Ask a control freak why they are the way they are. I’ll bet they’ll tell you that everything “just works better” when you stay on top of matters.
In other words, it makes them feel secure. And security is, in a large measure, directly related to how happy you are. So plumbing the motivations behind control gets pretty complex, pretty fast. What’s more complex than individual happiness?
Everyone needs a certain amount of control in their life; the amounts differ, and are occasionally quite polarizing (Type A vs Type B for instance)But what, really, are we trying to control for? Our ideal outcome. By managing the variables in such a way that we can accurately assess and recalibrate the situation at appropriate intervals, we hope to ensure our ideal outcome.
The Fallacy of Control
They two fallacies I come across most often are:
- thinking I can control enough variables to actually affect the outcome
- thinking that my deal outcome is the ideal outcome; better for me and those around me than any other conceivable outcome
Hello, god complex.
Seriously, though, I doubt any of us actually think that we know best. We simply soothe ourselves by thinking that in the vast scheme of reality, our plucking at strings on the web of possibility that surrounds us, might make some discernible difference in the overall melody. It’s what prevents us from being total fatalists; the idea that our efforts might make a difference.
Because it all depends on how you measure difference, right?
Statistically, of course, .2% change is negligible. But if that change means that your child stops getting picked on in the first grade, suddenly, it matters. It matters a lot.
Where the system breaks down is when we tell ourselves that by controlling for enough variables, we can control the outcome. It’s too simplistic a formula.
What we’re doing is obsessive-compulsive. It’s irrational, but it makes us feel better.
Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back
A series of small changes (that is, controlled variables) is more likely to be predictive. But not if you’re measuring the wrong things. In reality, right-thinking, proper focus on a tiny handful of things you can really affect would be more useful. But, conversely, not make you feel as good.
Your choice: Make real changes? Or feel better?
So, you think I’m out to lunch? Why? Where did my reasoning break down?What’s your conclusion? Talk back to me in the comments.