3 Signs You’re Secretly Trying to Control Your Life (and How to Let Go)

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For many years I tried to be in control of everything. I obsessed and future-tripped. I tried to force the outcomes I wanted, and I worked hard to make sure things happened on my timeline. As a result, I was overworked, stressed and blocking the support of the Universe.

These are very recognizable ways that we try to control our lives, and it’s likely you can relate to at least one! You can probably name some other obvious ones — like being a perfectionist, micromanaging others and insisting on always being in charge.

We all try to control

Even if you’re not really a Type A person, the fact is that we all try to control our lives in one way or another.

Some of the ways that our need to control manifests are actually quite sneaky and hard to detect! So in this post I’m sharing three signs that you’re secretly trying to control your life, plus tips and techniques for how you can start to let go.

3 signs you’re secretly trying to control your life

1. You sweat the small stuff

Do you get hung up on seemingly minor things? You might agonize over things like…

  • Which pair of shoes to buy
  • The snacks your office stocks in the vending machines
  • What to pack for a trip

Obsessing over the small stuff often means we feel out of control in a bigger area of our life and we’re putting off dealing with it.

I like to say that the small stuff reveals the big stuff. So when you notice you’re hung up on something seemingly petty, that’s a cue to turn inward and ask yourself what’s really going on.

Ask for guidance: Meditate and journal

It can be really frustrating to sweat the small stuff! Often we judge ourselves for getting worked up over something that seems like it “shouldn’t” be such a big deal.

But like I said, the small stuff reveals the big stuff. Meditating and free-writing can help you uncover the bigger issue dwelling beneath the surface by allowing intuitive guidance to come forward.

Learn how to free-write following a meditation here. And if you wish, you can practice my spirit guides meditation to call on your guides for help.

2. You ask a lot of people for their opinions

Do you ask a million people for their perspective before making a decision?

You might do this with really small decisions (like what to order at a restaurant) as well as major life choices.

When we ask for a lot of opinions, it shows that we don’t trust our own intuition. We’re trying to eliminate all uncertainty or risk by having as many people as possible weigh in and offer up their analysis.

Tweet: When we surrender our will to the power of the Universe, we receive miracles. @gabbybernstein #theuniversehasyourback #spiritjunkie

It might be the case that you do know what you want, but you’re seeking out validation and reassurance in order to feel safe. Or maybe you’re scared of a big change and hoping people you trust will essentially make the decision for you.

To be clear, I’m not saying that talking over big decisions with others is a bad thing. Sometimes saying everything out loud helps you get clear about what you want. And sometimes the decision isn’t yours alone to make, in which case you obviously need to involve others.

But if you can’t make a decision without consulting a bunch of people, then it’s a sign that your need to control is coming through.

Make decisions more easily

Check out my spiritual method for making decisions you feel great about. There are some awesome tips in here to help you with big and small decisions like.

Meditation is a powerful tool for strengthening your intuition. Press play below to practice my guided meditation to clear blocks and receive guidance.

3. You check out or avoid dealing with things

This one might seem counterintuitive at first because it involves the opposite of what we think of as controlling behavior. If you regularly check out, defer decisions to others or tell yourself you don’t care, you may just convince yourself that you’re laid-back.

But there’s a difference between being laid-back and avoiding. When we avoid, we’re anything but laid-back! In fact, avoidance is the most insidious way that our need to control shows up.

It’s a way of controlling our fears of failing, feeling disappointed and being judged by others.

Think about it…

  • If you never ask for a raise, you can’t be turned down.
  • If you don’t go on that blind date, you can’t be rejected.
  • If you never start your business, then it can’t fail.

How to stop avoiding and start taking action

Eff it, let's go! | Gabby Bernstein's mantra for getting into actionOne of my mantras has always been “Eff it, let’s go!” This is an attitude of doing something for the sake of doing it. Get into action and don’t worry whether everything works out the way you expected. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still get four huge benefits:

  1. You’ll take a step away from your ego’s fear.
  2. You’ll free yourself from the constriction of your comfort zone.
  3. You’ll learn something that will inform your next action.
  4. You’ll feel energized and empowered by the fact that you felt the fear and did it anyway.

I also have a few blog posts that will help you get into action and become more fearlessly free…

Do you avoid things because they make you anxious? Check out spiritual and practical tools for handling anxiety.

Do you tend to start things and then drop them? Learn how to follow through on your ideas.

Are you stuck in a rut? Follow my guidance for how to get off your butt and into action!

How to let go of the need to control

The first step to letting go of the need to control is to gently witness that you’re doing it. Honor the feelings behind it. Trying to control is merely a way to resist difficult emotions.

I want to emphasize that it’s important to be very compassionate with yourself. Remember that we all try to control in different ways. What matters is your willingness to change. I honor you for doing this work on your spiritual and personal growth.

I also hope you’re proud of yourself for your willingness to get real! The voice of your ego wants to keep you in the dark, but you’re choosing love instead. You’re outing your ego and laughing at its madness. This is a miracle!

Learn how to release the need to control in my FREE Manifesting Jumpstart Workshop!

Free Manifesting Jumpstart Workshop when you preorder Gabby Bernstein's new book, Super Attractor (attend from anywhere)

On August 11th I’m leading a Manifesting Jumpstart Workshop, and it’s FREE when you preorder my new book, Super Attractor! You can attend this 2-hour workshop from anywhere via livestream video.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • You’ll learn how to stop repeating negative patterns and start manifesting your desires.
  • You’ll discover the #1 reason you don’t attract what you want, AND how to fix it!
  • I’ll give you step-by-step guidance to help you get ready for the powerful methods in the book.
  • And you’ll leave with practices you can start using right away.

This workshop is totally free when you preorder Super Attractor. Click here to secure your spot.

When you think you’ve surrendered, surrender more

When I think I surrendered, I surrender More | Universe Has Your Back Card deck by Gabby BernsteinAs humans, we love to set goals and make plans.

But when we fixate too much on achieving our goals and sticking to our plans, we get in our own way. We become convinced that we know what’s best. We relentlessly pursue the path of our ego. And in doing so, we cut off our communication with the Universe.

This behavior keeps us from manifesting what is of the highest good for all. In order to allow the presence of love to shine upon every area of our life, we must remember that hope never rests.

The pathway back to hope is through surrender. It’s not something that comes naturally to us — it must be a daily practice. The need to control is sneaky. The ego thinks it knows the way, and it does everything it can to keep us in a headlock.

If you’re in need of surrender, begin each day with these words:

Today I surrender my goals and plans to the care of the Universe. I offer up my agenda and accept spiritual guidance. I trust that there is a plan far greater than mine. I know that where there once was lack and limitation there are spiritual solutions and creative ideas. I step back and let love lead the way. Thy will be done.

I hope this blog post has helped you recognize some sneaky ways that our need to control pops up. And I hope I’ve given you useful tools and guidance to let go of that need to control! Leave a comment letting me know if you recognize yourself in these behaviors, and commit to spiritual surrender!

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  1. Thank you for this! I am feeling so lost right now and I feel so out of control every time anything does not go according to my plans and expectations + timeline. I really need to work on my need to controll everything in my life !

  2. OMG this has hit the spot…
    In my adult life I have to be on control that’s how things get done so I thought I read this blog and I can’t believe how wrong I have been I will take these steps the guidance and do everything in my power to change the devastating control issues.

    1. Wonderful, Bobbe! So glad this post resonates with you. Here are some additional posts that you might find helpful:

    1. I’m grateful that this practice resonates with you, Hope. It’s not unusual for a video or meditation like this one to move us to tears. When we remember the truth of who we are, it can cause us to cry tears of relief and even tears of joy. I hope this helps. xoxo

  3. Do you believe in God as the creator and that Jesus is his son. I saw you use to go to Jewish camps as a girl and led a youth group. But I just wasn’t sure based on the articles if you where only dependent on the Universe and energy based spirituality, or if u believed in a Creator and the Christian bible based ideologies. No judgement what so ever in either direction. I was just curious having read conflicting things so I thought I would respectfully inquire and hope to get some clarity.
    Thank u for your time,

    1. It’s my mission to guide people to establish a spiritual relationship of their own understanding. In my Spirit Junkie Masterclass digital course, I lead students through an exercise to craft their own Higher Power Statements. I have my own Higher Power Statement for myself, which begins with the sentence, “I believe that there is an infinite force of love within us and around us.” I encourage everyone to follow the spiritual path that is right for them. What I teach is nondenominational, and it’s for people of all faiths as well as people who are nonreligious.

      1. Have you ever studied Bible? If this is for people off all religions, how do you reconcile it to teaching of the Bible. Where does humbless stands in your value chart? Do you beleive in divinity of our souls?

        1. Hi Basia. It’s my mission to guide people to establish a spiritual relationship of their own understanding. In my Spirit Junkie Masterclass digital course, I lead students through an exercise to craft their own Higher Power Statements. I have my own Higher Power Statement for myself, which begins with the sentence, “I believe that there is an infinite force of love within us and around us.” I encourage everyone to follow the spiritual path that is right for them. What I teach is nondenominational, and it’s for people of all faiths as well as people who are nonreligious.

  4. Hi Gabby,
    I struggle in the evening. My mind focusses on past events. My mind worries and picks on a topic as I try to “fix” the past by making plans. For every event I control by “fixing”, another problem comes up. I wonder if I can let go and surrender to the notion of God always being with me so I can finally live in the moment and not the past or future. Any words of wisdom?

  5. This post couldn’t have been more timely. My husband and I are in the process of moving. When I opened my Inbox to this notice, we were moving toward my husband getting his new job (Pastor of a United Church of Christ Church) and moving to Kentucky. I stopped talking about it, worrying about it and just new the God had this. Now as we await the manifestation of step 3 (selling our current house) I am struggling with control. It’s been a week and thought we would have an offer. Everything is contingent on selling this home and nothing is happening. So for two days, I have relinquished control over what I do have power over (getting work done, eating well, exercising) and focused solely on what I don’t have control over. Of course I am a wreck. So I went back to this post today and surrendering some more. I know that the greater good is us being in KY and leading this very progressive and loving church to sharing God’s love for everyone. I know this to be true, so I am using all my energy to surrender to God everything else and how it all works out – whether we get the buy the dream home we found or not – it’s all up to God. Thanks for sharing these meaningful words and helping me let go.

    1. You are doing exactly what you need to do. Stay surrendered. Pray all throughout the day, anytime you notice yourself detouring into fear. Everything is unfolding as it should, even if it’s not as you pictured. Take a look at my new blog post for ways to stay in the moment when you begin future tripping- https://gabbybernstein.com/truly-live-moment/


  6. I purchased the Universe has Your back last year on audible. I quit my job and moved to Europe in January 2019, which had been a dream of mine for years. I had some plans, but wanted to leave up the rest to the Universe. I wanted to work and travel around Europe. Instead, my survival really kicked in. The work I got did not afford the cost of living in London and was long hours that impacted my health. I recently got another job that “seemed” like the dream position, and what’s occurred is inconsistent hours where I’m left earning nothing this entire week. I keep taking action, applying to jobs, making a budget, etc….and yet it seems nothing is working and my savings are dwindling. I keep trying to give it up to the universe… I listen to the audiobook repeatedly. Journal. Am meditating for the last five days. I feel like I made a HUGE mistake in leaving this job, even though I felt the life being sucked out of me. I just don’t know what to do at this point. My goal is to return to Canada eventually to do my Occupational Therapy masters, and I have been looking at Energy healing courses in Europe to see if I can do this in the meantime as I want to heal others, as well as myself. It just feels like a big mess at the moment. I need to earn money and am starting to feel desperate.

    1. Know that the Universe has a plan for you. Even during this challenging time, return to your inner guidance and trust it. When things feel overwhelming, go neutral and simple. Ask your inner guidance what is one small (or even big) step that you can take today to help you feel safe and grounded.

  7. Perfect timing for this reminder! I’m ready to surrender. Let the miracles begin! I’m so grateful for you. Thx for sharing your wisdom and light. ❤️

  8. I realized through reading this (really a reminder since I read the book) that I need to listen for those answers more…meditate and pray and trust with faith. Your post came at a time when I feel very alone and need to let go and feel God’s love surround me and hold me up. Thank you for being you and your time and effort in helping people connect with God.

  9. And, again..perfect timing! Struggling to control others lives (two adult children in their 30’s) in a way is like a struggle to control MY life. If only they would listen, their lives would be easier (says me) hence making MY life easier..lol. But then I’m such an enabler at the same time! No wonder I’m messed up!
    Really, really need to work on this and this email (and that prayer!) is a reminder to practise! I’ve read Universe Has Your Back and just finished May Cause Miracles. Great books Gabby! I’m really thinking I need to re-read the first one…just to instil this new way of thinking.
    Thank you for continuing to inspire me….and sharing your kindness and prayers.

  10. Thank you so much lovely Gabby! I just finished my meditation and for the first time had a break through that it is time to surrender controlling MY agenda. I am a fierce planner. However it is blocking me. And then I saw your post. I love how the Universe winks at us. You are a gift to this world XO

  11. Thank you for this post… lately I have been feeling spread way to thin and overwhelmed with life. I am currently a teacher, fulfilling as a leave replacement these past two years and it’s the time of year where the unknown of what is to come in September is very real. So here I am trying to control…controlling it all and I believe I am getting sick from this. I’m so afraid that I will not have a job. On top of it all I have so many dreams of the life I want to and will live someday by potentially starting a business or staying in teaching, something. My mind has been going crazy. I know there is so much more and I have been trying to control it. I need to stop this control. So thank you for this post. I’m very hard on myself through it all but reading this helps.

  12. Synchronicity happening for me here. Yesterday was a tough day and I quietly surrendered outcomes to the universe saying out loud that I wouldn’t plan specifics of what to do or what to say, that I’d just use my intuition. Of course we need common sense but yesterday that lifted a burden from me. Today, surprise surprise is your post on surrendering and controlling and I picked up “The Universe Has Your Back” that I’d ordered from the library system. I’ve read it before and its my favourite non fiction book. I’ve read about 150 self help books So thankyou Gabby so much. You’ve made the world a much better place for me with your guidance.

  13. Oh my gosh, perfect timing as usual Gabby. I am such an avoider. This was a timely reminder and so helpful.
    I love your blog, your books and I love my Miracle Membership. xx

  14. Bingo! Thank you from Melbourne! I keep getting cool people and fab energy of late and could overthink the path it will lead to. You send just the right message I, and many others need.

  15. Love your teachings and this one hit home. I’m middle age and I have been a control freak since childhood. Seriously. I feel the relief and the peace available with surrender but it’s still scares the hell out of me 🙂

    1. Beautiful. Keep showing up for yourself and know that on the other side of the fear is more relief and peace. <3

  16. Makes so much sense, but really surrendering is such a challenge for me. Just when I think I have surrendered my control sneaks back in. Still a work in progress. Might go back and reread my book Thank you Gabby.

    1. We are all works in progress. Keep showing up for yourself and trust that inner guidance. Sending you big hugs.

  17. Gabby you have changed my life, I read “the universe has your back” while I went on a trip to USA to compete in a World Championship event in Texas in 2017, where I felt so out of my depth! I took on board asking for help and signs and letting go of control. I had the most amazing experience! Couldn’t have done it without your wisdom and teachings! Any chance you are coming to Australia to speak or do courses? I would love to meet you! Kindest regards Narelle

  18. This blog is very crisp and insightful. Never thought that unable to decide what to pack for a trip or what groceries to buy could be a sign of controlling behavior. Thank you for sharing Gabby!!

  19. Thank you, this feels like such a blessing right now! Set the intention few days ago, then I got your email in a quiet moment. <3 God bless you Gabby!

  20. I’m finding your work to be speaking directly to my Soul! Im on a pathway of expansion and will continue to include your guidance daily ✌️❤️

  21. Ugh, yes, I know this all too well. I actually got paid to do this for a job as a project manager, so that kept me in that control mode all the time – checking off due dates, tasks, etc.

  22. Love this post. This is exactly what I needed at this time and your guidance has always been very timely for me. Thanks so much for all the wonderful things you do.

  23. This blog was a big help, I am at at crossroads with my career right know, I am studying for a state test. I am letting my fear of not being a good test taker get in the way. I want to trust myself, I also met someone online and I am afraid to open my self up .He sounds like a nice guy but I have stop testing to be not be rejected,

    1. Hi Joann. Keep tapping into that inner guidance. Fully feel your feelings, including fearful ones, but don’t stop there. On the other side of that fear is lots of love, relief, and miracles. Remember that even small steps add up to a big impact. <3

  24. Hey, I have that book. It’s so helpful and I recommended to everyone that I know.
    Thank you Zahra

  25. This was a great post. Very informative, especially the part about avoidance. Guilty as charged. I feel like I will come back to this post and really get more from it over time. Thank you.

  26. OMG this is EXACTLY what I needed to read. I read the surrender prayer at the end and my anxiety literally lifted off of my chest. I felt instantly lighter. thank you.

  27. Great insight Gabby!
    So simple but true.I have trouble deciding what to buy in the supermarket, what to cook, what to wear,etc.I never saw it as controlling but it is.Same thing with checking for more “information” online when I should trust my intuition.
    I surrender my time and efforts to God and the universe’s greater plan.

  28. I am an active member in program and service in Al-anon. I have always struggled with the “surrender” issue or “let go and let god”, however I completely understand the serenity that it has to offer when one is willing and able to do this. Our old control habits can be an enemy that once was an asset bit keeps coming back and getting in my way of completely letting go. If you have any suggestions or can share anything that met help me along I would greatly appreciate it. Five years and keep going back to step one but stuck on step 5.

    1. Continue to pray for surrender and trust that prayer is enough. That prayer will open you up to receive guidance and it will support you in your desire to surrender. A prayer is a form of surrender. Trust that.

  29. I’m really glad I read this full post when I saw the email this morning. It wasn’t what I was expecting (you know, the “obvious” signs of trying to control things) and was ON POINT. Damn, just when I thought I had a grip on that need I’m reminded that it’s just morphed into something sneakier. Perfect message for me at the perfect time after a rough weekend. Thank you, Gabby, for reminding me that I’m not alone and that I AM connected to the universe

  30. Hi Gabby,

    What a wonderful post. I love the idea of spiritual surrender and receiving guidance from the universe. I agree that life should be easy and full of miracles, and that it’s not meant to be a daily struggle.

    My dilemma with this way of life is how do I balance taking control (taking the wheel) over the direction my life is going and yet still surrender to the universe and the direction it wants to take me? I feel very connected through meditation and receive an abundance of clarity anytime I need it. It’s such a blessing.

    But I want to know, if something seems to be difficult to pursue does that mean I should take a different path? What about perseverance and being relentless in the pursuit of your dreams? Do you believe in setting goals and going after them regardless of the amount of obstacles in the way? I know that obstacles are detours in the right direction but what about blasting through those obstacles in order to continue that path?

    I would love to know your thoughts on this.

    Agatha Magdalena

    1. This is an awesome post Agatha! There is absolutely a difference between struggle energy and busting through challenging blocks. If you’re ever unsure, ask yourself if you’re taking aligned action, and if that action is coming from a place of love or a place of fear. Fearful, unaligned action will create struggle and stagnant energy. While aligned action with love will help to break through blocks. <3

  31. Gabby, I prayed for a sign this weekend. I wrote a book about my experience with anxiety and being a Control Freak, and a loving practice to release – a mix of ACIM and conscious parenting. It comes out in a few weeks, and I have all these feelings coming up around it, and really being challenged to step up and trust my own practice and my truth. The subject line of your email for this blog was my sign that I’m on the right path. Thank you Gabby, Thank you Universe

    1. This is awesome Cory! You rock! Excited to hear that your book and vision is coming to life. Keep trusting that inner guidance and know you’re doing beautiful work.

  32. I sure do! I’ve been intermittently following my spiritual path programme since I visited a friends house last year. His partner had left the book out she was reading in their kitchen and I was captured by its title. The Universe Has Your Back! I bought the book myself, read it and re-read it and practise mantras and meditation daily before bed time. I continue to suffer with doubt around am I meditating correctly, have I truly connected with the Universe, will I ever achieve true connection to the universe and how will I know. Certainly it has given me greater insight into myself, how destructive your ego and judgemental instincts can be and how real and accurate my perception of my own world is or is not. I continue to search for the right balance between what disciplines are most relevant and powerful for me vs becoming overwhelmed with a desire to cover all practises and materials and not forgetting the insights I’ve already learnt. My awareness of the Universe is a part of my life now, but I just feel frustrated I am not taking full advantage of the new found insight I have by being able to take it to the next level. But that’s with me… Thank you for sharing your insights and the guidance you provide.

    1. Thanks for this beautiful and heartfelt post. Remember to be patient and gentle yourself as you continue to work with these spiritual practices. A lot can come up! Keep trusting that inner guidance and know that you’re doing great work. XOX

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