One of the most basic needs of every human being is for security, or a sense of control. If we lose the sense that we have control over our lives, we start to feel powerless. Like a victim, our decisions and actions feel like they do not matter.
We all seek control differently
Carl Jung developed the thinking that has led to the DISC Behavioural Styles. Our behavioural style is the by-product of our DNA, our beliefs, our culture, and our life experiences. Basically, we have developed ways of doing things that are easy and natural for us. This will determine whether we are primarily D – Dominant, I – Influencer, S – Stabiliser, or C – Compliant.
The four main behavioural styles seek control differently.
The D Styles have the greatest need for control over the people and world around them. They love to get results, and win. They believe strongly that their words and actions will influence the world around them to get them what they want. Their biggest fear is losing control or failing somehow and losing face.
The I Style seeks control in their relationships. They are used to being able to connect with everyone around them in such a way that they connect, and people respond positively to them. They struggle when people do not like them.
The S Style seeks control over the structures of their world. They like to feel safe with the people in their world. They do not need a lot of people, but they want people they can trust. They also like to plan and create a predictable schedule that helps them stay in control.
The C Style seeks control by knowing the most. They are great with data and analysis, so they research everything in order to make sure they know their topic. They hate to be wrong. They weigh up the pros and cons of any decision and usually make good solid decisions, after a laborious process.
Independence v Interdependence
The journey from helpless baby, totally dependent on a parent’s care, to a responsible independent adult is mostly about learning to take responsibility for our own life. It is a journey of learning how and what we can control on our own – independence. For healthy adults it is also about learning how and when we need to trust others to make life work – interdependence. We need both independence and interdependence to be healthy. As humans we need community in which to belong.
The biggest dangers on the journey of life are:
- Becoming so self-reliant (independence gone wrong) that we reject relationships and feel like a failure if we need others. This is usually the result of relationship hurts, often in a dysfunctional family of origin.
- Becoming dependent on others for everything. This is the person who opts for the victim mindset, usually as a reaction to some difficult life circumstances that felt out of their control.
So, how do we get it right? When does seeking control work for you? And when can needing to be in control become a problem?
Seeking control works for you when:
- You choose to take responsibility for everything that happens to you and around you. It is an attitude that works well for making life work 95% of the time. The other 5% we need others to assist us and that can be difficult to know the difference, especially for high achievers. Even if something happens to me that is totally malicious and outside my control, it still serves me well to take full responsibility for making good of the situation. E.g. recent surgery for a tumour in my bladder.
- You develop an effective planning process – The best planned person usually wins. That is my motto. I create annual goals, and quarterly plans and am then able to break down those plans to monthly, weekly and daily actions that make things happen more often than not. This is a simple process that only requires consistency to work.
- You can maintain a positive and hopeful attitude – Optimism trusts either in yourself, or in God, or the Universe that things will work out for you, even when you do not always see how at the present moment and from your present vantage point.
- You are self-disciplined – and can keep a diary, and keep your word, and follow through on what you say
Control can be a problem when:
- You are anxious – this is a challenging place to be mentally and emotionally. Trying to juggle all the balls of a busy aspirational life can be very challenging. A level of trust, optimism, and planning is required to be able to make life work in an increasingly complex world.
- You are a micro-manager – this is usually a result of not being able to trust people, or not knowing the basic leadership skills of effective delegation. So many think it is better to do it myself than have it done wrong by someone else.
- You struggle to empower others – you do not trust and therefore will not enjoy seeing others grow and possibly become better at something than you. You may become threatened by the success of others. Or you may lack the leadership and communication skills required to pass on skills and train others into new roles and opportunities.
Someone once described our human situation on this planet as being a bit like a log being swept down a flooded river. On the log there are thousands of ants rushing around, each one of them convinced their activity has some control over their ultimate destiny.
While I am not as fatalistic as this metaphor, it is a good reminder that not everything is under our control.