I get the most down on myself when I make decisions about my life based on other’s criteria of what life should look like. I get frustrated when I make decisions out of fear or convenience, and NOTHING sets me off like taking other’s WRONG advice. When I take their shitty advice, I’m not upset with them, but infuriated with myself because not only did I not have the guts to make my own decision, but it was the complete wrong decision.
Nothing is more empowering than feeling like you are in the driver’s seat of your life. Here are 5 ways that guide me in taking control of my life.
1. Make More Decisions
Simply make more decisions. Stop being wishy-washy and apathetic about things. Stop asking 35 people for their thoughts before choosing where you want to eat for dinner. When you decide, there are two possibile outcomes: 1) you succeed or 2) you learn from your mistakes. By making more decisions you will become more confident in your decision making ability, and by learning from past mistakes, more and more of your decisions will be the right ones.
It’s the confidence-competence loop. The more you do something, the more confident you become, and the more competent you become, and then the more confident you become, and on-and-on.
2. Take Ownership
In the mid 1800s, a man, nearly 30-years old, had crashed and burned at nearly every endeavor in his life. His resume consisted of a failed attempt at medical school, an unfortunate expedition to the Amazon that left him with smallpox, an abundance of health issues, shamed by his prestigious father, and an unsuccessful stint as a painter.
After battling suicidal thoughts, he made an agreement with himself that for one year, he would take 100% responsibility for his life circumstances. He would do everything in his power to change his life. If, after that year, his life still blew, he would the proceed with his plan to end his own life.
This man was William James, the ”father of American psychology” who would go on to accomplish great things in his lifetime.
Once you take responsibility for your life, it gives you power and permission to take action. When things no longer “happen to you” but you “happen to things” the shape of your external word will drastically change.
3. Be Open Minded
Michael Jordan was once asked a political question in an interview. He refused to address the issue and responded with a smirk and quipped,
“Republicans buy shoes too.”
Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, spent years learning about what makes people lucky or unlucky. He studied people from all walks of life. He found that lucky people tend to be more open to spontaneous opportunities, whereas unlucky people tend to be creatures of habit, sleepwalking through their daily routine, stick wholeheartedly with their beleifs. Unlucky people tend to talk to the same people and go to the same places everyday, and close off conflicting views and ideas.
Try new things, meet new people, and consider opposing views before dismissing them. Who knows, you might get lucky.
As a personal trainer and health enthusiast I had to throw this one in here. Exercise has been shown to increase mood, prevent disease, make you more adaptive to stress (emotionally stable), improve sex drive, improve motivation, increase brainpower, and generally keep you on this planet longer.
If that’s not putting you in control of life, I’m not sure what is.
5. Ask Why
Finally, ask yourself why you are doing something. Is the reason is because everybody else is doing it? Is it because you’re scared not to? If so, it could be time to reevaluate.
So often we do things “just because it’s the next step.” My brother-in-law often says “People just P.M.K. and don’t think twice about it.”
P.M.K. meaning Prom, Marriage, then Kids. They don’t even question whether the like school dances, if marriage will make them happy, or if they even like kids. They just do it because “it’s the next step.”
Think about why you do what you do, and take control of your life.