Passively living your life is dangerous. Maybe you already know too well how that is, maybe not. Perhaps you have to fulfill some conditions so you can move towards your goals of living independently…and free. That’s a good direction.
On the other hand, it might seem you already have it all. This may be worse. If you have everything—especially if you didn’t earn it—you may be deprived of the very basic human capability to thrive.
In any case, there’s only one thing you can control: yourself. Regardless of your circumstances. Maybe you just had no idea.
Why You Don’t Have Control over Your Life
There’s only one reason you don’t have control over your life.
It’s simply because you don’t think you do.
That might sound simplistic, but that’s pretty much it.
The next question that follows should be, “Why?” I’ll be discussing that in a moment, but I want you to realize this: Whatever your reasons (for not taking control of your life), you could now start leaving them behind. Of course it may not be easy, but that’s because you’re going to go through some serious changes. Serious to the tune of “you haven’t done this kind of thing before, ever” serious.
Maybe you only needed someone to tell you that you’re letting your thoughts stop you from having direct control over your life.
This is especially true if you had not been given the chance to take responsibility for it. If you’ve been a spoiled kid even until you were a young adult, then you’ll find it hard to take charge. Add to that the feeling that it’s all too late—you know, when your friends are already doing quite well with their lives.
But of course, it’s not too late. As long as you’re alive, nothing’s too late.
Now, let’s first talk about overcontrolling parents. Parents are either heroes or villains. Please do the world a favor by being the hero if you ever decide to be one.
Anyway, researchers found that intruding on a kid’s privacy is detrimental to them. It creates an implicit and constant need for dependence on parents, thus the value and skills of independence are stymied real early and during the crucial time the kid’s brain is developing. It’s the perfect time they should start learning them. Heck, even infants can do that already!
You let that stage pass without investing your life in the kid and you just might raise a difficult—and depressed—adult. Such negative impact is even said to be similar to that of bereavement. When children don’t learn how to develop their sense of independence, they’ll find it hard to manage their own behavior.
The same can also be said for people who have had a traumatic life experience. They’ve been scarred and think they are worthless to do anything worthwhile, even on their own terms.
Another reason is the “culture” you’ve allowed yourself to be immersed in.
Let’s say you do have overcontrolling parents. You live with them until before you go away for college. In a way, you’re also overprotected. That’s the first “culture” you have to put up with, if you have an idea.
Then you move into a second culture: college. Suddenly you find the wild, cool kids and become friends with them. You learn you’ve got so much in common, but that’s primarily because they’ve been raised by overcontrolling parents, too.
You don’t know any better. All throughout your college life you get hammered every weekend, which sometimes becomes every day. All of a sudden you finish a degree you still are not sure whether you could live with or not.
There could be other reasons, and illustrations, but to answer the question, “Why do you think you don’t have control over your life?” it’s because you’ve been used to not taking control of your life without any real consequences in doing so.
You could literally be a mess, and it’s alright—for now—you have your family or your family business, and so on, to support you. It’s alright.
But the huge problem becomes painfully apparent a few months—or years—after you graduated from college and when the real world confronts you.
What do you do at this point?
How to Take Control of Your Life
1. Start with the right mindset.
Most of the time your mindset makes or breaks the deal. Most people will simply resort to the following destructive thinking:
- “Nah, that’s just impossible. I can’t do that.”
- “Only people that are ____, ____, and ____ can do that.”
- “Nobody’s got time for that.”
They immediately dismiss the idea that they can start training themselves to become the person who can actually take control of themselves, and their life as a result.
Another reason they don’t take on changing their mindset is that they’re simply surrounded by people that have a hopeless outlook on life. If you’re in such a situation, you may find that there are a lot of subtle ways they’re bringing you down, and it’s not necessarily their fault—it’s just human nature.
You’re already finding it hard to chase after the things you want; the difficulty only compounds if you’re in the wrong environment.
If that’s the case, then you have no other choice but to look for people who share ideas you could apply in your situation. Help yourself by listening to the right people, especially if they’ve been in a similar position. You can find those people through books, podcasts, or talks.
Listen: you can find those people on the internet. You’ve got no excuses now. If you want to have the mindset of a person who can regain control over their life, then you can have it.
2. Use your time for yourself first.
If there’s only one thing you should really manage in your life—it’s time.
And I don’t mean time as an end itself…
…because time is something you can’t take back…it’s even the only thing.
Think about it. You may lose money but you can get it back. Your relationships may turn sour but you can fix them. You get sick but you’ll get better.
The root of all of that, however, is still time.
You invest time in building a profitable business. You invest time in your relationships. You invest time in daily exercise.
You could say it might be too late, but only perhaps because you’ve, like, really wasted so much time, that you’re only just starting to feel the consequences.
When it comes to taking control of your life, making yourself a high priority with your time is very important. You can genuinely give to others only after your needs are being met. It’s not about being selfish. It’s about doing what’s best for everybody.
3. Know your rights and let others know they should be respected.
Most probably you’ve grown up having someone else always looking after you. They crossed the line. Your right to learn to grow up was seriously effed up. This, of course, didn’t hurt until now. (Note that these rights are literally human rights.)
Therefore your need to develop the skills for thinking and deciding for yourself was not satisfied. This is a huge problem for “unawake” parents—they think meeting all their kids’ needs are helpful, when in fact it’s awfully damaging. They’re setting up their kids to becoming unable adults.
From this point forward, it is your responsibility to educate yourself. Again, if you’re surrounded by foolish people—or people who don’t want to learn, at least—then you can run to the internet for relevant and great material. (Yeah, I know. The internet ROCKS.)
Wisdom is timeless. So much wisdom about humanity thousands of years ago holds to this day. If your parents don’t know about them, then let it go—you’re now in control of your life.
Your rights essentially allow you to reach your full potential. They should be violated only once for the sake of learning. But to allow other people to take your rights away is to hinder your growth.
Let other people know about these rights if a situation calls for it. You’re not shutting people off. It’s just that everybody has these rights, including you. Tell them about it if they’re interested.
4. Say no.
This isn’t only about saying no to other people.
You might find it weird, but you could actually talk and negotiate with yourself.
You have impulses. You have your hot triggers. And most probably you have a lot of bad habits.
Saying no is about self-discipline. It’s about learning and thinking what’s good for yourself or others, building habits and sticking to the routine. It’s about knowing yourself.
This means you should remove temptations and avoid enablers that have “control” over you at this point. Get rid of them. Say no.
A part of your brain will tell you that you should indulge in them (because you’ve been doing that your whole life,) but another part of your brain will tell you no, you must do the right thing. Start listening to the latter and you’ll begin to see results.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. Take the baby steps. You don’t want to be tyrannical with yourself—you only want to change.
Physical exercise is great for the mood. Just move. You could do a simple workout alone, or have regular playtime with a buddy.
Your body already has what it needs. You simply have to move to activate it. Tons of research tell of the great benefits of committing to regular exercise. But as far as taking control of your life is concerned, the takeaway is that it makes you feel good. You’ll need it especially in the face of challenges.
I simply can’t allow myself to work out less than three times a week anymore—especially when it’s a shitty week. Because I know I have to do meaningful work, I want to live a meaningful life. I would rather avoid doing things that slowly bury me in “wasted time” land.
Because of that I have to help myself. I have to make time for my physical health—which has a huge impact on my mental health—so that I can face life with strength, physically and non-physically.
6. Make a three-item one-item To Do “list.” Every day.
I challenge you to write just one. Want to take back control of your life even if it seems impossible? Then make a To Do list and start doing them. It doesn’t matter if you can’t finish it today. Just start.
Because that’s exactly the point—to move forward. To change. If you haven’t been doing at least one thing that takes you toward the life you want, then doing one thing today is like a 100% change already.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just do one today. Maybe do two tomorrow.
Guard your attention. Improve your ability to pay attention. This means being able to take mental notes about what’s happening in the moment, and writing them down if changes seem necessary.
Perhaps you had the attention before, but you only let life pass you by—you knew you could do something about a situation, but you did nothing.
Now you decided to take control of your life. Stop compromising and start solving your own problems, especially if the solutions are easy to implement.
Be sure you’re taking good care of your health. Sleep well. Don’t trade your time with impulsive decisions that waste the rest of the day away. Consider quitting social media—they even admit it may be bad for you. Keep your phone out of sight when you need to work.
Finally, meditate. Anxiety is an enemy of attention, with which the old-age practice of meditation can help. Train yourself to always be in the moment, directing your energies to the task at hand.
8. The ultradian rhythm.
This is the 90-minute cycle in which we move from a higher physiological state down towards fatigue. This is the perfect time to do the most important things.
Find those long blocks of time in which you’re in your optimal state, and then work your ass off. Try it in the early mornings, or perhaps after your afternoon catnaps.
The ultradian rhythm is an innate cycle that helps us find balance. Humans have been given this gift. It’s certainly worth exploiting: get to work during your most productive state, and then rest or even play after that!
9. A couple of people rules.
We are social beings. It’s terribly nice to hang out with people, especially if they’re amazing. But you’ll need boundaries—you can subtly be sucked into some bad company before knowing it.
Here are three rules you could start with, as far as taking back control over your life is concerned:
1. Don’t wait for other people.
You don’t need validation to start. Taking action is all on you. Either you’ll need to work with other people, or you’ll do it yourself.
2. Be strict with your personal space.
You could start right now but when you do, make sure that nothing, especially when it’s petty, gets in your way. If living in another apartment enables you to do more of the things you need, then why not do that?
3. Don’t try to fix other people.
Give them advice once, and only when they ask for it. Let them own their problems. It should be apparent to them, somehow, that you’re trying to be better. If they refuse to use the light you bring and decide to stay in their miserable place, then it’s not your problem.
Ignoring these rules can leave you drained when you should be doing other things. Remember: people should love one another, but you only got yourself to make things happen.
10. Above all, you only have yourself to control.
When your perfect plans don’t work, don’t blame the universe for not giving it to you.
Just make another plan. If it doesn’t work, make another one. If your 100th plan still doesn’t work, don’t stop. Keep trying.
You see, there are a lot of things you can’t control, but they are not really the problem. It’s in the details. It’s in how you deal with things with whatever you’ve got, limited or not. Problem solving is a great life skill.
Do your best, and accept whatever that’s going to happen. This doesn’t mean that after you fail you should “accept” you’re “no good.” Come on, now.
You’ve only got one thing to do right now, more than anything else. Figure that out and live your life. You’re going to know what needs to be done. Give your all because it just might be it. Be the best. You may not know what happens next but if you pour yourself upon your work—while strictly managing yourself—then why should bad things happen to you, really?
It doesn’t matter how overwhelming the future may be, especially if you feel you’ve wasted your life up to this point.
But you can take tiny steps. Your mindset and skills don’t work in a linear fashion. That good habit you’re trying to build will have an enormous impact one, five, ten years from now. Just make the decision and stay consistent.
It’s going to be a long journey. Don’t give up. If you’re 35, then that’s 35 years of living without a real sense of control over your life.
Why overwhelm yourself now?
As I said, you might’ve thought taking control of your life isn’t possible. But that’s only because you simply don’t know what you can actually do until it’s already happening. After all, you weren’t really trying. What do you know?