Life is scary.
Often it can seem like so much is beyond our control, that there are so many things we ‘have to’ do and it can feel like we’re not the driving force behind our own lives.
Luckily, there are some simple behaviours you can adopt to take control of your life!
Take the wheel: Learn to take control of your life
Treat Yourself As You Would Treat A Friend
We’re often much kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves: we’re much more likely to say ‘it’s not your fault’ or ‘everything’s going to be alright’ to other people. We also tend to give our friends good advice, and help them to follow it, whereas with our own lives we tend to either ignore or be blind to the best course of action.
This is because when it comes to our friends’ lives, we’re not ruled by our emotions. We can offer an objective viewpoint that allows us to assess the situation and find the best solution to a problem.
But when it comes to our own lives, our emotions – fear, anger, desire – can overrule our rational minds, meaning that even if we somehow manage to discern our best options, we go against our own advice because of what feels good at the time.
Treating our problems like they’re our friends can be a helpful way of taking back control over our emotions. If you can learn to address them by stopping and imagining that the problem is happening to a friend, then imagine what advice you would give them as an objective party, you can help determine the best course of action.
There’s often an immense pressure to do every favour people ask of you, particularly if you’re put on the spot. The problem is, once you say “yes” a few times, people come to expect it of you. You can become forced into the role of event organiser for your friends and colleagues, or being the one who always takes on the extra hours or projects at work. People start to assume that you’ll do it, and the pressure can build.
Try and remember that you have the right to say “no”, even if you said “yes” in the past. You don’t have to justify “why not” and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
It’s fine to do favours for your friends, or take on extra work once in a while, but once it becomes expected of you, these things are no longer favours or extras – they’re just additional stress.
Once people accept that you will say both “yes” and “no”, they will keep asking, but will accept your decision making. Plus, you’ll come across as more confident, which is a big bonus.
Do The Most Important Tasks First
We almost never wake up with just one thing we need to accomplish in a day, and sometimes it can be tempting to put off the more challenging or highest pressure tasks until ‘later’.
However, our energy wanes as the day goes on, and this can mean either that ‘later’ never comes, or the task takes even longer and is even harder because we’re tired by the time we get to it. This can leave us feeling like we’ve not achieved anything at the end of the day, or that we’ve not worked hard enough. Getting into a cycle of good intentions and then failing to meet them can be hugely damaging for our confidence and mood.
A good way of combatting this is by writing a To-Do List first thing in the morning, and organising your tasks in order of priority, with a section of those which can wait until tomorrow if necessary. Do the most important first, then work your way down the list in order. That way, the most important things get done when your motivation and concentration is at its best, and if you don’t finish the list, it’s only the things that can wait that have been left out.
Doing this will mean that you’re more likely to go to bed feeling accomplished and capable, which in turn will spur you on for the next day.
Don’t Obsess About Other People’s Opinions
Some people will like you. Some people won’t.
It can be tempting to focus on those who don’t like us – we might ask ourselves why, or try to change their opinion. But this is largely pointless as a course of action, and is a huge waste of energy.
Consider someone you don’t like. If they went out of their way to try and make you like them, you would more than likely find it irritating and off-putting. This is because we can’t force people to change their minds about us, and sycophantic behaviour is generally considered a trait associated with weakness of character, which is hardly appealing.
Yes, sometimes someone may change their mind about you, but if it’s going to happen, it will happen organically and not through a forced attempt on your part.
Try to accept that there will be people who don’t like you – more often than not, it’s not because you’re a bad person, and it’s not even a reflection on your character. Everyone has different personalities and not all gel well together, and that’s okay.
And anyway, wouldn’t the world be a very boring place if everybody was the same?
Take Some ‘Me Time’
Life today is very busy – almost all of us have very full schedules of work commitments, family events and social ties, which can leave very little time for us to take time for ourselves.
Set aside some time each week that’s just for you to do whatever helps you unwind – yoga, sports, art, music – it doesn’t matter what the activity is, just make sure that you do it.
Taking time for yourself gives yourself time to think and focus on what you want without being distracted by the demands of everybody else around you. This is vital to taking control of your life, because how can you take control if you don’t know what you really want?
It’s easy to become convinced that what we want is what other people expect when we’re around them, but when you’re doing something that’s just for you, you have the time to reflect without all the external pressures and make decisions for yourself.
Plus, taking time for yourself will help reduce your stress and anxiety levels!