How to Feel More in Control in Life in Four Steps

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“You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control how you deal with it.” ~Unknown

Life is often crazy and rushed. Sometimes it’s difficult to feel a sense of control. It can be utterly chaotic and leave us feeling lost.

This is exactly where I was two years ago. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt hopeless, directionless, and completely lost pretty much every day.

I didn’t feel like I had a grip on anything in my life, including my thoughts, emotions, and actions.

I had just returned from the local doctor, a prescription of antidepressants in hand and the first pill on its way down my throat, when something dawned on me.

I realized that this was not the answer. I realized that thinking a drug would fix all of my issues was not only a false fantasy, but it was also extremely ironic. Because by taking them, I was actively choosing to worsen the cause of my issues.

By taking the drug, I’d be sacrificing even more of my freedom and control. I’d essentially be putting the fate of my future into the hands of a daily dose of pills.

I am not saying antidepressants are bad, nor am I suggesting that anyone should stop taking them, as they can be beneficial to many people’s mental health. They were simply something I realized I could avoid taking by instead addressing my problem in an alternative way.

I believe it was at this very moment that everything changed for me. It was then that I realized that I was the cause of my problems, and only I could be the solution, so the journey began.

Since then, I’ve been the happiest I have ever been, with a newfound sense of control and an unshakable feeling of self-belief.

These are the four ways I managed to obtain this sense of control. I hope these steps can help you do the same.

1. Taking Responsibility

Taking responsibility is one of the most important things a person can do, but it might not be what you think. What was the first thing that came to mind when thinking about taking responsibility? Is it owning up to your negative behavior? Is it admitting when you’ve done wrong?

I’d like to instead focus instead on the things that are not your fault.

This might leave you confused at first. You might be wondering why anyone would take responsibility for things they haven’t caused.

Just because something isn’t directly your fault, it doesn’t mean you can’t take responsibility for it. In my case, I was blaming my childhood and upbringing for the way I felt. I thought that because certain things had happened to me, and they were not my fault, I was somehow entitled to stew in my feelings and react negatively to them.

But who does this type of mentality benefit? It certainly didn’t benefit me. In order to get better, I had to take responsibility for the way I was. Only then could any meaningful change occur.

I’m not saying you should blame yourself. This actually eliminates blame altogether, because it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. If you’re the one suffering the consequences, you’re also the one who needs to take responsibility for them.

The moment something negative has happened, it is done; it can’t be changed. Thus, the only thing left for you to do is deal with the consequences the best you can. Refuse to be left bitter and resentful and, instead, learn and grow.

The next time something negative happens in your life, ask yourself, “Am I dealing with this in the best possible way?”

2. Doing Hard Things

The moment I started doing hard things, my life started to change for the better.

Life is difficult, and as far as I’m aware, it’s always going to be. Have you ever met or heard of someone who has been through some extremely tough times throughout their life? These people are always very mentally strong, and less affected by tough times.

The bad news is we can’t fake these sorts of tough times, nor can we recreate them. But we can raise our standard of difficulty in other ways. I mean, people have literally built a building and put a bunch of heavy metal things in it for others to come to pay and lift them.

I’m not saying you have to go to the gym; I’m simply saying that to become less affected by life’s inevitable attacks, we can actively increase our tolerance for discomfort so that when they do come, we are much less affected.

This gives us control, as we can’t prevent life from hurting us, but we can actively choose to reduce the pain it causes.

Some examples of hard things I started to do included running, taking cold showers and ice baths, and following a healthier diet.

Start implementing daily hard things into your routine, and you’ll notice the difference.

3. All Wins Are The Same 

When pursuing a goal, it’s very easy to get caught up thinking about achieving it, but this only results in an overwhelming sense of distance between you and the goal. You’d be much better off focusing smaller. Instead of comparing who you are now with your ideal self, focus on the very next thing that will move you closer to the person you want to be.

Doing this not only removes that feeling of distance, but it will also constantly make you feel like a winner. And trust me, all wins are the same, so you might as well celebrate them all.

What do I mean by all wins are the same?

There is a concept I have recently been interested in, which is the hedonic treadmill.

According to Wikipedia, “The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”

This means we get used to things very quickly. So let’s say your goal is to lose fifty pounds. Losing the first pound is the same as losing the fiftieth.

Equally, it’s the same if your goal is to reach a million subscribers or to earn your first one million pounds (or dollars).

To lose fifty pounds, you must have already lost forty-nine. To reach one million subscribers or your first one million pounds/dollars, you must at some point be at the number 999,999.

I’m not underestimating these achievements—not at all. And I’m also not saying you shouldn’t have big goals.

But I’m saying the value that comes from them only comes from the context that is applied to them. People fail to understand that the value attached to the goal was given by a past version of themselves, whereas a completely different version has experienced them, so essentially, the value has gone.

The version of you that sets the target and the version of you that reaches it are used to two completely different standards. By being able to reach your goal, you have subsequently removed all value from it.

The difference between 999,999 and 1 million is 0.0001%, yet quite literally no one celebrates reaching the former.

This is the reason why people feel so empty when they finally reach their goals.

To avoid this, and to constantly feel like a winner, you should focus on the very next step and celebrate every win.

4. Discipline = Freedom 

You’ve probably heard of discipline and all of its benefits many times before, as it is a crucial thing to adopt if you want to be successful at anything in life. However, I’m going to be talking about a positive aspect of discipline that no one knows or talks about.

And that’s the sense of freedom that comes with it.

There is an obvious way that discipline leads to freedom: By avoiding procrastination and getting tasks done immediately, we end up having more time.

But there is a more profound sense of freedom that discipline gives us.

As I have already mentioned, we’ll all inevitably experience feelings of discomfort in life, often from things completely out of our control.

Now, let’s say you let these feelings stop you from doing what you know you should do. You’re letting external circumstances dictate how and where your life goes.

Having the discipline to continue doing what needs to be done regardless of external situations or the feelings that might ensue will give you the most profound sense of freedom.

Without discipline in these situations, you’re essentially losing all sense of control.

One of the biggest things I felt when I started to build discipline, although I didn’t know it at the time, was a wave of freedom I had never felt before.

Externally, everything in my life was exactly the same—nothing on the outside had changed. Yet everything on the inside had. I felt free. Being in control of your life means everything suddenly no longer feels permanent and you no longer feel helpless.

As mentioned above, doing hard things is a great way to build discipline, as you’ll most likely feel like doing these the least. But discipline can also be built by the smaller and more mundane things, like waking up earlier or refusing to snooze, starting a daily meditation practice, or replacing endless scrolling with learning a language.

These are some of the small things I used to build more discipline. Yours could look completely different. The trick is to find something productive that’s a challenge to be persistent with—then a sense of control and a feeling of freedom will follow.

About James Davies

James Davies is the author of GrowthHub, a weekly blog that delivers amazing and interesting self-improvement insights and ideas. He began his journey into developing himself after managing to overcome a lifelong anxiety disorder in an actionable way, which sparked his interest in what changes a person for the better. James explores these ideas through practice and action and shares them by writing articles to help others do the same.

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