“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.” —Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5

This may be one of our favorite quotes from the stoics. Naturally, this brings up a topic that is often of concern among high achievers: how can you manage stress levels when you have so many things going on?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but the chances are that your stress levels won’t ever go down until you accept the fact that uncertainty is simply a part of this journey we call life. And being a control freak won’t change that fact nor do anything for you, except put yourself in the way of your success.

Now, before we go any further along in this blog post, let’s establish one thing: what exactly is a control freak?

According to Merriam Webster, a control freak is a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation. But the reason why they’re control freaks is simple: they’re experiencing a lot of stress.

That being said, here are a few ways you can turn your controlling tendencies around and become more zen.


Most people who have controlling tendencies tend to be like that because they fear the unknown. However, in order to ease stress, you must come to terms with the fact that uncertainty is simply a part of life. No one has a crystal ball that can tell you what will happen in the future.

The reality is you don’t have control over anything external. The way you’re taking “control” over a situation is simply an illusion that comforts you. Because it does nothing in terms of molding a future that is in your favor 100% of the time.

All this to say you must stop trying to control an outcome where the energy spent on this situation could be invested elsewhere.


You need to become self-aware and be capable of snapping yourself out of problematic and catastrophic thinking. Oftentimes, control freaks are trying to prevent scenarios that only exist in their own imagination.

You need to ask yourself some tough questions and challenge your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that stem from that fear.

A great technique would be to use Socratic Questioning. And yes, we’re borrowing another thing from the stoics. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself…

  • What am I really afraid of? Identify the thought.

  • What evidence supports what I am fearing might happen? Against it?

  • Are these thoughts based on feelings or facts?

  • Is this thought black and white, or is the reality more complicated?

  • What assumptions am I making?

  • Can I be misinterpreting something?

  • Am I looking at all of the evidence or only what’s supporting my thoughts?

  • Is my thought a likely scenario or a worst-case scenario?


This one speaks for itself. No one and we mean no one can be perfect at all times. Not even you, and you need to accept that. You must accept that everyone makes mistakes and that error is human. You must let go of perfection; it’s simply an unrealistic expectation for you to have of yourself and of others.


Dropping your controlling tendencies will take some time, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t blindly trust someone to have your back about an important project within four days of reading this blog post.

Instead, focus on implementing structures and routines upon which you can take consistent action and will help you unwind.

Whether it’s an outdoor walk during your lunch break, lifting weights, or reading for an hour before going to bed, find things that make you feel zen and make them non-negotiables.

To finish off, we want to bring you back to the quote we opened this blog post with. Ask yourself this simple question next time you find yourself wanting to gain back control over a situation:

What choices are actually my own?

And whatever your answer is, focus on that.