Why do you dread getting out of bed in the morning? For many people, it’s because you think that once you start your day, you will lose control of your life. You’ll have to have to engage with people who will inevitably stress you out. Like your boss micromanaging you. Or your partner starting the same argument you’ve had 100 times. Or that reckless driver on the road, who just doesn’t care about anyone else’s safety.
You know you can’t control these people and in turn control your life, so you’d rather just stay in bed.
But would you really have more control if these people weren’t there to bother you? In The Little Book of Letting Go, Hugh Prather provides an easy way for you to test this hypothesis. At the start of the day, when you first become aware that you are waking up, notice when you decide to get out of bed and notice when you actually get out of bed.
This should be easy right? You are the only factor you have to deal with in this first decision of the day. And yet, Prather prompts his readers to really explore what happens when you become aware of this supposedly ‘controllable’ activity:
Do you think, “I should get up now,” then notice that you lie there a moment or two longer? Ah, but do you then get up when you decide? Or, do you hit the snooze button and think, “Well, maybe I’ll rest here for a moment or two” – then notice that you immediately get up. Or perhaps rest many more than a “moment or two.” In fact, I’ll bet there was a time when you stayed in bed most of the day, thinking all the while that you should get up. What never happens is that you think, “Now I’m going to get up,” and rise at the exact instinct that thought comes to mind.
I’ll bet you can relate to this. Moreover, even if you’re so self-disciplined that you do get out of bed exactly when your brain tells you to, can you really determine the outcome of that decision? Do you control the position of your limbs, the feelings in your joints and muscles, which foot steps on the hairball that your cat threw up, or your overall mood when you finally make it out of bed?
So before you get all strung out about controlling the outcomes of your day, or controlling your life, be honest with yourself: Do you even have control over the most basic of all acts – getting yourself out of bed at the start of the day? Do you really have control of anything, then?
Knowing how little control you have is not meant to freak you out. In fact, it’s meant to liberate you. The key to freedom is to see the world as it is, and accept it that way, rather than try to control it.
This doesn’t mean that you should not try to control your life or never take action to benefit yourself and your loved ones. Of course you should. But do this gently, and without any attachment to the outcome. When you give up the sense of control, you can finally find peace – and the latter is much more satisfying.