Giving Up Control
Man, I am such a workaholic. Like seriously, it’s an addiction.
I can’t — stop — thinking — about work!
And not in the good way, like, “I love my job so much, I’m so excited, I can’t wait to do it again!”
Ironically, the work I love doing (writing, acting, etc) is well enjoyed before, during, and after — but on my “off” days, I actually relax about those things. I enjoy and take advantage of my downtime, because I know I’ll get to do it again soon enough, and it requires a lot of mental and emotional energy, so I need to rest and play today so I’ll be able to do a good job tomorrow.
No, I’m talking about all the other stuff. The “worrying” about money, the future, where’s this all going, am I moving fast enough, etc, etc. And how I relentlessly keep myself busy, harried, stressed, and overworked trying to “make things happen” and resolve all my fears.
I feel afraid or uncertain about … well, honestly, about things that are out of my control. I’m doing my best. I’m showing up, doing my part, giving what I’ve got, as best as I’m humanly able to. I’m not perfect. I tell myself I could always “do more.” I tell myself I should do more.
Voice in My Head: “You Should Be Doing More”
And that’s the culprit.
The evil “should.”
Boooooo. Go away, evil should. We don’t want your kind around here! Booooo! Gooo awayyyy!!!
My Reality Check
The future’s unknown. Money (especially working as an actor and writer in LA) is unpredictable. How far I go in my career is partly based on my efforts, but partly based on a lot of factors outside my control too.
But you know what? Today is the “unknown future” I once dreamed or worried about. I can honestly say, two years ago, I did not expect to find myself here, doing what I’m doing now. Acting in LA was an unplanned surprise that, quite honestly, I had no idea I’d love doing so much. (In fact, I used to frequently tell people I’d never be an actor. I was a behind-the-camera kind of guy. Hah! Never say never, right?)
And money… yeah, my income fluctuates a lot. And it’s not predictable, there are no guarantees. And yes, that does frighten me. I’m only human. But, at the same time… somehow, something always works out. I have a very long history of worrying about running out of money — with good reason — but somehow, here I am, still going. I still worry. I try not to, but I do. Even though I know better. Even though I have a track record of somehow things always working out.
As for my career path, where’s this all going, am I moving fast enough, etc? Gosh. Talk about unfair pressure. Again, I can show up and do my part — but the rest is literally out of my hands. I can’t control who hires me, what movies or TV shows I get into, how successful they are, whether or not fans like me, or anything like that. All I can do is keep trying, keep saying yes to the right opportunities that come along, keep having fun, keep growing, and keep hoping for the best.
Maybe I’ll become rich and famous. Maybe I’ll never grow past my current level.
It doesn’t matter. I’m answering the call of my heart and having fun along the way.
I’m fulfilled. I’m living, and living fully.
Who says we “have” to be rich, we “have” to be big and famous, we “have” to change the world and do all these externally huge things?
Society? Our parents? Our friends? Our spouse? Our…selves?
I put way too much pressure on myself to be somebody “great.” To be the best. To be awesome, amazing, outstanding.
I blame Tony Robbins. (Okay, that was a little tongue-in-cheek. I don’t really blame him.) But I remember learning from Tony Robbins that “all the rewards” come to those who are “outstanding.” I learned that “good” wasn’t “good enough.” I know he’s just challenging his audience to grow and become better versions of themselves. But… for a recovering perfectionist like me, I keep raising the bar of what I deem “outstanding” … or even “good enough.”
Raising the Bar
Once upon a time, it was my highest, biggest, life-long dream to earn a living as a writer.
Guess what. One day, I actually did it!
And it was awesome!
For a while.
Then I started developing new dreams.
That’s the nature of life, I think. Always growing. Always expanding.
The problem is when I tell myself (consciously or unconsciously) that “I’m not good enough until I achieve this new, higher standard.”
Because let’s say I become a huge movie star, make a zillion dollars, and never ever have to worry about money again. Let’s say I’m an A-list actor and all the magazines say I’m the best in the business at what I do. Hypothetically. Just pretend. What then? Well… now that I’ve reached that goal… hmm, I need to find my one true love soulmate. Or start a world-changing non-profit foundation. Or figure out the cure of cancer. Or become immortal. Or something!
The bar’s always being raised. The standard for excellence will always get higher. I can’t afford to wait “until then” to feel good about myself, or even “safe and secure” in life.
Freedom is in the Present Moment
Today, I’m safe and secure. My bills are paid. I don’t know about next month yet, but this month I’m good, and that’s what matters. I don’t know how far I’ll go in this career — but who cares! I’m having fun now! I feel aligned, on track, and on purpose. Regardless of how big I get or how far I go. Not everybody needs to be a huge star. Not everybody needs to be Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Neil Armstrong, Captain Picard, or insert your favorite major success story here.
If you want to be like them, great. If you aspire for that level of success, more power to you.
But do we all have to be like that?
Do I have to be like that?
Because here’s the deepest truth I know.
Deep, deep down — past all the intellectual thoughts and exercises — some part of me feels, no, believes that I “need to be super great” in order to be “good enough” for love.
To be loved.
I’m a workaholic, because I’m trying to control or influence things outside my actual control or influence, because at least then I can feel in control about trying to control those things. Does that make sense? That’s a wordy sentence. Let me try again. When I’m stressing, worrying, over-thinking, over-planning, over-analyzing… always spinning my wheels, trying to make things happen… when I’m “working” out of fear and stress and anxiety, rather than joy and purpose… I’m doing it because that gives me a feeling of control, rather than accept what little is actually within my control.
And I feel I need to control all those things, and “make something of myself,” so I’ll “finally” be good enough, worthy enough, of other people’s love and attention.
That’s as deep as I can go. As real as I can get.
My naked soul.
The Cure for Workaholism
Let me just side-step this other little sneaky trap. I might be tempted to “try” to stop being a workaholic. To live more in the present moment. Realize, or at least start telling myself, that I’m already good enough for love. I already have friends and family who love me. And while that’s true and valid, it’s still another tricky way of trying to work on myself, make myself better, “improve” myself… so I’ll be more lovable.
I need to be good enough, even if I don’t change.
Even if I’m still a workaholic.
If I’m still trying to control things I actually have no control over.
Even if I still worry.
Because unconditional love starts with the word “unconditional.”
As in, “without condition.” There are no prerequisites. Nothing has to change. Nothing has to improve. I don’t have to grow first.
I can be an imperfect mess now, exactly as I am today, exactly where I am today… and I’m good enough.
I’m good enough.
Say it again. I’m good enough.
I don’t feel that way. And that’s okay too.
I’m good enough, even if I don’t feel that I am.
Maybe that’ll take away the fear and anxiety. Maybe that’ll make me feel more relaxed and at peace. Maybe I’ll worry a little less. Feel the need to try to control less. Just relax, trusting, knowing, that I’m doing everything I can, and it’s not my job to determine what happens next or how far things will go. It’s not my job to decide the future.
It’s my job to show up and be me.
To share my light, my love, my talents, my gifts, in any and every way that gives me joy and aligns with my values.
The rest is up to God and other people.
That’s scary. To give up control.
But it’s also freeing. And somehow, feels better.