Do you sometimes feel like you’re not in control of your life or your path forward, but instead feel as if you’re going through the motions, without any real purpose or direction?
Human beings like to feel secure and certain, which is part of where the need for control comes from. But no matter how much you plan, how hard you work, or how deserving you are, your future isn’t guaranteed. And the things you’re trying to control aren’t in your control (at least, not in the way you think).
Make a list of things you’re trying to control. I bet that list primarily consists of:
- How others think and behave.
- Your circumstances and the outcome of your efforts.
The problem is that you don’t really have control over these things. I’m not saying that you have no effect on how you’re perceived, how others behave, or your circumstances. But it’s only a portion of what determines those things. The rest is out of your control.
The one thing you have control over is you.
Your thoughts are working against you.
Every thought you have creates a physical pathway in your brain, which is strengthened every time you have that thought. Unfortunately, your brain has a built-in negativity bias as a self-protective device. That’s why you’re more likely to believe negative thoughts than positive ones.
Your thoughts create feelings, which determine how you behave. That means that your thoughts are ultimately what create your reality. If you’re not doing something to stop your brain from allowing negative thoughts to take over, then it’s no wonder you feel out of control. Fear and self-doubt have taken over.
The good news is that your brain is plastic, which means that you can change how you relate to your thoughts, and even your thinking itself. Through consistent practice, you can create new neural pathways and strengthen them for more mental resilience and confidence.
Taking control of your life is about taking control of your thoughts.
Think about how different life would be if you were more:
- Self-aware of your thoughts and how they affect your behavior.
- Accepting of your thoughts (instead of judgmental).
- Resilient to stress.
- Able to bounce back from missteps (and even able to learn from them).
- Confident in yourself and your abilities.
You’d be more willing to set and enforce boundaries, open to taking risks, capable of learning from your mistakes (and hence better able to course correct and ultimately succeed), and able to live life on your own terms.
And you would be less likely to allow fear and self-doubt to stop you from achieving your big goals and dreams. Isn’t that what being in control really is?
Taking back control of your life is about letting go of trying to control (or worrying about) the things you can’t control and instead changing how you relate to your thoughts so that they no longer control you.
How to take back control through cultivating the right mindset.
To take back control of your life through your mindset, try implementing a few daily practices into your life that are designed to:
- Increase awareness of your thoughts and how they affect your behavior.
- Train you to be more objective and less judgmental about your thoughts, thereby decreasing your negative emotions around them.
- Increase mental resilience and self-confidence.
Get started with the following four practices:
- Meditation. Get started with a simple breath meditation. Set a timer (I recommend ten minutes or less) and sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Breathe slowly and softly through your nose and count the number of breaths in and out. Any time your mind wanders, say “wandered” and bring your focus back to your breath. Keep going until the timer goes off.
- Affirmations. You can utilize affirmations to help develop new, positive neural pathways. To help make them work, be specific and realistic (otherwise, your brain will revolt and they won’t work). And set your affirmation as a narrative describing where you are now, where you want to get to, and what you’re doing to close the gap.
- Reframe. There’s always something to be learned and/or new skills that can be developed, even from the most difficult, boring, stressful, or otherwise negative situations. Identify what those are and keep them front-of-mindinstead of obsessing over the negatives.
- Gratitude. A regular gratitude practice floods your brain with dopamine, which gives you a natural high and makes you want more. It will also have you looking for things to be grateful for. Imagine how that will affect your outlook on life and your thoughts. To practice gratitude, I recommend you write at least three things down that you’re grateful for every day. Go small and be specific about what you’re grateful for.
Although these practices are simple (and take very little time), they’re powerful. They’ll increase your self-confidence levels and your mental resilience so that you’ll no longer let self-doubt and fear control you. You’ll be able to create both personal and professional success on your own terms.
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