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How Being A Control Freak Is Wrecking Your Health And Career

Source | FastComoany : By Raj Raghunatham

In an interesting, albeit cruel, study using rats, researchers placed the animals into three groups. The first set of rats could consume cocaine whenever they wanted to. The rats in the second group were forced to take the drug whenever a “partner rat” in the first group chose to. The rats in the third and final group were the sober ones—no coke for them.

As you might guess, doing drugs is bad for you. The rats that didn’t take cocaine lived longer, on average, than the rats that did. But the rats in the first group didn’t fare all that badly in comparison. It was the rats in the second group—the ones that did the drug but didn’t have control over when—that fared the worst.

Being in control, it turns out, is important not just for rats but for people, too. A study of residents in a retirement home showed that those who maintained control over even seemingly trivial things—like which movies to watch on the weekend and which plants to grow in their rooms—lived far longer than those who didn’t have such control. Summarizing this and other such studies, some researchers have concluded that we humans are born to choose—that is, our desire for control is genetically hardwired.

If that’s true, then you might conclude that trying to control everyone and everything around you is a key to success and longevity. But you’d be wrong, and here’s why.


Although being in control is a good thing, seeking control over others (or over outcomes) may not be. Psychologists have found that being overly controlling of others leads to misery and frustration rather than to happiness and success—a tendency that, at certain levels, can be symptomatic of a range of psychiatric disorders.

The reason why is simple enough: When you try to control other people too much, they don’t like it and usually let you know it. This may explain why most parents and employees find spending time with their children and their bosses, respectively, to be pretty unpleasant. Children and bosses may differ in almost every way, but the one thing they share in common is that they frustrate our attempts at controlling them by doing just as they please.

Being a control freak when it comes to other people and the outcome of events has actually been found to lower success. Those with a high desire for control tend to surround themselves with yea-sayers, which reduces the quality of their decisions. Being overly controlling is also associated with greater foolhardiness, which also lowers quality of decisions.

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