4 Tips for Taking Control of Your Life

Tom is a software engineer. He recently got his dream job, working for a gaming company. He had a new girlfriend and life was looking great. Then he got furloughed when work slowed down. His girlfriend found out a dark secret from his past that made her doubt the relationship with Tom, and he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do next. His life is reeling, and it is all because of situations which are completely out of his control.

If you’ve ever felt like Tom and that the world is against you, it is time to end that pity party. Get to work on building yourself into a person who is able to achieve their goals, whatever they are. The world is not against you. In fact the universe is conspiring for you. That’s right. When you can focus on what is within your control and release what is not, you will find that a cornucopia of opportunities are awaiting you. Some you may foresee and others you’ll have no idea existed until they present themselves to you.

Maybe Tom’s work for a game developer was a sample of what is to come through the development of his craft. Maybe his new girlfriend wasn’t meant to be in his life for long. Perhaps she served as a bridge to something better and a lesson for an area of Tom’s life that needs attention. Conceivably life is really on the upswing for Tom, despite the immediate signs suggesting otherwise.

One key in getting to a place in your life where things align for your benefit is to take action that moves your life forward. You can improve your skills, spend time with people who are important to you, and check things off your to-do list that keep you progressing, focusing on what you can make happen instead of what happened to you will have you life propelling forward instead of sliding backwards. Here are four things you can do today to take control of your life.

Stop blaming others

Your life is your responsibility. Despite how it may seem, no one has enough malice towards you (or energy) to spend time plotting your demise. If you think they are, why are you letting people like that in your life to begin with? Be stronger than they are by working on ways to improve yourself daily and choose to take more control of your environment. Most people are too busy with their own lives to actively spend much time trying to disrupt yours.

Take the time to evaluate your situation and consider why opportunities are not coming into view. If you are not getting called for job interviews, your resume probably needs changes. If you are not attracting the right people into your life, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. These are just a couple of examples of the ways you can take more control of your situations and their outcomes.

Release the things that are out of your control

Being laid off, labels others place on you, the economy, or not getting an invitation to go out with people you thought were your friends are all things you have little control over. Dwelling on those will take you down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. Instead, work to understand what role you have in these things happening around you. Letting go of those things you can not control and making an effort to improve the things you can, will free your mind to focus on more constructive ideas.

This takes more than just flipping a switch; it is a complete change of mindset. As above, there is a fine line between your influence on outcomes and control of decisions. You cannot control who gets promoted at your organization. However, you can increase the odds that it’s you by doing high quality work and being professional. At the end of the day if you are not promoted, realize that you provide your company a high quality service that you are proud of. That is a victory unto itself.

Chose to do one thing that moves you forward

You don’t need a big action or grand result now to be successful. Take a small step towards your goals and the person you want to become. Capture that action on your calendar or in your journal. Over time your progress will materialize on those pages as clearly as the ideas in this story materialized out of my own reading and experiences.

Life moves incrementally, not exponentially. Thus, the small steps you take today are the ones that will pay big dividends in the future. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to move forward one footstep at a time. Taking one step towards your goals everyday will have you 365 steps closer to those aspirations at the end of the year. That is something you have ultimate control over.

Look for an opportunity to make a difference in your own life

If you are not looking, opportunities will never find you. Carefully evaluate your decisions throughout the day and make conscious choices about what you do. That is the basis of taking control of your life. When you consider how simple decisions such as what to put on your grocery list or what to do first thing in the morning shape your life, you will start making choices that are more meaningful. These seemingly unimportant decisions will make a difference in your life over the long haul.

It is widely documented that we make an average of 35,000 decisions every day. Thirty-five thousand! Every time you say, ”I don’t care” or ”It’s up to you,” you are forfeiting a decision. Start being mindful of the decisions that have been placed in front of you. Consciously make choices as an exercise in seizing control of your life. Watch not only the outcomes, but also how your decision-making process changes. As a result, you will make better decisions and increase your confidence in doing so.

A caveat here is to be careful not to dismiss things you think are out of your control but that you do actually have influence over. For example, those friends who don’t invite you out may not like that you become increasingly negative the more you drink. Thus, cutting down on your alcohol consumption and avoiding complaining would make you a more desirable person to spend time with. When you find that many people have the same problem with you, then you are the problem. It takes a brave person to admit that.

Finally, don’t create added obstacles for yourself. Those recurring patterns and seemingly negative cycles you experience are a sign that you need to do something different to get past this life barrier. Look at your approach, your decisions, and your mentors. Then decide if you’re properly equipped to win. If you are not, ask yourself what you need to do to break through. The resources are undoubtedly at your disposal. You just need to consider all your options and ask the right questions. Then do something today to make the change.

At the end of the day, the control you have over your life solely rests in the decisions you choose to make, or to forfeit to someone else. Be mindful of those and choose to be the determining factor in your life. After all, you are the driver of your life.

This article first appeared on Medium.com as Who’s Driving Your Car

To Strengthen A Relationship Give First

You will get more if first you learn to give

The power of reciprocity

It’s all about putting others first

People today are concerned about what is in it for me. How they can get the most out of any situation, focused on winning regardless of the circumstances. However, these victories will always be short term unless they create value for others in the process. To do this, you need to use the law of reciprocity. Quite simply, if you do something nice for me I’ll do something nice for you. I feel obligated to reciprocate. Says motivational speaker Brian Tracy, There are enormous benefits to using reciprocity as a means of cultivating good relationships. Three ways to start the cycle are; give first to establish goodwill, give to build credibility and receive graciously to create reciprocation.
Just last week I took my college-aged son to lunch. We sat and talked, enjoyed our meal and I picked up the tab. Later, as we were going our separate ways he gave me a hug and said, “Thanks, dad.” A hug? In public? That was worth more than ten meals! Needless to say, we both won that day.

If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.

Lao Tzu

Establishing Good Will
Consciously giving first demonstrates that you have the other person’s best interest at heart. That you have the ability and foresight to empathize with their situation and needs and are not simply focused on what is in it for you. It also shows that you want to engage, collaborate and share, rather than control or dominate.

Look for opportunities to assist those around you. What value can you give that will make their day a little brighter, their work a little better or less ponderous? Helping a colleague to meet a tight deadline or sharing your expertise to help a teammate enhance their skill set will and deepen the relationship and pay dividends when you have a need for support down the road.
All relationships are built on give and take; it is the lifeblood of good ones, irrespective of if the relationship is with a partner, family member, friend or business colleague. So, if you want to succeed, it is good to make an investment in the other person by giving first.

Reciprocity helps us balance the need for self-determination and creative individuality with mutual hope and, therefore, what might be described as ‘solidarity.’

David Blunkett

Building Credibility
By giving first, you establish that you are serious about finding answers that work well for both parties, not just now but also into the future. This allows you to increase the value of the final solution, your contribution, and the relationship as a whole. In the examples above, the offers served as a demonstration and reminder, “I’m here for you.” That gracious act has a long tail effect that grows over time.
Each person has a different valuation of the offering, and in many cases, that significance is higher to the one who receives it. But make no mistake; as the provider, you must acknowledge the value for both you and your compadre. As such, consider what value your counterpart places on your assistance by asking thoughtful questions and suggesting insightful solutions that move towards an amicable resolution. Because you gave first, you will find reasonable people more open and friendly towards your request, just as you have been to theirs.
With my partner for example, when she has had a bad day or is just feeling blue something as simple as putting on her favorite music (especially if it’s at the bottom of my playlist) demonstrates that I value her as a person and how she feels is essential to me. This also has her thinking and feeling that I am empathetic towards her needs. You can see how this benevolence builds stronger relationships.

We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Receiving Reciprocation
One thing you may forget to do, which is equally important to give is to ask for something in return. This does not need to be immediate; in fact, you can let your request sit in trust, waiting for an opportunity to be balanced with the contribution you made previously. You must give the other person know you recognize the merit of your accommodation with a phrase like, “I know you would do the same for me.” Or “You owe me one.” This back and forth builds trust in a relationship and allows both people to feel good about helping the other. Assisting a friend in with sage advice, for example, could lead to your next career opportunity. When they reach out with a job opening, they know you would be suitable for. Reciprocal favors are the lifeblood of any healthy relationship.
Your relationships are out of balance when one person yields to the wants and needs of the other repeatedly. In this weakened state, the relationship is more susceptible to one person choosing to walk away. So, if you give more than you take, look for ways that you can start to make withdraws on some of the value that you deposited earlier. Likewise, if you feel that you have taken too much in your relationships, and you have a contribution debt, it is time you started giving back.

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.

Zig Ziglar

Through giving, you invest in your partner, family members, friends, and colleagues. You increase that value by being gracious in the way you receive concessions. This cycle allows you to continually support each other and generate feelings that the relationship has merit for both sides.