“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.”— Marcus Aurelius
The world finds itself in an unwanted moment prompted by events that for most of the world’s citizens was out of our control. While we adjust, while we figure out how we will endure during this time of uncertainty that has done the worst to some by taking their lives, and still arguably equally devestating, taking the livelihoods of so many others, there is much we still have control over as individuals.
Today, I would like to share with you 11 things you have control over not only in the times we find ourselves but at all times.
Racing or steady and considered? Knowing the skills of critically thinking are crucial. Why? Because it ensures we do not accept blindly but we also acknowledge what we do not know so that we know what to search for and in so doing, seek out multiple credible sources. Not all of the answers we seek will be found, but in realizing this as well, we can trust the journey.
(The four key components to exercise this learned skill: thoughtful questioning, synthesizing, effective communication, open-mindedness.)
The key is to master our minds, to not unconsciously let our mind hold the reins. How do we know if we have control? How can we know if how we are thinking is helpful (i.e. critical) or hindering? Consider the alternatives for different trains of thought below.
- objective or judgmental
- negative or positive or considered
- fear-based, hope-filled or observationalist
What affects your thoughts unconsciously:
- what you read
- what you see
- who you listen to
- what you tell yourself
- life experience
- education (formal or informal)
When we understand how the mind works, when we acknowledge what we know and what we do not and can as well as what we do not and cannot, we gain control and ease our minds in the process as we are not spinning tirelessly searching for something that cannot be found, at least for now.
2. Your ability to be present
The ability to be present is a refusal to linger in the past and exercising the discipline to, while setting goals, set them and then return promptly to the day you find yourself and do what you need to as well as enjoy your journey.
3. How well you listen
Listening well enables us to think well and thus make better decisions about how we spend our time and what we give our mind’s permission to think about.
~Read this post for a few pointers on how to become a better listener.
4. Whether to continue to be a student
The world changes, cultures change, generations present new ideas due to their life experiences and prompt change. In other words change is constant which means we have the opportunity to continually learn. When we learn, we give ourselves opportunity and the fuel to boost our confidence that we can handle whatever may be presented to us that is out of our control should we choose to seize the said opportunity.
5. Your breath – pace, depth, etc.
The breath helps to keep us present. Good breathing can help us navigate well stressful situations, as well as not rush our actions in either scenarios which we are either excited about or terrified by.
6. The boundaries you set
What we allow, to what we say no, how much time we give, who we allow into our lives, and so much more. Read this post or listen to the corresponding podcast episode to learn more about the life benefit of healthy boundary setting.
7. Your willingness to try anything that is new
It is often easier to try something new if there is a safety net or if the risk/reward is small. In fact, starting small would be a healthy place to start, and it would be absolutely fine to remain your practice as so long you are willing to trying something new regularly – a new recipe, a new haircut, a new approach to how you do your work – as you are stretching yourself, seeing what you can do, and in tandem with #4, choosing to remain a student for life about life.
Often when we begin to see success and reduce doubts by stretching ourselves in small ways, we gradually begin to stretch ourselves a little bit more to see exactly what we are capable of as our curiosity draws us toward our true passions and pursuits.
8. How you respond in communication – verbally, email, text
Knowing how to communicate well with whomever you are engaged with is a skill that takes time to learn. But everyone can be a wonderful communicator. Here is a list of 19 tips for doing so. So much of what makes communication effective is, you probably guessed it . . . , being a good listener, and as well, a keen observer of your world and others. Using your skills as an effective communicator will not only help you strengthen relationships but will also enable you to think well and make better decisionas well as let go of worry.
9. Your work ethic
On the continuum of practices in work ethic, you can do only enough to just get by (or actually nothing at all, if we are talking true extremes) or work exhaustively in such a way that the other arenas of your life suffer (health, relationships, etc.).
Your ability to exercise a healthy work ethic plays hand-in-hand with boundary setting (#6) and being willing to forever be a student (#4) and being willing to try something new from time to time (#7). Awareness of how each feed into as well as benefit the other reveals indeed how much more we have control over than we may have realized, no matter what may be going on in the world.
10. Your everyday routine
At first thought, you may contest that you have control over your everyday routine. After all, you have a boss, maybe you are a parent or maybe you are the boss and have responsibilities to your employees. But the truth is, you have far more control over your daily routine than you may be seizing. At the foundation of your life, your choices in most respects have placed you where you are today and how you are living. Not everything about our daily routine can be changed immediately, but over time those aspects that are infusing your life with stress can abate or be entirely non-existent with the choices you make today and everyday until that moment arrives.
The good news is that there are changes you can make today to immediately change the quality of your days, and last month, episode #280 shared in detail how and why it is worth taking the time to do.
11. What you prioritize
I saved “priorities” for the final item as the previous 10 play into what we prioritize. Each of us, when we exercise the skill of thinking for ourselves, becomes aware of the influences that would nudge us one way or another away from our true journey and selves. Upon being able to think clearly for ourselves, we can then drill down to what we sincerely want to prioritize and begin to design gradually, and in some cases more immediately, where our time and energy will be placed. Below is a list of areas that we often prioritize.
- health – physical discipline, mental dexterity
In uncertain times, it can feel as thought there is nothing within our control, and accepting this untruth as truth ratchets up our fear, reduces our energy and willpower and doesn’t help our ability to cope in healthy ways to the situation, let alone be able to see the opportunities that actually do surround us. Because the truth is, there are opportunities; they are often just more difficult to see. Therefore, they require a clear mind and a rested being.
Today, take a moment to go through this list and reassure yourself of all that you have control over, and take back control of anything shared above you have unconsciously given away.