I found myself swearing a lot this week – a sure sign I’ve been depleting my modest ego. Self-control carries a cognitive cost: the more you soak up the more you get p155ed off.
There were good bits, but also plenty of b%llocks. According to the Broadcasting Standards Commission the relative severity of the various profanities, as perceived by the British public in 2000, placed “b%llocks” in eighth position in terms of its perceived severity, between “pr1ck” (seventh) and “ar5ehole” (ninth). Enough said.
A lot of angst in life comes from the need to be in control. People seek position and status in the hope of controlling more – and controlling others more. But the definition of larger roles is in fact that you control less: you directly do less, precisely determine less and very often control less of your immediate environment or your time.
As someone said to me of a senior absentee a few months back: “Well he’s obviously at the level where he can’t control his own time”. Wherever you work, whatever level, there is always someone who can jerk your strings.
But as I said to a colleague, and later the missus, if a meteor hit London we’d be scrapping for tinned food not worrying about being jostled at work. The Stoics knew this in Ancient Rome. If a senator could be ‘offed’ for offending a fickle Emperor, what refuge is there in status, money or power.
Life also throws constant spanners in the works. Last week the dishwasher broke – B%llocks! Rushing, I forgot key elements of my daughter’s school gear on two separate school runs – B%llocks, B%llocks. And my bike back wheel literally exploded, scaring pedestrians, as the rim buckled from too much wear – B$LLOCKS! All three made a mess of my best laid plans. Just as you fancy you have things under control, life intervenes.
So control is illusory, power is perverse and life is capricious. What to do? Curl up in a ball? Nope, I think aiming for ‘mastery’ not control is the answer. Mastery means being alive to context, alive to the environment, staying in shape, investing in good friends and support networks, developing resilience and sometimes stoicism and not letting the b@stards – or the botherations – get you down.
A little bit of mastery can go a long way. Giving up on control allows bigger things to become manageable and smaller ones to be less irksome. There will always be days where ‘B%llocks’ is the politest way of saying it. But giving up on the illusion of control means the next impulse is to laugh, not cry.