12 Ways to Take Back Control of Your Life This Year

Businesswoman thinking at desk
Businesswoman thinking at desk

1. Don't maintain relationships "just because."

Happy people do not give their time and energy to others out of proximity or convenience. Don't be friends with people just because you go to school with them, or just because they're family, or just because you work together. Curate your relationships and be mindful of whom you engage with -- it will not only comprise how you spend your days, but ultimately, it will influence the person you become.

2. Break ties with people who only see your emotions as valid when they agree with them.

Relationships that thrive tend to have a common foundation: the people involved emotionally validate one another. This does not mean that they always agree with one another, or respond identically in similar situations -- only that they can acknowledge another person's feelings as real, whether or not they understand them.

3. Train your brain to focus the way you would train your body to perform.

You cannot be surprised if half of your workday is eaten away by mindless distraction, or if being present seems impossible, or if any single passing thought has the power to collapse your entire afternoon, or if you're constantly at the whim of gratifying your immediate desires, if you haven't trained your brain the way you do any of your muscles. The ability to choose your thoughts and focus on what matters is an art form, one that requires a great deal of practice and skill.

4. Speak simply, but with precision.

The mark of intelligence is not nuanced understanding, but how simply you can communicate a nuanced understanding. When it comes to speaking simply and precisely, it's about saying what you want to say without ending up in an argument that's totally irrelevant to the point. It means being able to articulate yourself in a way that creates conversation rather than invoking defensiveness because of tone or poor word choice.

5. Teach people how to treat you by telling them how to treat you.

While it's true that you teach people how to treat you by treating yourself the right way, it's a fallible concept. Don't assume that every time someone treats you poorly, it's because you aren't treating yourself well enough. It's another way to say, "I don't deserve respect."

6. Stop thinking of experiences or outcomes as either "bad" or "good."

Don't think of your life as stepping forward or stepping back; imagine each thing as yet another way to step inward. Don't think of your life as a scale of "good" vs. "bad," and the sheer quantity will win out; think of the dimensions in everything you experience. You'll find that "bad things" are signals, "good things" are directions, and one cannot function without the other.

7. Build a routine by prioritizing what you personally want to accomplish, not what you feel most obligated to do.

Give your most clear mind and undivided energy to what you feel drawn to, not what you're driven to.

8. Withdraw from the pageant.

F#@k "stylish." F@#k "beautiful." If you didn't sign up for a pageant, don't participate in one.

9. Be responsive, not reactive.

Responsiveness is the key to taking control of your life. It means you are able to adapt to whatever circumstances arise. But this only works if you are responsive, not reactive. When you are responsive, you are adapting to your own needs. When you are reactive, you are adapting to someone else's.

Say Susie loses her job. Susie loved her work but didn't realize it was because she knew other people would be impressed by it. When Susie loses her job, she's devastated because she lost the supplementary confidence she was receiving from others. Because she lacks that confidence, she doesn't conduct her job search in earnest. What would have otherwise been a simple change of career trajectory becomes a crisis, all because Susie was reacting to others before she was responding to herself.

10. Stop avoiding your credit card statement.

Look at what you spend and look at it often. Take yourself to the dentist. Know how much money you owe in loans and what other people in your field are earning and what's going on in the news. Stop spending money on frivolous things and invest in what will actually improve your life. A $5 latte will not change the quality of your existence. A good pair of shoes might.

11. Remember that nothing can take your time away unless you give it.

Stop complaining that work is draining and your relationship is "hard" and everything is stressing you out. You are giving each of these things your time, energy and attention. Nobody can take anything from you without your consent. Acting as though they can only disables you further.

12. Close your eyes and imagine what your most fully realized self is like. What does this person need, and what does this person want?

It's never about "getting what you want"; it's about realizing what it is you actually want. Those things are already yours -- it's only a matter of seeing them through. Everything else is a game you play trying to figure out what really matters. Everything else is what redirects you back to those things. There is nothing in your control but your self-realization. Luckily, that's all you need anyway.

This post originally appeared on Soul Anatomy. For more like this, follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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