Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This means we have control over 90% of our lives. A lot of folks think it is the reverse, that we can only control 10% of what happens to us. I can understand why people think this, as some of us have had some pretty egregious things happen. But the truth is, we have more control than we think.
When we get stuck in traffic, we have a choice. We can tailgate the driver in front of us, lay on our horn, wave our fist and curse out those who we think are driving too slow. Or, we can practice patience, understanding that none of those things will get us to where we’re going any faster. We can give the person we’re meeting a head’s up that we’re running behind schedule and then turn on the radio to our favorite tune. Instead of arriving upset and flustered, you arrive calm and ready for whatever’s next.
When our kids are moving slow while getting ready for school, we can yell at them, slam doors and rush around like a maniac, or we can move quickly and strategically, periodically reminding them what we need them to do and how quickly we need them to do it. Instead of pushing them out of the car while engaged in a rolling stop, tell them you love them and have a nice day. The difference is, when the kids get to class, they will be alert and ready for the day as opposed to feeling bewildered and belittled.
The point is, when we pay special attention to how we outwardly respond, and choose peace over uproar, we can have control over what happens in that moment, as well as what can happen for hours after that.
However, some people don’t take control over their lives. Mainly because they don’t think they can. They feel like whatever happens to them is just their lot in life. There’s nothing they can do about it. They just didn’t get lucky with an easy life. Or, they may think they can take control; they just don’t know how. They don’t know how to take over when the world appears to be spinning out of control.
Today, I want to dig into the benefits of taking control as well as ways we can take the reins when we feel like we’ve lost control.
If you need to be convinced of why it’s important to get in control of your life, I have four reasons for you: it gives you a “boost,” it helps with achievement, it helps you make better decisions and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed when life happens. Let me explain.
The feeling of being able to shape outcomes to our liking boosts confidence, independence and well-being. We feel that we have the power to be adventurous, we can try new things and can freely be ourselves. We neither feel that we need anyone else to guide us along nor that we need permission to do… anything. And when we feel this way – confident, independent and well – we generally also feel happy and so do the people around us. We also stand to pass these traits down to our children. Kids are highly impressionable and when they see that their parent is out there kicking butt, taking names and not needing permission to live their life, they will live that way too.
Studies show those with a higher sense of control tend to set loftier goals and generally achieve more. This is because they feel confident that they can achieve those loftier goals. They’re free to make mistakes because they know they can get back up and try again. They feel this way because they know that as long as they’re in control, no one else can tell them no, or not to do this or keep them from doing that. I can personally relate to this. I can tell you that when I was in high school, everyone started asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and what my plans were. The fact that they were asking me and not my parents told me that soon I would be in control of my own life. I started to think, well, what do I want to do with it? I decided early on that I wanted to have something to show for the time I was here on earth. I wanted to leave a positive impression. And from then on, I’ve been setting goals that align with these priorities and achieving them.
Feeling in control will help us make better decisions. Instead of making impulsive decisions that will only benefit us in the short term, we can see the bigger picture and make decisions that will matter in the long term. Being in control means that we understand the benefits and consequences of the decisions we make. And because we put the work into getting ourselves into a position where we can feel in control, we do everything we can to make sure that we don’t jeopardize that. My grandma used to say, “When you know better, you do better.” And that’s exactly what happens when we take our lives by the reins – we do better. For today and tomorrow.
Inevitably, life will happen. The chips will hit the fan and we will hit a crossroad. We will either turn left and feel overwhelmed, stuck and lost, or we can turn right and take a deep breath before digging in and handling it. Feeling a sense of control over our lives means that we can rise from the chaos and bring things back to a manageable state.
I am in control
Now, let’s talk about ways that we can take control over our lives so we can begin to get that boost in confidence, independence and well-being, as well as achieve more, make better decisions and feel less overwhelmed when the chips hit the fan.
I am maximizing my time
One of the main reasons why people feel like their lives are out of control is because there is not enough time in the day to get done everything they need to get done. They always feel like they’re behind schedule and that they forget important things. The best way to address this is to set a routine that helps maximize your time. A lot of people balk at the idea of a routine because they think it will make their life mundane, but hear me out. I am someone who likes to workout. But with work and my children’s after school activities, there’s really no time to go to the gym. So, I started working out at home every weekday morning from 5:30-6:30 a.m. Doing this allows me time to myself where I get to do something that I enjoy. And I can do that before getting started with my day.
I also know it takes an hour for me to get myself and the kids ready for work and school. So I just create a vision for the order in which things need to happen in order to stay on schedule. I also make sure that the kids know what they need to do. Finally, it’s up to me to make it happen. I know I can’t oversleep because that will throw off the schedule. I know that some things, like making the kids’ lunches and ironing clothes, need to be done the night before so I won’t waste time on them in the morning. I know the kids won’t wake up right away so I give them 10 minutes to wake up. I also build an extra 10-minutes into the routine. Every morning, I look at it as a challenge to get us all in the car by 7:35. Most days, we are.
I am maximizing my money
Another reason why people think their lives are out of control is money. They feel like they don’t have enough of it, that they always run out. And unless you’re living below your means, this will always be a problem. Creating a budget can help with this. Writing down all of your expenses, your pay days and your bills’ due dates will help you understand how much is coming in and how much is going out. And if you’re one of the 54% of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, it will also help you plan which paycheck will cover which expenses. Many people live by the 50 30 20 rule, where 50% of monthly income is spent on needs and obligation, 30% if spent on debt repayment and savings and 20% on discretionary expenses. This is a chance for you to have a serious conversation with yourself. What expenses need to be cut? What can you do to ensure that you stay within your budget each month? Think about what you want to do with your money in the short and long term. That will help you set savings goals that will hopefully motivate you to stay within your budget.
I am organized
Some people do really well with alarms, reminders and automation. It helps them to remember the things they might forget otherwise. This can include bill payments, birthdays, appointments and task deadlines, helping you to maximize your time and money. You can use the technology available on your phone, or you can go old school by using a planner notebook and calendar. I personally like to use products from Denise Albright. All of her products are so cute. She even includes things like stickers to help me make the product my own – customized for me. I use the Reminder Binder to help me to create to do lists for each day. I also have a Budget Binder to help me track my expenses and to set my budget each month. I like to look months in advance to plan. For example, I know that birthdays and anniversaries have the potential for me to blow my budget so I start to set aside money each month so I will have the funds to throw that party or go on that trip.
Being in control of your life can be difficult. You can maximize your time, maximize your money and be more organized, but the real hurdle is in the way you think. You have to want to be and stay in control of your life and sometimes that requires sacrifice. Sometimes it requires saying no – to others and yourself. And you have to be willing to do those things, consistently. To avoid always running behind schedule, you’ll have to implement a routine. Not oversleep so you can stay on schedule. To avoid going over budget, you have to live within your means. Say no to going out to eat, no overspending. Stay calm in pressing situations. Stay positive when everything is collapsing around you. At the end of the day, you can be in the driver’s seat of your life, or you can be in the passenger’s seat, sitting to the right of whatever the issue is for that day. Take control. Don’t crash and burn.
Here are your positive affirmations to ponder on this week:
· I am in control.
· I am boosting my confidence, independence and well-being.
· I am achieving more.
· I am making good decisions.
· I am less overwhelmed when things don’t go my way.
· I am maximizing my time.
· I am maximizing my money.
· I am organized.