Channel your inner control freak

The stereotypical control freak is a hard-charging, Type A personality, white-knuckling on to everything in their midst out of fear that if they don’t their world will spiral out of control and the world itself may implode. It tends to be obvious when we encounter one. As a label, it’s not a flattering one, although there are times when this character flaw can come in handy — like when under extreme stress or chaotic or emotional situations.

Spoiler alert: I believe that we are all control freaks in our own way. You may be card carrying or you may be in the control-freak closet but you crave control. I’m not talking about the need for control in the sense of “I’m the boss” or “Because I said so.” That type of control is borne out of a desire for power. The need for control I am referring to is the desire to have a sense of control — an idea of what the situation is, knowing how things work, or a certainty about what could and should be done. It’s the sense of control that comes with predictability. There are a multitude of research studies on the positive impact of feeling like you have an ability to exert control in your world. Even Dr. Seuss professed it in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes

You can steer yourself
In any direction you choose.
You’re on your own,
And you know what you know
And you are the one who’ll
Decide where you go …”

There are times when this tendency can get in the way and we become our own worst enemy, such as when we believe that old adage of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Entrepreneurs can be particularly susceptible to this and before long find themselves mired so deep down in the details and day-to-day operations that they no longer have the strength to consider the important elements that will allow them to truly maintain control of their business destiny. There’s no time or, more importantly, psychic energy for strategic planning, let alone to think about transition planning.

Planning, particularly transition planning, is often pushed so far to the back burner it is in the neighbor’s kitchen, not ours. Why is that?

In The $10 Trillion Opportunity, Richard Jackim articulates several reasons business owners delay exit planning, including:

  • Don’t want to think about the end — of the business or of life;
  • Fearful of losing one’s identity;
  • Awkwardness of the conversations;
  • Don’t understand how to go about it or what it even means; and
  • Fear of letting go and of letting people down.

That sounds a lot like someone feeling out of control.



The best way I know — and science backs me up here — to reclaim that sense of control is through planning. In the article “The Financial Life Well-Lived: Psychological Benefits of Financial Planning” by Dr. Kym Irving, Queensland University of Technology, Dr. Irving demonstrates a direct link between the act of planning and an enhanced sense of personal control. Studies show that planning for the future implies that the individual is engaged with their life, which is an important factor contributing to psychological wellbeing (MacLeod, Coates & Hetherton, 2008). The process of planning reveals the individual’s desire to be able to predict or control their future, while the process of executing those plans is empowering, reflecting competency and capability (Prenda & Lachman 2001). This sense of control or mastery over one’s life leads to improved mental health, including reduced anxiety and depression, and enhanced life satisfaction and wellbeing (Nezlek 2001; Ryff & Singer 2008).

With such clear benefits, it’s a wonder so many people avoid planning, whether it is a plan to grow your business, your talents, or an aspect of your personal life.

So I challenge you to channel your inner control freak. Embrace and commit to developing your plan to grow or “go”/transition from your business. By beginning with the end in mind, your path there is clearer and more fun because you know where you are going.

If you’re not sure where to start or what the process entails, let’s talk about it in the comments section below. If you are concerned about what others might think, those closest to you want to know where they’re going, too. This is the opportunity to drive your vision forward and, if appropriate, create your new beginnings.

Bring out your inner control freak and grab hold of the future. You’ll be happy you did!

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.