Control Freak Club: A Lesson from Napoleon

by Stacy

Napoleon Bonaparte Statue

“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.” – Napoleon

Words of wisdom from a short guy with a funny hat. A philosophy like that an empire to manage? No wonder he had an ulcer — think of the stress!

Are you a control freak?

Me too! Welcome to the club.

con·trol /kənˈtrōl/

Noun: The power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Great! You’re empowered, you determine the outcome of situations, you’re driving the bus. Right?


You’re not really in control. You can’t control your circumstances, you can only control your reaction to them. Let’s discuss.

Don’t want it to rain? Good luck with that.

You can shake your fist at the heavens, complain, and try to run between the raindrops

– OR –

You can accept the situation as it is and control your response by grabbing an umbrella and heading outside.

It’s going to rain either way; you choose to stay dry or not.

Symptoms of a Control Freak

  • micromanaging (I’ll just do it myself.)
  • judgement (You did that wrong.)
  • blame (It’s your fault.)
  • overwhelm (ZOMG!!! Doing all the things!!!)

When your plate is so full that you can’t even carry it and things are falling off, are you really in control?

What can you do about it? If you release your hold, the world could go mad!

5 Tips to Loosen a White-Knuckle Grip

  1. Take a deep breath. Most people aren’t breathing right. When you take a deep breath, what moves? Your shoulders, or your belly? If your shoulder raise, you’re breathing in your chest. This type of shallow breath is how we breathe when we’re panicked. Exhale as much as you can, then focus on expanding your belly when you inhale. This type of breathing can drop your blood pressure, increase oxygen levels, and help you focus.
  2. Delegate. When you try to do everything yourself, you’re spread too thin to accomplish much at all. Pick the tasks that you’re best at, that energize you, or that make you happy. Find a way to delegate the rest. (This can be as simple as saying, “Honey? I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Could you please help me with the dishes while I finish the laundry? Thank you.”) Pick a few small tasks to practice.
  3. Take off your martyr pants. (Seriously, they are not flattering.) These days it’s a mark of pride that we’re soooo busy and stressed. If you actually felt calm and collected, how much more could you accomplish? Make a list of things that need to get done. Prioritize them. What can you let go of (or delegate!) without the world ending?
  4. Care for yourself first. It’s the old airplane safety adage: put on your own mask before assisting others. We can’t control others, only ourselves. If you’re waiting for someone else to take care of you (even if you take care of them), you could be waiting for a long time. And when you’re not feeling nourished, you can’t fully show up for others in your life. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. This could be as simple as taking a long shower or bath, reading a magazine, 5-10 minutes of meditation, or enjoying a cup of tea and your favorite music.
  5. Say YES to your experiences. So often we resist our circumstances; we say NO and fight against what’s happening. Instead, try saying YES. This doesn’t mean you have to be happy or resigned, but accept the truth of the situation and make the best of it. Ask what you can learn from that situation instead of asking “Why me?”

Being an overachiever is over-rated.

In 1812 Napoleon tried to make Alexander of Russia do what Napoleon wanted (remember, we can’t control other people). He lost several allies, much of the French army, and his reputation as a military genius.

The Emperor of France divorced his first wife (which didn’t please the church) and died in exile–possibly poisoned–without seeing his second wife for the last 7 years of his life, a slew of illegitimate children sprinkled across Europe.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Don’t be like Napoleon.

Which of these 5 tips resonates with you? You don’t have to transform your life overnight, but tomorrow, focus on just one.

What’s one single step you can take?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom February 21, 2012 at 8:15 am

I found this quote a while back and really liked it. I think it fits with this post of yours…

Though no one can go back and make a **brand new start**, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”


Sara February 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I DEFINITELY need to remind myself of these things quite often. One day you’re giving someone some “great” advice on how to remove a pickle jar lid, the next you’re that annoying know-it-all bossy pants that no one wants to be around. hahaha


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