Managing Self

I Am Not A Control Freak (and other lies I tell myself)

Written by Jill Farmer

Uncertainty is so hard to deal with isn’t it?  In this post Jill Farmer, in her usual candid and direct way, shares with us her own experiences with uncertainty, what she learned along the way, and provides us with three things we can do the next time we are left hanging in that uncomfortable middle ground of the unknown:

That time in the surgery waiting room when a procedure for my 6-year-old took waaaay longer than it was supposed to.

That time my healthy husband was diagnosed with cancer.

That time my boss told me I’d never get the dream job I wanted and I needed to rethink my future.

In each of those cases…



Uncertainty is the opposite of being in control.

So, as one who craves control, I often revert to my 3 favorite (unsuccessful) ways to avoid feeling uncertainty:

1. Fact finding.
I search frantically for facts that will make all of this feel less unpredictable. I want to know exactly how it’s going to turn out.
Only, there isn’t any way to know that for sure.
Facts can be helpful.
But, often, there are no facts to fix the uncertainty of the situation.

2. Achievement.
Like a lot of type A go-getters, I lived under the delusion that by working hard and doing “what I was supposed to do” I would get rewarded with certainty.
Unfortunately, that’s not true.
No amount of achievement can help us escape periods of uncertainty in our lives.

3. Worry. (The harder the better)
In each of the scenarios I described above–a simple procedure for my kid that revealed a more complicated problem, cancer for my husband, and disappointing news about my trajectory at work, I spent LOTS of time making up scary movies in my head about what might happen.
I obsessed over the “what ifs”.
It felt like my DUTY to worry, to fret and swirl in it.
Except, it just made me feel terrible.

What happened?
Hy husband had a full recovery. Best possible outcome.
My kid has seemingly grown out of her health issue.
And, I left behind my old career long ago for more meaningful work.

Each of these experiences deepened my faith that good outcomes and meaningful experiences are often on the other side of uncertainty.

Things turned out MUCH better than the frightening stories in my head would have had me believe in the midst of that uncertainty.

And yet…
I pine for the sure bet.
I just want to KNOW it’s all going to be okay-that things will work out exactly as I want them.
I still crave certainty.

I just tend to catch myself earlier before I descend too deeply or permanently into the panic and anxiety stories.

An old friend’s death (he was way too young) recently reminded me in a sad, profound, and oh-so-meaningful way that there are no promises.
No guarantees.
We just have the ability to surf what comes our way and experience the ride.
Trust the calm.
Know more waves are coming.

What can you do?
When you feel the floor of certainty falling away and you start to fall down into the swirl or paralyzing or panic-inducing stories full out doubt and distrust:

  • Remind yourself that uncertainty is always the welcome mat for change. Change is good, necessary, and how we learn, grow and experience the magic in this one life we have.
  • Take a second to notice what is certain and what you can be grateful for in your life right now (sunrise, sunset, the air your breathe, the love of a friend or family member are good places to start).
  • Ask yourself what someone with just 10% more faith or trust than you’re feeling right now might believe or act in this situation. Allowing even the tiniest shifts in your perceptions is the key for miracles to unfold.


About the author

Jill Farmer

I love helping people get more meaningful work done in less time. I am the author of "There's Not Enough Time... and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" which debuted as a bestseller in the Time Management Category on Amazon. In 2015, The Washington Post named me to its 21-Day Time Hacker team. I travel the world delivering keynotes and seminars for top corporations and organizations. I am also a wife and the mother of two teens and I have the two worst-behaved dogs in the universe. You can reach me at or visit my website

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