Control—we all want it. We want control over our lives, our bank account, other people, circumstances, and our hardships. We feel that if we have enough control that our lives can be free of all worries, trials, change, and unpleasant surprises. But it’s this very quest for control that can make us lose all sense of our control. So what do we do? We focus on the only control we can ever fully claim—control over ourselves.
My whole life I have felt like I was in a power struggle of control. I wanted people to love me, my best friend to want to hang out with me, my boss to give me a promotion. Really this is a desire for control. Innocent as it may be, we are looking for ways to make people, things, and circumstances, do what we want them to do. And if you’re like me, you figured out pretty quickly that getting people to do what you want is like herding cats. It’s not wrong to like being “in charge.” It’s a natural want we all have for different reasons: we know better, we need it, we want it, we could do better, we would change things, we could make it work.
But really the only person, thing, or circumstance we will ever have control over is ourselves and how we react. Part of getting control over our own life involves attitude and part of it involves self-control. Understanding how these two principles can make all the difference in your life will unlock the door to gaining more control over your life. Here are three ways to consciously add more control into your life:
1. Release Responsibility
I’m 16 years old, working as a waitress at a golf course café when I met Trisha. She was my fellow co-worker, from Florida and full of wild life experience. I loved working with Trisha, she was fun and she always had an interesting outlook on life. One day I was working with her and I kept apologizing for everything.
Sorry, I’ll get that. Oh, sorry. Yes, sorry. Okay, sorry. Sorry. When I said sorry for probably the hundred time when Trisha turned around and look at me with a confused expression.
“Abbi,” she said, “You have nothing to be sorry about. You don’t ever have to apologize to me.”
What Trisha said that day had a deep impact on me. I was saying sorry for everything! And none of it was something to apologize for (such as standing somewhere). I’ve really took that to heart and now try to be unapologetic when it comes to being who I am. So what does this have to do with control and taking control of your life? The first step is to release responsibility. I don’t mean that you don’t have to go to work or school tomorrow morning, but what I do mean is that you need to stop feeling responsible for the whole world.
Stop feeling like it’s your reasonability to fix your friends/family/spouse/dog. As much as they need your help they probably don’t want it or will even listen. So save yourself the time and save yourself the apologizes for things that weren’t in your control in the first place. This is a matter of attitude adjustment.
This step is a cheat sheet for keeping you cool under tense situations. Being prepared is the only way you can exert your personal control on life’s crazy surprises. Have at least a $1,000 in savings. Think ahead to major events and plan accordingly. Always buy one extra box of food for storage. Know that starting a conversation with your sister-in-law means drama. Come to terms with the fact that your boss might ask you to stay late for the major project next week (so start doing it now). All these little things, and the millions of others that pop up, cannot be avoided, but can be controlled in your own way when you chose to act before life forces you to react. This is a matter of self-control.
3. Take One Thing at a Time
Sometimes in life we want to change everything—right now! We want to lose weight, be more organized, work harder, take better care of family, and the list stretches to the floor. While these things are in your sphere of control, you shouldn’t take them all on at once. By all means try to achieve your whole list but start with one item a month, or broken into manageable chunks. When looking to gain control over your life, you have to find a method to your metamorphosis. It will make you feel more calm and productive. It will also help you see exactly how you have taken control over your own success. This is both self-control and attitude working together in a beautiful way that helps you realize that your life is, by your choices, under your control.