“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” — Cheryl Strayed
We stand frozen before the drama we wish to flee from like a deer in the headlights and wonder why we don’t get out of the way.
You may have taken a path in life you had little intention of choosing. You might look back and wonder if it was the right decision.
This does not mean your choices are wrong. Think of it like trying on clothes before stepping out for the evening. You might know what you will wear, yet when it comes time to get dressed, you’re influenced by the weather or your mood. All of a sudden, the outfit is not to your liking.
What I’m proposing is: life doesn’t know what it will become until you step into it. You cannot make mistakes other than experience the fruits of your thoughts and act accordingly.
“It turns out that one reason we wrongly predict what will make us happy in the future is that we overlook our capacity to tolerate, and even adapt to, discomfort,” state authors Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener in The Upside of Your Dark Side.
You can be dragged along by your choices or be drawn by inspiration.
These pull factors will either lead you towards a powerful future or keep you stagnant, or even cause you to slip backwards.
Few people have an action plan for their lives.
It is difficult to plan for the future let alone knowing what to eat for dinner tomorrow night.
Life often has other plans, with unexpected detours.
Without a plan you are likely to be controlled by external forces.
“When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up.” — Les Brown
Reflect on the previous week where you intended to complete a goal or project and were derailed by unimportant matters.
Few people stick to their plan without allowing trivial matters to get in the way.
You are continually being shaped by outside forces not of your choosing. You must stay vigilant towards your long-term commitments if you wish to realise success.
“Stuff happens.” There are things we may or may not have control over, but the one thing we do have absolute control over is how we respond or react. This is the power of conscious and present-minded choice. This action alone helps shape our destiny, according to author Dennis Merritt Jones in Your Redefining Moments: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be.
If you want to take ownership of your life, prioritise what matters.
Often, this means saying no to people or situations that contradict your goals.
To illustrate this key point, as an author it is important I carve out time daily to write and hone my craft. This often means working undisturbed during the morning into lunchtime when my thoughts are conducive to being creative.
However, I am often distracted by phone calls, emails or requests from people. Yet, I resist the temptation to yield to these external forces because my priority is writing.
Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art offers this insight: “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential… Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, and prevent us from doing our work.”
“When life knocks you down, try to land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up.” — Eric Thomas
You need to be selfish with your time. Otherwise you will diverted by unimportant matters and regret you didn’t manage your time better.
Selfishness in this context means prioritising what is of value to you.
Similarly, it is important to break out of routines and habits every now and again.
Whilst habits are effective most of the time, you’ll need to organise unplanned activities that bring you joy and happiness.
This may include participating in an unintentional activity at the last minute. The key is to dictate your terms and not allow others to control your time.
“…giving up our need to control events and force outcomes makes us available to the full power of flow. It can move through us and help us accomplish things even greater than we had planned,” states author Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom in The Power of Flow: Practical Ways to Transform Your Life with Meaningful Coincidence.
I’ve spoken of the pain pleasure principle previously whereby people are motivated to seek pleasure or escape pain.
The problem with the latter is that these types of people seldom finds fulfilment because they run away from what they don’t want, instead of leaning towards what they desire.
Therefore, commit to pursuing whatever brings you closer to pleasure through your choices and actions.
Avoid being dictated by commitments and obligation because you will regret it when life is no longer enjoyable.
Leadership experts talk of establishing boundaries. I recommend connecting with your core principles instead since this will lead you to make choices in alignment with them.
“There is no royal road to a successful life, as there is no royal road to learning. It has got to be hard knocks, morning, noon, and night, and fixity of purpose.” — Charles M. Schwab
Also of importance is how you start the day. Give attention to important matters early in the day and don’t succumb to external noise.
I perform a set of rituals first thing in the morning, including reading inspirational texts from books, exercising or stretching, followed by meditation.
These rituals range anywhere from five to twenty minutes and will enhance your outlook for the rest of the day. The key is to establish a positive mindset when your feet hit the ground after waking up.
I enjoy the advice by author Bernard Roth in The Achievement Habit: “By choosing the meaning we give to the people and things in our environment, ultimately we control our own experiences, no matter what work we are doing.”
If you want a fulfilling life, do away with interference and create your experience on your terms. The start of the day is the most conducive time for priming your outlook for how the rest of the day will follow.
You are the commander of your life and the organisation called YOU. You are responsible for creating positive moods you enjoy.
Some say it is unrealistic to be positive all the time because unpleasant situations will often arise. You might experience bad moods because of them. This may be true for five to ten percent of the time.
However, barring the death of a loved one or a major illness you can create a positive attitude instead of reacting to external conditions.
I assure you it is within your power.
Be vigilant that you don’t relinquish your power to others because they will take advantage given the opportunity. Not because they are callous, but if you are not respectful of your own time, others will recognise this and use it to their benefit.
Prioritise what matters or other people will make the choice for you.
I’ve often repeated: we coach others how to treat us.
“But, sadly, many people never tap into the vast amount of power they have to design the aspects of their lives that they can control. They drift along, leaving things to chance, and then wonder why life never seems to turn out well. And when things inevitably do go wrong, they drop their heads in defeat, accepting their misfortune, telling themselves there’s nothing to be done about it,” avows author Kyra Bobinet MD MPH in Well Designed Life: 10 Lessons in Brain Science & Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy, & Purposeful Life.
It is possible to take your life back and unsubscribe from the drama of everyday living.
It must come from a commitment to honour what is important and letting go of distractions if you wish to live passionately.
It is within your reach, so don’t settle for second best because that is what you’re likely to get if you pursue something less than what you are capable of.
Originally published at medium.com