Feeling like things are out of control? Here comes Zorro to the rescue!
Sorry ladies, Antonio Banderas isn’t popping round for tea but as you’ll read later on, our swashbuckling hero can really help you gain control over your life if you follow a few basic steps. But just like the young Zorro who wanted to become a Master Swordsman before he could even lift one, I'm getting ahead of myself and we need to get back to basics. In this case, we need to go back to a basic psychological principle about control.
You’re a control freak, I’m a control freak, and the person sitting opposite you on the bus is a control freak. No, this isn't an insult. In some way we human beings are all control freaks. Because the need for control is literally hard-wired into our human brains. There are clear links to our basic need for control and how good we feel both psychologically and emotionally. In fact it has been scientifically proven, time and time again, that:
The more control we have over a situation or the more control we perceive we have, the better we feel.
I have highlighted this basic psychological principle, as it is so important to understand and use. This one psychological law can help us understand ourselves better. It explains why we react so badly in situations when a change has been forced upon us i.e. redundancy or when our partner leaves us. Also it shows us that when we proactively do things to increase our levels of control, how this can be immensely beneficial to our psychological well-being.
Of course there are individuals in this world who need too much control. Men* who perpetrate sexual, physical or psychological violence on their partners or others, are an example of people with a pathological need to control. This pathological control is a totally different type of control and shouldn’t be confused with the natural need for control that we all have, to have a high degree of control over our lives and ourselves.
So what about Zorro? Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about our masked hero. He’s arriving right now to help us gain more control during those times we feel overwhelmed. In the movie Zorro Returns young Zorro is living a life of a bum and is a pretty poor swordsman. One day after seeing our hero commit an act of courage a Master Swordsman seeing his potential, takes him under his wing. Now Zorro must begin his training. His Master (Anthony Hopkins –if you are a fan) makes the young Zorro fight within the confines of a tiny circle. Around the small circle are larger circles that get bigger and bigger. Every time the young Zorro tries to fight out of the small circle his Master instructs him to get back in the small circle. The young Zorro is frustrated and bewildered until his mentor explains that he must master fighting in the small circle first and once he has achieved this goal then he can progress to the larger circles drawn around him in chalk on the floor.
So what does all this have to do with control? Well we can use the Zorro circle principles to gain control over any aspect of our lives but we must always start in the tiny circle first and must master this before we can progress.
To explain what I mean let's take a common everyday situation. Let's say our office is a total mess and we wish to tidy it up, but it's so messy that the task seems totally overwhelming. Using the Zorro Circle principles we start by selecting a small area of the office, let's say half of the desk – that’s all we’re going to focus on for now. In our minds we need to draw a tiny Zorro Circle around this area. Now we need to tidy up the mess in this small area and once it is tidy we then set ourselves the simple goal of keeping it tidy for a whole week. If we succeed – bravo we can then enlarge the Zorro Circle to encompass the whole desk and keep that tidy for a whole week. With every success we can allow ourselves to widen the circle. If we fail then we must try again or choose an even smaller area of desk to keep tidy. The principal is not to widen our circle until we have successfully achieved mastery in the first circle. Gradually our circle of control will grow so much that we are able to keep our whole office tidy with minimum effort. Now you can celebrate by throwing a wild party in there – only kidding!
Zorro Circles work. They give us a small amount of control over a seemingly overwhelming situation and can be applied to most problems. They also work because once we have achieved control in a small area we can then go on to gain a wider circle of control. And as we’ve already discussed- more control equals improved psychological health and we feel emotionally stronger and happier.
If you are facing a situation at the moment in your life that seems too much to handle or out of your control, why not use the Zorro Circles to help? Often when a situation seems overwhelming it can be an excellent idea to start to make a list of all the things, no matter how small, that are in your control relevant to this situation. We can then use one of those as our first Zorro Circle to work from.
Often when we do this we are surprised to discover that even in the most difficult situations we do have some level of control. History has shown us that even in the most awful situations where all or most control has been stripped from us, we do have control over the way we think about the situation and the choices we make. In those situations Zorro himself may not be coming to rescue us, but by using his circles and understanding the psychological law of control, we can begin the process of rescuing ourselves.
*Yes women too! Although those cases are much rarer.