Over the past month or two, I’ve blogged a few thought provoking posts about anxiety.

How To Conquer Worry Using a Mall Map, Conquering Worry: Prayer 2.0Dethroning Fear, Defining Fear and Anxiety, How to Knock Anxiety Off the Throne.

This discussion is pertinent for geeks because geeks have great imaginations, which can be used for great good or great evil.

See, anxiety festers out of our attempt to control the future—namely, outcomes. Our imaginations don’t help, when we’re on that track, because they render fear in technicolor.

The real problem, though, is that we can’t control outcomes. We can only influence them.

What can I control? Not outcomes. Not the future. I can only control my attitude and my input. My end of the stick. What you do with yours is up to you, which is why outcome control is beyond my grasp.

This principle multiplies like frisky rabbits do when we bring our illusion of control and apply it to goal setting:

  • I will make a million dollars in a year.
  • I will convince the Board to accept my proposal.
  • I will become more popular this year.
  • My goal is for everyone to be happy for the Christmas gathering this year.

Right? Most of our goals lie outside ourselves, which means achieving them lies outside our control.

Stress. Anxiety. Sleepless in Seattle. 

Goals, properly placed, should always be about ourselves: Our attitude and our input.

  • I will work my butt off and live smart this year to save as much money as I can.
  • I will prepare the best proposal I can, practice the snot out of my delivery, get there early, eat well, and smile big when I enter the Board room.
  • I will be more generous with people around me this year.
  • I will give Uncle Phil the wrong date so he doesn’t show up for Christmas, giving the rest of us a shot at getting along.

But… but… I want people to be happy for Christmas, to make a million dollars, the Board to accept my proposal, to be more popular!

Sure you do. So make a goal to do everything in your power to influence the outcomes you desire. Set the bar high. Go for it.

But know that you can’t control the outcomes, because you can’t control all the variables. You can’t control people, in particular—and, by the way, even God doesn’t do that. You know, free will and all.

So what do you do with those desires of yours… all the hopes, dreams, wants and wishes for Christmas and Board rooms and millions?

Well, that’s where faith comes in. Where prayer comes in. We invite God to empower us and guide us as we do what we can, then we get on our knees and invite God to do what only he can do. In a nutshell, we ask him to influence things we can’t, invite him to go places we can’t go, say things we can’t say, touch people we can’t touch. We leave the outcomes to him.

Remembering, of course, that prayer can’t control outcomes either. Or control God.

Smart goals, ones that lie within ourselves, are always achievable. Foolish goals, ones that lie outside ourselves, are occasionally achieved—but this only gives us the illusion of control. Or worse, it tempts us to take away people’s freedom to get where we need to go.