controlIf you know me, you know how important family is to me. Being there for the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the holidays and the day-to-day. I never expected to live 1,000 miles away from my hometown; never thought I wouldn’t be able to be with my loved ones anytime I wanted, let alone on a holiday.

But I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving.

If you know me, you know I love to cook. You know I meticulously plan holiday meals and special event menus. I budget my time in the kitchen to maximize output, minimize work, and get everything on the table at the right time.

This year, I had a problem with the oven and the turkey wasn’t ready when the rest of the meal was.

If you know me, you know when I set a goal or deadline for myself, I meet it. I try to exceed it. This year, I determined not to miss a weekly post. Not for vacations. Not for holidays. I had a guest post scheduled for today, so I was covered.

But due to circumstances beyond my control, the guest post won’t be published today.

In the course of our daily lives, there are plenty of challenges in our way, obstacles to overcome, problems to solve. It would be ever so easy to throw our hands up in the air, howl in frustration, and give up.

I could have cried because I couldn’t go home for the holiday. I could have had dinner without the turkey or just scrapped the meal altogether in favor of takeout. I could have not written a post today and missed my deadlines.

But I didn’t.

I embraced my “phone” visits with my family. I even missed two birthdays and two “First Thanksgivings” with the new babies. But pictures made it easier. I made dinner work and enjoyed my husband, kids, and dogs. I even made a few new recipes, and they were well worth the experiment. And I wrote a post. It’s one I’m pretty proud of. And one I hope you can learn from.

Life gets so much easier when we learn to roll with the punches, accept the things that aren’t working, change the things within our control, and let the other things go.

I don’t consider myself a control freak (although my husband and kids might argue to the contrary), but control is important. It helps us feel in charge of our destinies. It gives us confidence in ourselves. It takes away uncertainty.

7 Ways to Conquer Challenges and Assume/Maintain Control

  1. First, you must always be prepared for a setback.
  2. If one occurs, you must be able to make an honest assessment of your situation. Once emotions get involved, it’s harder to be impartial.
  3. Next, you must decide what things you have no control over and what things you can affect.
    1. On the things you can’t impact, decide to accept them for what they are and move past them.
    2. On the things you can impact, analyze the situation. Then make  plan for solving your problem, or, if you already have a contingency plan, review it.
  4. Is your plan sound and viable?
    1. If so, implement it.
    2. If not, revise it until it is, then implement it.
  5. Make assessments on the fly, and adapt to changes in your situation.
  6. Be prepared to let go of your ideal and accept “well enough for now.”
  7. Learn to be happy with what you have instead of upset with what you don’t have.

For Writers:
We’ve all written that passage, scene, or chapter that simply doesn’t work. You may love it for fifteen different reasons, but “cutting our darlings” has to be one of the best lessons we can learn. The best way to control our writing is to honestly assess it (or listen to constructive feedback from others) and decide the best course of action. If that means deleting, then delete. If that means rewriting, then rewrite. If that means a minor tweak or leaving it as is, then tweak or let it stand. But to truly be in control, we have to be the ones who make the tough choices. Our work, and ourselves, will be better for it in the end.

For Everyone:
No one likes to give up control. It can be more than uncomfortable. Sometimes it can be downright scary. But with an action plan and a calm, rational demeanor, we can resume control of most situations and find a solution we can be comfortable with. For times when we have no control? We just have to learn to accept that and hope for the best.

Me personally? Maybe I am a control freak. I plan. I make contingency plans. I adapt. I admit it… I do like to be in control.

Today, I’m not. It’s tradition to decorate the house for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve tried to get out of it for the last few years, but my daughter has put her foot down. So I’m decorating today. As much as I love to be in control, I recognize a hopeless cause when I see one. And today, I defer to the force of nature that is my daughter.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where things didn’t go according to plan? How did you cope? Do you have any advice to offer? Let’s talk about it. Share your story here.