Me? A Control Freak? Really?

Do you ever leap before you look? It is one of the many symptoms of Control Freak flu. And remember, Control Freak is not intended as a derogatory term, but a descriptive term. Control freaks can be in such a hurry to get and keep everything in our world under control that we make mistakes in the process. Why? Because we feel out of control. That’s the heart of the matter. Either we are trying to “feel not out of control,” or we are trying to avoid losing what little control we have left, that we run on a high-octane human fuel called anxiety. Anxiety is the germ that causes Control Freak flu. And once it spreads, anxiety manifests itself in innumerable ways.


Dr. Parrott, a self-declared Control Freak, pinned a sign on his bulletin board saying, “Some people spend their entire lives indefinitely preparing to live.” It was his reminder that real life starts after graduate school. As Control Freaks we sometimes get stuck in a mindset that says, “The future will be fret-free.”

We tend to think: 

Life begins after I get my dream job.

Life begins after I get my promotion.

Life begins when we move into our new house.

Life begins when…”

Get the picture? We’ll have everything under control tomorrow… we think. And we postpone the anxiety and keep it at bay.

Do you sometimes overreact? A story is told of a newspaper reporter/certifiable Control Freak. The editor says, “There’s a fire raging out of control west of town, and I want you to get out there fast. And above all, get some good shots. If that means you have to hire an airplane, just do it. Don’t worry about the expense.”

The reporter, taking control of his assignment, called the airport and arranged for an airplane STAT. He rushed out to the airport, spotted a small aircraft with a young pilot in it, pulled open the door, jumped in, and ordered the pilot to take off. As directed, the pilot barreled down the runway and had just gotten the airplane to cruising altitude when the reporter said to him; “See that fire raging to the west? I want you to fly as close to the fire as we can.”

The pilot looked at him and said, “You want me to fly over that fire?”

“Absolutely,” the reporter said. “I’m a photojournalist and I need dramatic close-ups of the fire!”

“Wait,” said the pilot. “You mean… you’re not the flight instructor?”

Many Control Freaks have felt like that reporter. Do you ever leap before you look? Do you sometimes overreact? 

What can I do about it? First, admit that you might have a few, or some, or a lot, or most, of the Control Freak tendencies we’ve written about. After confessing that to yourself, realize that there is hope. Control Freak Flu doesn’t have to be terminal. Here are some suggestions

  • Slow Down. Busy does not equal important. Many of us suffer from hurry sickness. A to-do list can be good if it is not worshipped as the center of your attention. I have started writing my to-do lists in pencil, just to remind myself that everything there is erasable.

  • Reduce your anxiety level. Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due. Take a long bubble bath. Take a walk. Go fishing. Get a massage. Exercise.

  • Delegate. Even if they aren’t as competent as you.

For most recovering Control Freaks, trusting another person to oversee an important project makes about as much sense as trusting a rabbit to deliver a head of lettuce.
  • Give up the “if onlys.” They say that Kangaroos and Emus cannot walk backward…learn the lesson of the Kangaroos and Emus grasshopper! The past has passed, the future is not here yet, and there is a reason they call today “The Present” accept it as a gift.

  • Defer to others whenever you can. Really, you can do that, it’s okay!

  • Learn everyone’s name. Don’t wear blinders that keep you from seeing people whom you don’t think matter.

  • Be neither pushy nor a pushover. Neither a Control Freak nor a Doormat. That should be our goal.

  • Know where you can – and can’t – exert influence. Choose your battles and don’t waste your time on battles that really don’t matter.

  • Do one thing at a time. Multitasking can be a favorite pastime of the Control Freak, but are you really willing to pay the “relationship costs?”

  • Learn to be led rather than lead. Put yourself into situations that are not dangerous, but where you have to totally rely on others.

  • Count your blessings.

No, you don’t need to do all those things, in fact you probably shouldn’t try them all at once. Pick one and work on it for 30 days. Then pick another for the next month. Come back to it later. Find a copy of Dr. Les Parrott’s book, “The Control Freak. Coping with those around you. Taming the one within.”