battling against the mightiest enemy of all times: Nature. Our ancestors, after great struggles, triumphed over storms, earthquakes, and plagues. Then they said to themselves: “If I can control the mighty nature, I can control anything I want!” Obviously they were referring to controlling people around them…

We think greater control will bring us greater happiness… However, when I look around, I see a lot of my friends being overworked. I see a lot of my clients suffering from stress. I see a lot of businesses experiencing acute anxiety. I think all of these have the same root cause: There has been a mix-up over control and order!

But anyone with that has a bit of  inner vision knows that you cannot control the behaviours of our families, communities, and employees.

Life is a chaotic process. At first, Chaos might present itself as ultimate disorder and confusion. But over time, out of Chaos comes new order.
Life is a chaotic process. At first, Chaos might present itself as ultimate disorder and confusion. But even Chaos has a pattern!

According to depth psychology, we all have an inner ruler, a part of the collective unconscious who occasionally wants to exert its influence over people. The Ruler Within wants to create order out of chaos; it enjoys taking charge, it glorifies stability (Ironically, just like control, stability is something that  does not exist in the Universe!)

“Exerting power to events around us” is certainly a basic, archetypal human need. We all possess the Ruler energy. We intrinsically know how to access it and how to channel it. However, when we lose sight of our inner Ruler, its shadow takes over. Our need to exert power turns into “our need to dominate.” The shadow Ruler starts seeing itself in a magnifying mirror, thinking its has more power than it actually has.

Then the “delusion of control” kicks in. The shadow Ruler becomes a mini tyrant; wanting to control everything that goes around us. Would you be surprised if I told you that a tyrant could even change the dictionary meaning of the word “control?” Until the end of the medieval time, control actually meant, “to verify!” With the rise of science and positivism, unconsciously we took our need to verify and turned it into the need to dominate.

Generation after generation we believed in the false dream of control, especially at the workplace. The result is burned-out employees, paranoid managers and short-sighted organizations. Since we cannot see that control is just an illusion, we think we should have it. And when in reality we can’t control our employees, projects, change initiatives, we get a sense of failure…

The above Chaotic system, although completely unpredictable, over time settles in this beautiful pattern. Chaos gives birth to order!
The above Chaotic system, although completely unpredictable, over time settles in this beautiful pattern. Chaos gives birth to order!

Today, the Chaos Theory shows us that order is inherent in chaos. The Universe is ruled by chaos. Nature uses chaos to create new entities. The Chaos Theory makes it clear that during a chaotic process we cannot predict anything, but we know that we will always end up creating order.

The first thing I told my staff is that we would be in command and out of control.”

U.S. General Paul Van Riper

Letting go of order and predictability is a tough pill to swallow for business people. At the end of the day, modern business is a product of the command and control philosophy, which was borrowed from the military. Unfortunately, the archetype of modern business is “war.” A close look at our business jargon should suffice: We have objectives, mission, strength and weaknesses. We fight for market share against competitors. We launch campaigns. We target customers…

Current situation might seem bleak, but as usual out of chaos comes new order! U.S. generals realized that no plan survives contact with the enemy (A truly chaotic situation)  Today, the U.S. military strategy is based on the “Commander’s Intent”, which is a crisp and plain-talk statement that specifies the goal and the desired end-state. How the intent is actually achieved is up to the unit. The commander just states his intent but does not control the execution. Seems like even during wartime commanders can let go their need to control. Why can’t we do the same?

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