“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” -Wayne Dyer

To some this won’t be of any surprise, as I’ve seemed to recycle this conversation on multiple occasions throughout the years.

It would seem to me that the core of our behaviors are predicated on control. Now, this isn’t meant to be some grand, sweeping indictment of people. I understand the word control in this context can imply force and manipulation, and while this is always a possibility, it does not embody the entire scope for which we desire it and act upon it.

Control is little more than a method in which we see the world and wish to see certain aspects of it adhere to our preconceptions. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we wish to change everything or everybody, we do internalize it and use it for our own satisfaction, even if it is only our own. You may not be able to control things physically, but you can control the way you view or speak of them.

These attitudes, while not always, can certainly be destructive. A typical example would be if you got into a disagreement with another person and as it continued, the situation grew more hostile. While you know that the destructive and negative behavior will ultimately lead you to either an apology or resentment, you will proceed anyway for just a fleeting, momentary satisfaction. I have seen many lifetime relationships implode over a heated exchange where both parties allowed their pride to willingly burn the bridge they previously spent their lives reenforcing.

This is born out of our need to grasp the reality around us. When it starts slipping away from our control into the unknown and the vulnerable our first reaction is to get our footing in whatever way we can. Unfortunately the easiest way to do this is with destructive and negative behaviors. While it may not be ideal, if you can dictate the discussion, emotions, and ultimately the outcome, it doesn’t always matter how it ends, just that it ends on your terms.

Most people that I’ve spoken to on this subject acknowledge the futile nature of this exercise, knowing that we can’t all control everything all the time. Just the same, when your pride kicks in, you need the perspective to be objectively conscious of your behaviors. While the ability to apologize is a wonderful trait, there also aren’t many worse things to have to do. In that moment you are vulnerable, and that is typically the exact spot we will avoid to no end. To be vulnerable is to be uncertain, and to be uncertain is the admission that you have no power over it. The fundamental flaw with that logic is that there will always be circumstances that are unforeseeable and will force our reality into a corner.

I am as guilty as the next person in allowing ego and prideful habits to at times cripple my ability to lead a positive and rewarding life, casting clouds of negativity that dishearten others. It is a loud testament to the natural instinct we are born with that I can knowingly diagnose what I am doing as wrong and do it all the same. It is truly in watching the people around me, the people I love and care for most, that opens my eyes to the enormity of our inner beauty and subsequent ugliness.

Whether we do it to others or ourselves by living in denial or doing the denying, it is important to witness how we behave in order to control our current environment. Even though we pretend not to, we love to seethe and we love to avenge for perceived wrongs without often seeing the hypocrisy in our own wrongdoing.

I’ve found that those who find peace are those who realize they can’t control their environment nor the others around them, that they can only control themselves and how they allow themselves to be affected. It’s amazing to see a person attempt to direct negativity at these types of people. They feel disarmed by their refusal to allow provocations that diminish their aims of tolerance, compassion, and understanding. Such examples have enthralled me, and perhaps more so because they are so rare. To have as much control over one’s ego is either something you are born with or had to work incredibly hard to achieve.

Let’s get something straight; Your ego is truly just the way you view yourself. We all have an ego because we all see ourselves as a certain person with certain values who has a particular place in the world. Ego becomes dangerous when we allow it to indulge and view ourselves as more enlightened than those around us. Combating this requires copious amounts of humility.

As for me, I am always trying to remind myself that somebody else might very well have something important to share that could shake my foundation. It is much easier said than done, as at times my own pride will resist challenges and change. Instead of allowing an over-bloated ego to quash another, being humble and open enough to know you are not the world’s only source of wisdom is often appreciated by others who have their own ego to satisfy. At the very least, you can do no wrong by being an example of kindheartedness and openness to the things that other people feel are important to them. In turn, this also makes others open to the things you feel are important.

I’ve found that embracing vulnerability and uncertainty can lead you to a lot of unique and beautiful things you may not have had or seen otherwise. Perhaps more importantly, it also teaches you more about the people around you.

The average person can feel like life is meaningless without it, all the while being blinded to the reality that striving for complete control is what’s truly meaningless.