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Thinkpost - Power And Control

It's all about how much power and control you have over your own life. That is a major determination in how self-assured you are, how fufilled you feel, ultimately, how happy you can potentially be.

Most people are not 100% in control of their own lives. In fact, only very few people are. These are people that sort of aren't the kind of people anyone would want to be: Mary-Kate and Ashley fr. instance. If you have a ton of money and no responsibility, you have the opportunity to make your life whatever you would like. That's where they are.

Most of us have to answer to some sort of superior: a boss, a parent, a spouse even.

But the people who are responsible for taking a portion of your life are also being burdened by the need to organize just how they're using you. That's why it's mostly people in the entertainment biz (or those that are "out" of the biz, really) that get all of the perks and free time while still staying in control.

What percentage of control do you have over your own life? What percentage control do you have over someone else's? I wonder if there's an equation that can tell us something about the whole concept of how this affects our well being and happiness quotient.

Then again, there's the issue of personality. What do we want in our lives? Some people aren't happy unless they're working constantly. Others would feel fulfilled if they got to continually travel. What control and happiness means to these two people are nothing at all alike.

This relates back to knowing yourself. If you don't really understand your own process, you'll be miserable and might not know it, or know how to correct it.

Some people prefer to be in charge of others. They are more fulfilled by bossing others. But there is a tradeoff. They have to deal with the consequences of their decisions for these people. Well, theoretically they do. They might just ignore the results and go on a vacation, not to point fingers or anything.

But we come into situations knowing that it's a bargain. We sacrifice some of the control of our lives to earn a living, or do something we want to do. That's the key. A bargain. We are constantly trading one thing for another: our time for a company's money... our money for items we need or want.

I can almost see the graph. On the X axis is the listing of how much money one earns. On the Y axis is the amount of freedom or free time one has. The idea is to stay on the diagonal line.

But how do we gain more control over our lives? What is it that is preventing us from getting to do more of what we want to do in this life?

Well... we're assuming we're all responsible people. So, that's part of it. Again, it's a method of figuring out personal priorities. What matters most? If you don't know, you'll never be able to figure it out.

There's the point of your situation. Did you build it yourself or walk into it? How much of it can you change right away? What things can you do to help make it more pleasant for you? The ultimate goal isn't productivity... or even success, but quality of experience. Imagine being the most YOU you could be! The ULTIMATE YOU. That's what the goal is. But unless you know what you need to become that, and unless you have some plan to get to that, it won't happen. There are too many people out to try to control your life, and they're probably getting some sort of boost to their own life by running yours.

Ultimately money is just a way of controlling the masses. Homeless people have all sorts of freedom to do any potential thing they might do, but they also have no money, so that's their issue. Money permits a lot of freedom. That's the power. That's the control.

Maybe if I figure out the equation, that meme would sweep through LJ like that "friends you met" quiz that blew its bandwidth last night!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 20th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
although i have no interesting commentary to add at this time, i would like to say that i'm enjoying these regular thinkposts. thanks! :)
Aug. 20th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
Interesting post. I do agree that control is a big part of happiness. I think knowledge and understanding is also another part of it. Knowing enough about what's going on, and understanding it, to satisfy you can be very important too. (For some people that means remaining blissfully ignorant; for most of us, that means being well informed.)

I've found from managing people that control and knowledge/understanding seem to be two of the biggest things that motivate them - they want to be in control of what they're doing, and they want to know why things are happening. Honestly, give them enough of those two, and the money barely matters anymore - once they've got enough to be comfortable. If they aren't comfortable, the money's not enough. Money extends control and power only to the point at which you become comfortable - after that, it's just fluff, really.

That's the tricky thing about being a manager, anyways, is that everyone's requirements are different. So you have to find out each person's comfort level, and the level of control and knowledge they want, and you have to adjust your tactics for that. And then you have to adjust them again based on how they'll react to how you're treating everyone else. And then you have to adjust them again based on the group's dynamics. And then...

I think that's why I enjoy (and sometimes hate) management so much - it's the ultimate challenge. I got bored of the technical challenges (well, most of them) a while ago - anyone can learn to be a sys admin, barring any learning deficiencies and assuming interest, but learning to be a good manager is one of those things that you can spend a lifetime on and never manage. It's even harder than being a parent in some ways - you can't help but instinctively take care of and nurture your children, at least most of us. But managing people well takes much more conscious effort - you don't have that whole genetic-relations cute-baby maternal/paternal instinct to fall back on.

That's not to say there's no instinct in management (there's a lot!) and there's no learned and deliberate behavior in parenting (there's a lot!) but it just presents an interesting pair of challenges.

Regarding the ultimate you, and people trying to control your life, I think the key is to finding the right people. It's why I've been thinking -very- hard about who I let into my life and why - I'm tired of friends who I don't feel like I can trust, really trust. I've made the mistake of letting people into my "inner sanctum" a little too easily, and trusting them with things they weren't ready or able (or willing) to handle, and getting burned. There are a lot of people out there who aren't trustworthy, or aren't mature, or whatever. Finding that core group of friends - the ones you'd trust with your life - is crucial.

It's actually the same way in every aspect of my life. I realized a while back that quality was much more important than quantity when it came to employees - I spent 2 or 3 times as long hiring each person I hired, but they also stayed 2 or 3 times as long and did 2 or 3 times as well (subjectively) than the employees that the other managers hired in our company. I relaxed those standards, one hiring period, and it has resulted in all sorts of headaches over the past few months. Never again. I may not be able to grow my department as fast as some other managers, but honestly, with the right people, I won't need to.

So yeah, I guess after control, and knowledge/understanding, the third thing I'd point to are relationships. I think if you juggle all three of those things well, you can be truly happy.
Aug. 20th, 2005 04:38 pm (UTC)
I agree that we do not have 100% control over our own lives. We are all subject to the laws of gravity and the laws of Nature. No matter what we do to stay healthy, we can get sick. Or we can have an accident. We never even asked to be born. And, in most cases, we can't request an exact date to die, or extend our lifespan to 300 years.

Other than that, while we are on Earth alive and kicking, we DO have a great deal of control over our own lives. We can change a career or a job if we do not like it. We can go back to school. We can exercise and change our diets to be healthy. We (as assimilated Americans, in any case) can choose our own significant other. We can say NO and wear a condom or a diaphraghm or take birth control pills or even get a vasectomy if we do not want to have children.

People allow themselves to be controlled because it's easier. Thinking, admitting weakness, and striving for change is very difficult. Sometimes it results in leaving a family or a culture. But it can be done. Those who don't do it often end up very unhappy, but they don't know why. Often they have more children than they can handle accompanied by this unhappiness, a job they hate, and various health problems. People allow money to become an issue in their lives because they never learned how to make it or save it. They never gained enough self-awareness to know where they would fit, and where they would be happiness. Then again, to look inward at times is painful. Those who can't take pain submit to all of these other imaginary forces.
Aug. 20th, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC)
We all have the pressure of relationships on us from the start. As we gain some power over our lives, we can either cave to conventions which result in loss of power or we can choose the unconventional life our spirits yearn for and retain a bit of power. There is security in accepting a conventional lifestyle. We who buy houses and are slaves to supporting them have financial security to be relied upon when we are old and infirm. It's a trade-off to be considered.

Those who follow their dreams and choose the unconventional path of life may soar beyond the crowd and not only be comfortable but also be enriched. The trouble with that is most people who choose an unconventional path in life don't get that result. The flip side is poverty and loss of connections to family and friends we might once have had.

I have a cousin who rejected the control people tried to have over her when she was in her early teens. She first bounced out of Catholic high school to regular high school, then from there to a continuation school where she stopped going altogether. She never got a real job. I don't know how she got money for booze and drugs and I don't think I want to know. She's now in her 40's and lives under an overpass. In one of our last conversations close to 30 years ago she told me her kidneys were close to failing from drug use. I'm surprised she's still alive.

Aug. 20th, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC)
That conversation was closer to 25 years ago...
Aug. 20th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
This sounds right up my current alley...taking home to read in depth.
Aug. 21st, 2005 12:56 am (UTC)
I would argue that isn't necessarily about having control as much as it is about being able to form your own ideal relationship with control. Some people are happiest when they simply have someone they love and trust to tell them what to do and they don't have to worry about making decisions.
Aug. 21st, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
Hmmm...could my post have inspired this? Nope, you posted it before. I guess when I posted mine you were like, doh, Doe, I was just posting about just such a thing.
Aug. 21st, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC)
I think I have about 70% control over my life, mostly because I do not hide my worship for my immediate supervisor (cleaver) and our big boss is totally in hearts with me because I am funny and I think it's hot that he is numeraled and from a very wealthy family.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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