Do you feel like you’re swirling around in life’s whirlpool rather than swimming where you’d like to go?
If so, you’re not alone. Lots of people struggle with feeling a loss of control.
But the good news is, there’s always something you can do to improve your situation.
Make yourself a drink, get your journal out, and let’s work through some of the things you can do to take control of your life once more.
1. Identify where you feel out of control (and where you feel in control).
Now that you have your journal in hand, grab a pen and make a list. Write down which aspects of your life leave you feeling resentful, especially those where it seems you are being driven by the will of others.
Be as detailed as you possibly can. This could be anything from feeling like you’re trapped in an endless cycle of consumerist materialism to not having enough say about the grocery shopping.
Next, on a separate list, write down all the areas in which you feel strong and purposeful. Where you feel like you are in the driving seat and you have the final word in how things happen.
If there’s some overlap, you can get creative with a Venn diagram and some sparkly pens, if desired. An example of this might be something like, you feel strong and powerful in your martial arts class, but you didn’t choose that pursuit for yourself; your parents or partner chose it for you.
In a case like that, you may feel pulled in a few different directions. You may resent the very situation that makes you feel empowered!
Think about every single aspect of your day-to-day life, and keep adding to the ‘out of control’ and ‘strong and purposeful’ lists. There’s nothing quite like seeing your entire life spilled out in front of you on a page to help you figure out what needs changing, and how.
It may sound simple, but try to spend more of your time doing and thinking about the things you feel you have control over, and less time on the things you feel are out of your control.
2. Live your truth.
Modern life encourages us to be submissive herd animals. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line, mirroring what other people are saying or doing, risks becoming a social outcast.
As a result, countless people around the world feel like they have no control over their own lives. They’re just doing what others expect of them, rather than living their own soul’s truth.
So ask yourself: what do you love doing? What are your favorite aesthetics? How about music? Films? Books? Sports? Hobbies?
Are you living in a home that reflects the aesthetics that you love? For instance, do you love Zen-style minimalism, but you feel claustrophobic because your partner (or parents, depending on your circumstances) love clutter?
What about your wardrobe? Are you wearing clothes that reflect your true personality? Or are you dressing in outfits that just happen to have been convenient when you last went shopping?
Our surroundings and clothing represent vital aspects of who we are. When we surround ourselves (and clothe ourselves) with our Truths, we immediately feel an immense sense of calm.
An important aspect of this is to stop caring about what others think about us. This may be difficult if you’re surrounded by very judgy people, but ask yourself what’s ultimately more important: being accepted by a bunch of mindless, dull, obedient sheep, or being happy with your authentic self?
Determine your passions, and follow the truth of them unerringly.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
– William Shakespeare: Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 3)
3. Focus on something other than doom and gloom.
Some people feel intense anxiety and worry because of all the awful things going on in the world.
They feel helpless to make things better, worry about their children’s futures, the health of the planet, the oceans, etc.
One of the best ways for you to feel more in control of your life is to place your energy where it benefits you and your immediate circle the most.
This often means disengaging from social media and TV so that you can focus on the present moment.
Instead of panicking in front of CNN every night, take up a hobby. Play some audiobooks in the background while you learn how to make something by hand.
Even better if the hobby you learn is something productive, as you’ll have something useful when you’re finished.
Take up wood carving or knitting. Delve into “lost” skills and crafts like basket weaving or arrow fletching.
Not only will you keep yourself and your mind busy, you’ll be productive – and you’ll have some invaluable skills to draw upon in the event of a Walking Dead-style zombiepocalypse.
You may be pleasantly surprised to see how anxiety and an overall feeling of being out of control lessen when you stop being inundated by bad news night and day.
4. Empower yourself by identifying small changes you can make right now.
Take a good look at that list you made in the first step, and choose one thing that you can change today, right now, to feel more empowered and more in control. Whatever it is, it should be enough to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Are you feeling depressed because you’re out of shape? Get up right now and do 10 sit-ups. Guess what? You’ve just done ten more than you did yesterday.
Try doing 12 tomorrow, and maybe a couple of press-ups while you’re at it. Increase this number by 2-5 every day, and in a month’s time, you’ll be amazed at the progress you’re making.
Same goes with things like the clutter around you, or habits you want to break. This process can be adapted to any situation in which you feel out of control.
If you feel that you’re spending too much time on social media, delete your account(s).
Are you stuck eating food you don’t like, or that you feel is unhealthy, because you don’t know how to cook? Watch some YouTube tutorials and learn how. You can start small with things like scrambled eggs; you don’t have to try anything too fancy straight away.
Small steps toward self-empowerment and control lead to huge changes, and you can make several small changes right this second.
So choose just one of those items from the ‘I don’t feel in control about this’ list, and change it. Now.
5. Identify bigger changes and start taking steps toward them.
Take a good look at everything you’ve written down and try to determine whether there’s a repeated pattern here.
Are there situations in which you feel that you’ve given over your personal power to someone else?
Or are you consistently in positions where other people have authority over you that you’ve never agreed nor consented to?
For instance, you may be in a subordinate role at work and you feel like other people are constantly ordering you around and taking you for granted. That can make anyone feel like an unappreciated slave rather than a respected coworker.
In a situation like this, see if you can take a leave of absence. Cite a mental health break if needed, or talk to HR to find out whether you have any vacation days available to you.
While you have that time off, update your CV and apply for some new jobs – preferably in either leadership roles, or as a contractor or freelancer. The latter would allow you significant autonomy when it comes to the work you do, as you can make your own hours AND determine whom you’d like to work for.
Alternatively, this would be a great time to figure out whether you’d like to take your career in a different direction entirely. Do you enjoy what you do on a daily basis? If not, figure out what you’d rather do, and the steps you need to take to get there.
For example, do you need to be re-trained in a different career? In that case, the steps would be something like:
– Look into education programs that would best suit your needs.
– Narrow down your search to 2 or 3 programs.
– Find out how much they cost.
– Determine whether you can afford that, or if you need to look into loans/funding.
– Apply for the courses to see which one will accept you.
– Apply for said funding.
If you have family members who are personally invested in your career, you’ll undoubtedly have to talk to them about all of this at some point. In a best-case scenario, they’ll be unconditionally supportive about your life changes.
If not, if they give you a hard time because your goals and dreams would upset the balance that they’re comfortable with, then you may also need to determine whether your current domestic parameters still make you happy, or if you need to change them as well.
There’s always something you can do to control your circumstances. One key to making these changes is to determine why you haven’t done them yet. If you’re feeling out of control about various aspects of your life, take some time to figure out why.
When did you give over your power, autonomy, and independence?
Was this an intentional choice? Or do you feel that your power was taken from you?
Whichever answer you come up with, by God, take that power back. It’s already yours, you just have to acknowledge that you are a sovereign being, and take action accordingly.
6 Learn to let go of, and adapt to, the things you can’t control.
There’s a great Buddhist quote that says: “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”
This is pretty much a mantra for many aspects of life that are as inevitable as they are uncontrollable.
For example, you can’t control the weather, or certain health issues, but you CAN control your reactions to them.
Some people are paralyzed by the intense fear of illness and death. They might experience extreme anxiety or depression because of all the things that could possibly go wrong. They’ll spend endless evenings doomscrolling on social media, scaring themselves with stories about symptoms or horrific tales about treatments gone wrong.
When it comes to things we can’t control, the best thing is to let go. Accept that there will be a lot of things in life we can’t change, can’t control, might not even have a say in at all.
And that’s okay. In those situations, all we can do is accept what’s going on with grace, and decide how we’re going to respond to what’s happening.
A person who has been through an awful trauma can choose to live in a constant state of victimhood. Or they can grow through their experiences, and become a coach to help other people through their difficulties.
Someone who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness could spend every day bemoaning their fate. Or they could use the time they have left to cross some amazing things off their bucket list, as well as doing great things for other people.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
7. Learn to say “No!”
Marcus Aurelius stated that the only thing you can truly control is yourself. Let’s expand upon that a bit and establish that you can also control what you do and do not consent to.
Many people have grown up feeling like they have to be agreeable to other people’s wants and demands, regardless of whether they want to do the thing or not.
They comply with all sorts of things that they despise for the sake of familial harmony, or to be accepted by their social circle.
Instead, learn to start saying “no” when you really don’t want to do something.
You are under no obligation to do anything for anyone else, nor agree to things you despise. You always have control over what you do and do not want to do.
Sure, there will always be things we have to do whether we want to or not, like having to go grocery shopping when it’s snowing outside, or clean the cat litter box.
But we don’t have to go to excruciating dinner parties where we’ll have to suffer through other people’s horrible stories, or hold our tongues so we don’t tell our inlaws what we actually think about them.
A gentle but firm “no” is absolutely doable in these circumstances. Others might try to guilt trip you into doing what they want, but stand firm. They’ll try to manipulate you in various ways, but hold your ground.
Over time, they’ll realize that you have courage in your convictions, and they’ll stop trying to make you do things that you despise.
By learning to say “no” now, you’ll have greater control later.
8. Do things that challenge or scare you.
Instead of playing things safe, learn to throw yourself in at the deep end some of the time.
This is important. If the things you’re doing don’t offer you any kind of a challenge, or are too easy for your skill level, then the whole exercise becomes a farce.
If things are too safe and easy then there’s no opportunity for you to grow and develop.
Find a group activity, a sport, or a hobby that scares or intimidates you a little bit, but that you’ve always wanted to try. Overcoming your fears will help you develop a clearer sense of self, and the realization that you are far stronger than you give yourself credit for.
Take up a physical activity that pushes you or demands a great deal of focus. This could be a type of martial arts, or perhaps archery or marksmanship.
If you find these ideas too violent, try circus skills or dance, and creative endeavors like oil painting.
The goal here is to take part in things that YOU want to do; things that challenge and push you so you embody all that strength of purpose that’s been waiting to burst out of you for so long.
Don’t settle for a mediocre existence in which you’re just accepting what others are shoving at you. Do what needs to be done to shift power in every area where you feel powerless, even if it’s one tiny step at a time.
You may also like:
- What Is Locus Of Control? And Is Internal Or External Better?
- How To Empower Yourself: 16 Tips For Feeling Empowered
- How To Deal With Frustration In A Positive Way
- Stop Saying “It Is What It Is” When It Doesn’t Have To Be
- How A Growth Mindset Will Revolutionize Your Life (And How To Develop One)
- 8 Ways To Be More Proactive In Life (+ Examples)