Contemplating control and life lessons

notebook and pen
(Death to the Stock Photo photo)

You may not realize it, but February is the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time reading and planning. It also provides an escape from the evident lack of sunshine.

As I went through several magazines, I was impressed at the content advising me to embrace the transparency of technology, how to blend all generations in the workplace, crossing beef and dairy, improved milk prices and lessons learned about milk records.

There were so many areas with so many suggestions, but the one that caught my eye was the editorial that reminding readers to focus on control. There are three bullet points on this topic that have guided my personal and professional life.

1. We should focus on what we can control.

2. Accept what we cannot control.

3. Attempt to deal with those things we only think we can control.

Control freak

On occasion, I realize that I could be labeled as a control freak. It could have been a compliment or even a bit of sarcasm. Regardless, I have had this idealistic notion that my focus on control would become easier with time and age, with kids raised, and a concept of leisurely retirement.

As I have bridged each new decade of life, that idea has been replaced with reality. I have spent more time focused and defining #3. The genuine lesson embodied in the thought is the realization that control is nothing but an idle term unless some sort of self-discipline is exercised.

Dr. Phil talks a good line on the show but the presence or absence of discipline is what makes a difference when the self-help gurus intervene. Cows and kids can teach many lessons on life. I prefer predictability, but it seems like an elusive goal. I am convinced that Murphy’s Law was written by a Midwest dairyman.

Attitude and experience

I must admit that spontaneity has kept life very interesting, but the attitude of how I respond to it is possibly the real measure of control. From the extremes on the control guideline, we have the “control denier” on one end and the “control freak” on the other. Somewhere in the middle is the flexibility of day-to-day life.

Experiences are what guides us as educators, I observe students creating and testing themselves. They have endless choices, and the control they implement is what maturity is grounded upon.

When they ask for advice, I assume they are relying on my knowledge of control to guide them as they work toward an end goal. My level of expertise only comes from the fact that I have more of a past and less of a future in contrast to their ages.

As a dairy person at home on the farm, there are many nights when I drive down the road to check on calving cows to “control” the variables between midnight and 4 a.m. Too often, I humbly realize that point #3 has much more to do with Mother Nature and my spiritual beliefs.

Then again, maybe #2 is the most difficult element because we must accept, without choice, life’s circumstances that bring us to our knees.

Just last week USA Today featured a story on a dairy farmer’s suicide, and there was that thread of desperation when all spun out of control. The advice often given is to seek professional help. That help could be you controlling your time to stop, listen and be a friend.

Truth is that I am not sure if I am a control freak or not, but my judging students remind me to live a little. My response is that I am living a lot when I travel with you. Without a doubt, they appreciate some flexibility balanced with structure. Whether you are responsible for self-control, parental control, quality control, or group control, we cannot ignore the single most important quality of control is our attitude. That stems from emotional intelligence. It can build you and others up or it can tear you and others apart.

These lessons of life come from all ages throughout the course of life. So as 2020 takes off, take a few moments to “take the bull by the horns” and possibly control your destiny tempered with a bit of Murphy’s Law as the quick understudy.


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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.



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