Most people want to be in good health, experience well-being, be satisfied with work, accept themselves, be respected, and have supportive relationships. If your life feels hectic, monotonous, or incomplete, then you need to get back in control. Anything that holds value in life requires time, effort, focus, and is likely to cause discomfort along the way. Be the person you want to be, and live the life you want by learning how to change your thinking, make lifestyle modifications, and be productive.
EditChanging Your Thinking
- Define control. Figure out what taking control of your life means to you. Is it the ability to influence your destiny, regulate your present, keep your negative behavior in check, or do you simply want more willpower? Taking control of your life requires working through multiple challenges, including your own perceptions, building self-confidence as well as taking an action. Determine what you want more control over, and that will help focus your energy.
- Accept yourself. The first step to succeeding in anything is to know and accept your strengths and limitations. Show compassion for yourself. Accept not only the good but the bad too. Always strive to improve the things you don’t like or that you struggle with.
- Understand why you do what you do and forgive yourself. Self reflection is healthy and positive. Self-criticism and feeling guilty are unproductive behaviors that do more harm than good, so if you catch yourself in one of these patterns, remind yourself that there are healthier ways for you to work things out. Understand that you have done the best you could, and repeatedly tell yourself this.
- Think of three things right now that you excel at, receive many compliments for or truly enjoy doing. Write them down and put the list somewhere you go often, like a bathroom or on the refrigerator.
- Consider your values. You need to determine what your values are so that you can get your priorities straight. Think about what and who is important to you – Is it freedom, happiness, equality, money, your family? Write down a list of your values (at least 10 of them), preferably in order from most important to least important.
- Think about what you are doing right now to support each of your values, and how your values are affecting your life. It can help to consider what a person that you respect would think of your values and whether this would change what they are.
- Decide what you have to do to boost your self-esteem and satisfaction with life. Think about the person you want to be and what character traits, ways of thinking, behavior patterns, and life you would have as that person.
- Cultivate good character traits. When you improve beneficial character traits and virtues, you will gain more control over your life. This is because having these traits will encourage you to obtain your goals and taken on other qualities that you want. Good traits to work on for this purpose are courage, temperance, wisdom, and self-discipline.
- Having courage means you draw on your strength and willpower to accomplish what you need or want to, despite some form of adversity. For example, this can be taking a business risk, doing well in school, or some selfless act that sets you apart from others. Courage is the opposite of fear, and can be developed by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, acknowledging your fears, exposing yourself to the things you are afraid of, and doing acts that are considered courageous regularly.
- Temperance (moderation or self-restraint) is important because it allows you to maintain perspective, calmness, self-control. For instance, showing restraint from arrogance by behaving with humility can prevent you from destroying relationships.
- Wisdom encourages you to gain knowledge and experience so that you can use information for a higher purpose, such as in service of humanity or living a good life. You gain wisdom through trying new experiences, trial and error, and seeking knowledge.
- Self-discipline is imperative to gaining control of your life because it allows you to put all your intentions into action. This skill is developed over time and with practice as you accomplish each smaller goal on the way to achieving a larger vision. Always visualize your goals like you have already met them. Practice self-control every day by making small changes and sticking to them, even something like opening every door with your left hand. Being successful at these small changes will make the larger ones easier.
- Decide what motivates you. Many of us have a passion-something that we enjoy and that drives us to succeed. Think about what you would like to do in life if nothing stood in your way. If you don’t know, then you will need to write down the activities you like to do that make you feel good. Consider what inspires you as well as your skills and talents.
- Create goals. Find out what you really want out of life this year – a house, a good job, a healthy relationship? Write each goal down, and then come up with ideas that can help you accomplish that goal. Write these ideas down into positive action statements, such as, “I will save up money.” Then, go over all your goals and ideas, and decide on three goals and three action statements for each one that you will do.
- Avoid statements like this, “I don’t want to be shy anymore and keep being lonely.” This doesn’t define a direction to go or an action to take to meet your goal. Instead, try something like: “I will be more open to building relationships with this year by saying “yes” to every social invitation and asking a friend to do something at least once a week.”
- Consider your options. Don’t define yourself by your problems but by the opportunities available to you. If you are struggling to pay the mortgage, focus on how you can earn a raise, make extra money on the side, or change jobs, instead of ruminating on your lack of funds.
- If you want, you can set goals according to different areas of your life, like work, health, relationships, etc. Break goals down into short-term (daily, weekly) and more long-term (monthly, yearly) ones. Examples might be: eat six servings of fruit and vegetables every day, work out four times a week or lose ten pounds this year.
- Don’t be afraid to modify your goals and ideas as time goes on and you figure out what works and what doesn’t. The point is that you take control of your life and the direction you are headed.
- Get control of your emotions. Emotions can be wonderful experiences but expressing them improperly can harm your ability to attain goals and damage relationships. You need to learn how to understand, process and respond to your feelings in a way that is healthy and helpful to you.
- Use deep breathing and relaxation methods to help you calm down before saying or doing anything in response to a situation.
- Breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five more seconds and breathe out for five more seconds. Do this until you feel your physical responses, such as an increased heart-rate, become less intense.
- Seek a healthy outlet for your emotions like talking to someone, keeping a journal or engaging in active activities like martial arts.
- Let go of baggage. Sometimes negative thoughts or experiences can be tough to let go – you may have a feeling that they define you, or they may be so habitual you may be afraid to be without them, or you may simply not know how to let go. You must learn that you are not your problems and that they do not determine your worth as a person or how you make choices today. Learning to let go of past baggage will help you become more solution-oriented, broaden your vision, and help you take control of your life.
- Practice mindfulness. One way to free yourself from the past is to focus on the present. With mindfulness, you are actively giving your attention to the present moment – how you feel in your body, how the sun feels on your face – just observing. Instead of judging your thoughts (or yourself), you observe and note them. Mindfulness takes practice, but the benefits can be enormous.
- Make amends. If you are haunted by a mistake in your past, then it may help you to make amends. If you judge yourself for the way you teased your little sister, reach out to her (it can be face-to-face or in a letter), apologizing for your behavior. Give her the chance to tell you how she feels. Be aware that making amends may not repair a damaged relationship, but it can help you let go of the past and move forward.
EditMaking Lifestyle Changes
- Be independent. If you are co-dependent on others for your emotional health, lifestyle, or need them to tell you what to do, you are not in control of your life. Learn to solve your own problems and spend time alone to think and reflect. Only ask for help when you really need it, and learn from the people who help you so you can do more on your own next time.
- Learn to meet your own needs. Get a job so you can support yourself if you live off of someone else. Then move out, and live on your own.
- Ask yourself, “What do I want to do today?” and make your own decisions. Think about what you love doing and what you feel passionately about. Don’t rely on others to tell you what to do or like.
- Get organized. Organization is important when you want to take control of your life. If everything is chaos in your head and in your house, then it is difficult to know where to start to solve any messes. Keep everything as neat as possible at home and at work so you don’t have to deal with clutter, and remember to put things back where they should be. Make lists, use a calendar and make decisions often instead of putting everything off.
- Read papers, email and mail right away and take action right away, whether that means throwing it out, paying a bill or responding to a letter.
- Set up a daily schedule throughout the week, such as shopping, family time, appointments, task lists, etc.
- Throw things out that you haven’t used in six months. Don’t hold on to something because you could potentially use it in the future.
- Work on one thing at a time, particularly something small like a closet, and organize that first. Then move onto the next thing.
- Spend some time on your appearance. Devoting some energy toward the way you appear to others can go a long way to make you feel better and more in control. Get a haircut, dye your hair, or do your hair in a new style. Buy or borrow some new clothes, and be sure to smile as often as possible. Be mindful of how much you spend, though, so you can keep control of your finances.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat and try to get some exercise every day. For strengthening your willpower, you will want to eat small portions of energy-rich foods throughout the day (every 3 hours). These foods include lean proteins (meat and legumes) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit and vegetables). Avoid sugary, fatty, overly processed or salty foods that can make you feel bad and not have the strength to take control of your life.
- Get sleep. When you are tired, you don’t have the strength to maintain your self-control or do more than you have to. Taking control of your life requires being alert and aware of what is happening and where you want to go. Sleep for as long as you need to feel rested when you wake up – usually about eight hours. Start to relax at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep, follow a bedtime ritual (e.g. drink warm tea, brush your teeth, get into bed) and try to go to sleep about the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning.
- Develop positive relationships. Surround yourself with people who share similar values and goals. Try to get to know the people you admire, and spend time with them so their behavior can help influence you for the better. Meet new people at places or events that support your values or goals. Talk to people close to you, and enlist their help in assisting you to achieve more control over your life.
- Communicate wants and needs and be sure that both people understand. Listen, and come up with solutions that work for both parties. Always express appreciation for the other person.
- Cut back on commitments. If you feel like you are constantly up against time in a never-ending race to complete tasks, rushing through or being pulled in multiple different directions, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. Take a look at all the things that demand your time on a daily basis. Reduce those commitments down to just a few of the most important things that you can really focus on.
- You may be resistant to dropping a commitment, but your choices in this situation are: continue to struggle to get things done, losing sleep, family time and impinging on other goals, do less-than-stellar or half-finished work, or letting something go.
- It’s ok to admit that you took on too much and cannot complete every task as well as you could with less commitments. Often, what you fear will happen as a consequence to giving a project up is unfounded.
- Minimize distractions. Avoid or get rid of the things that keep you from doing what needs to get done. If you’re trying to be more healthy, for example, throw away candy and garbage foods so you can avoid them more easily. Turn off phones and email notifications while working to keep your mind focused on getting the job done.
- Have fun. Life isn’t all work and no play. Allow yourself time to pursue your hobbies, take vacations, and spend time with those you care about. Give in to a little selfish pleasure every now and then, such as an ice cream cone or buying a new pair of shoes. You’re in control now, so make the most out of your life experiences.
- It can help to get up just a few minutes early each morning to spend five to 15 minutes on yourself. Work out, take a walk, or meditate. It is bound to make a difference in your life.
- Start early. After you spend a few minutes for yourself, it’s time to focus on the most important tasks. Knock them out right away to reduce your daily stress. You have more energy in the morning, and it is easier to focus and do better quality work. In turn, this allows you to finish a larger volume of work.
- Try to get important work or tasks done during the first hour or two of the morning.
- Focus on one thing at a time. Decide which task is the most important to finish first and focus on it until completion. Multitasking actually decreases productivity and can increase the time it takes to finish the first task by 25%. This is because you are shifting your attention from task to task, which takes more time. Don’t worry about completing all the tasks you need to do for the day at one time, just stay in control and do one task at a time, making steady progress.
- Stop wasting time. We live in a world with many distractions at our fingertips. Nevertheless, know that you actively make the choice whether to stay engaged in one task or get distracted by a mobile game, TV, Facebook, or a text message. Instead of coming home and flipping on the TV because it is an easy way to pass time, do something productive or on your to-do list so you stay in control of the moment. Working out, practicing a hobby, or working on relationships are all productive and enjoyable pastimes.
- Take breaks. We are wired to focus for about 90 minutes at a time. After that, we begin to get fatigued and don’t perform as well. Focus without interruption for 90 minutes at a time, and then take breaks for at least a few minutes. This will allow your mind to rest, your body to recharge and you to relax emotionally.
- Develop good habits. When our willpower is limited, it is important not to rely on it as the only method of self-control. Develop rituals that you do over and over again at specific times so that it is easier to act or think a certain way during other situations. For example, you might tell yourself, “I am calm” repeatedly in your home, while you rub a necklace bead. Then, the next time you are confronted with a stressful situation, you can reach in your pocket, rub a bead, and feel calm.
- Take Action. You can have all the goals in the world but never get anywhere if you don’t take action to achieve those goals. Do what you have to in order to get what and where you want. Take small steps but be sure to do something every day that helps you get closer to your end goal. This could be a mundane task, practicing positive thoughts, doing paperwork or something else.
- Don’t get so caught up in the future that you can’t enjoy your life now. Enjoy the journey toward your goal, and remember to be thankful for everything that you have achieved right now.
- Do the best you can, whether it’s at a project, a test or a pastime. Achievements that take effort make you feel good about yourself and motivate you to achieve more.
- If you mess up today, just remember that tomorrow’s a new day. You can always try again the next day to gain more control over your life.
- Helping other people can make you feel really good about yourself. If you have the time, find somewhere that you can volunteer. Animal shelters, food banks and schools can almost always use an extra hand.
- You are your own person, so don’t try to become someone else in an effort to control your life. Be yourself, but strive to be the leader and role model that everyone else looks up to.
EditSources and Citations
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