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Control is an alluring coping strategy in challenging times.

I credit most of my upper body strength to Chico. My workout includes rows, bicep curls, arm rotation, trunk rotation and occasional back extension.  I do this workout about 3-4 times a day. It is brutal.

Chico is my 10-pound little dog, and if you have one of these, you might be engaging in a similar workout. Yes, Chico is a “puller”. Pulling me around our neighborhood as we battle on who gets to decide the best route.

However, there is the rare occasion when I do what I know I should and stop “resisting.” Put a little slack in the leash, and like magic, there is a “cease-fire.”

Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend, they are arguably man’s greatest “mentor”.

I can’t count on both hands the number of times I find myself “muscling through” a perfectly structured plan intending to achieve my desired outcome. Can you relate?

If you have ever been to a physical therapist, you have probably been prescribed three sets of ten. Fun fact, there is zero evidence that suggests “3 x 10 repetitions 3 times/week” will “heal” your injured body part. My best guess is that physical therapists adopted this from the body-building world, where there might be some evidence that this type of “plan” will result in hypertrophy (enlargement of the muscle tissue).

So, why do some physical therapists still prescribe this type of plan? Because for many people it produces the desired outcome.

A sense of control is a beautiful thing.

Executing a plan that we believe will give us our desired outcome is sometimes effective. Until it isn’t.

When I was a younger physical therapist, I was often frustrated that my patients weren’t achieving my desired outcome. It seemed that the harder I tried and the more “book knowledge” I threw at the wall, the less of it stuck. And regrettably, some patient’s requested another therapist ? Not because they thought I wasn’t competent. Let’s just say “our personalities weren’t sympatico”. ?

Control is an alluring coping strategy weapon in challenging times.

Thankfully, I was wise enough to know the “break up” required me to turn the lens around.

You see, the lesson wasn’t that I am stubborn, “hard-headed,” or “persistent,” which all hold a sliver of truth; the lesson was that the “battle” and/or the “desired outcome” weren’t mine.

Thankfully, I have had many success stories since that time. I have seen patients overcome unbelievable odds and become the 1%-ers. And humbly I will concede it had very little to do with me. It had very little to do with a perfectly structured plan.

Coping strategies are the thoughts and behaviors used to manage the internal and external demands of a stressful situation.

I meet many people who are going through difficult times. I am always admirable of those who seem to emotionally “thrive” in seemingly horrific situations. And there is no doubt that these are the 1%-ers.

The curious thing they all seem to share is their humility. Humility is NOT weakness, “submission”, or meekness. Humility is one’s understanding of our place in the larger order of the universe. It is a recognition that you and I ultimately have very little control.  Our “perfectly structured plan” is nothing more than a chasing after the wind.

Now, does this mean we should do nothing? Not at all. Humans were designed to work. We were designed to endure hardship. We were designed to do our best to make a contribution to this world. “Stress” is an important part of the human experience.

Joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control are also part of being human. In fact, some might argue these are the most important aspects of being human. Bitterness, anger, fits of rage, jealously, fighting, etc. are symptoms that the train has gone off course.

Challenges in life are going to come.  Overcoming a challenge requires work. Plateaus and set backs WILL happen. When this happens, some will put up their sail and allow the wind to direct the path. Others will turn on the motor and try and direct the ship toward their desired outcome. And others will let the wind push them back to where they came from.

I will admit that “motoring” is probably my default. The result is that I get overwhelmed, fatigued, and less than kind to my loved ones. Self-proclaimed work in progress at your service.

But we always have a choice. Choice number one is to control. Or acknowledge a greater power at work who can teach and grow us into our best version. His plans and his destination are far better than anything we can hope or imagine.

There is an authority bigger than you and I and the universe. In the bible his name is Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

What is one thing you are working toward where you feel like you are working twice as hard and getting half as far?  What might you be trying to control? How can you open your mind to alternative plans and/or destinations?