18 Things to Control When Things Are Out of Control

These things are within your control. Focusing on the things that are within your control is the best response to a world that is out of control.

  1. Sleep: If you want to feel a lot better, have much more energy, be a lot more productive, and do better work, there may not be anything more important than getting a good night’s sleep. We underestimate how important sleep is to our overall health and our performance.
  2. Hydration: Most people walk around dehydrated (I am one of them). After sleep, if you want to feel less groggy and improve your energy, drink a lot more water. Start your day with a large glass of ice water as soon as you wake up, rehydrating yourself as you start your day.
  3. Nutrition: Trade eating things that give you comfort for food that fuels you. Maybe go with Michael Pollan’s recommendation, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Eliminating sugar is, by itself, a huge upgrade to your nutrition.
  4. Exercise: The human body is designed for a different time. It is designed to do more physical work than what is required of knowledge workers (those of us who work with our minds, instead of our backs and hands). You don’t need to complete an Ironman unless that is your thing. Take a walk. Do some yoga. Lift some weights. You will feel better—and you will recognize a benefit in your overall performance.
  5. Morning Routine: Starting your day with a morning routine can and will set you up to have a successful day. The list above this point offers several things worth the first hour of your day. Maybe you want to write morning pages or meditate. Maybe you want to pray. Do whatever ensures you are in the right frame of mind by doing what sets you up for success and get a sense of control first thing.
  6. Attitude: The four categories above makes this one easier to achieve. Your attitude is a variable when it comes to your happiness and your effectiveness, especially in turbulent times. Your attitude is determined mainly by whether or not you are grateful. If you recognize your life as your greatest gift, you’ll generally have a good attitude. You could do worse than starting your day writing down the three things you are grateful for upon waking. Pro tip: Write down how the negative events you experience are valuable for you, and you’ll have an even better attitude.
  7. Mindset: Each day, you are faced with a decision. You can choose to be the protagonist in the story you are writing, or you can be the victim. You can decide to be proactive, moving towards your goals, or reactive, passively waiting for the world to impose its will on you. Along with your attitude, your fixed mindset is going to determine your worldview. Control here is a superpower.
  8. The Media You Consume: The media you allow into your mind is very much a type of nutrition. You can reject media that is designed to agitate you, to cause you to feel a sense of fear or dread, or sensationalize stories to capture your attention. Control comes from filtering out that which is harmful to your attitude and mindset, choosing instead to take in only that which strengthens you, improves you, inspires you, and supports your attitude, your mindset, and your goals.
  9. Your Goals: There may be someone at work who has given you a goal, but outside of that, you are all on your own, left alone to drift unless you decide for yourself what you want. Setting goals provides a target, a beacon, to guide your decisions. Because they have a deadline, they compel you to take action and achieve your goals. Your life is either going to look like something you designed, or it is going to look a lot like all the others who drift.
  10. Your Focus: You control your focus. When you allow something or someone to control your focus, you can easily find yourself focused on things that don’t serve you. You have a short time here, and if you want to make the most of it, you need to focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. There are not too many things you might do to move in the direction of your choosing. Call this your priorities.
  11. The Quantity of Your Work: How much work you do is wholly within your control. You can spend your days accomplishing nothing, allowing the news of the day and small urgencies dominate your time, or you can decide to make major progress on what is important. Eliminating distractions and giving yourself over to your work will result in you getting more done faster, and pulling the results forward in time.
  12. The Quality of Your Work: You also control the quality of your work. You can do just enough to get by, or you can do exceptional work. External factors have no power to impact the quality of the work you do; that is an individual choice you have to make for yourself.
  13. Planning Your Week: There may not be anything more powerful when it comes to generating results as planning your week before it starts. Determining what you are going to accomplish, blocking the time to work on your goals and priorities, and executing your plan is control. Beginning each day already knowing what you are going to do eliminates wasting time responding to externalities and deciding what to do.
  14. How You Invest Your Time: Lately, people have taken great pride in sharing how much time they spend streaming television shows. Most people leave their email open all day, waiting to respond to other people instead of doing something more important. There is nothing wrong with intentional distractions, but allowing them to dominate your time is to lose control.
  15. Your Notifications: No law states that “One must be notified and monitor in real-time every email, text message, social media notification, or news story on their smartphone or computer.” If you want a greater sense of control and better results, turn off all notifications on your computer and your smartphone. Choose to review what is important a few times a day, always between the 90-minute blocks of uninterrupted time you use to do quality work, the work that moves you towards your goals.
  16. Who You Spend Time With: There is an old saying that you will become the composite of the five people you spend the most time with, something I believe is an iron law of success. You are infected with other people’s beliefs, their views, and their values, just as you can infect others with yours. Spend time with the people you love, but also spend time with people who have something you want.
  17. Who You Don’t Spend Time With: Of all the things I know with great certainty, I know that spending time with people who have low standards for themselves will have a deleterious impact on your attitude, your mindset, and your results. You can choose to avoid the pessimist, the cynic, and the skeptics, all who want you to commiserate as a way to validate their low standards and their fears.
  18. Evening Routine: An evening routine will help keep you on track as you move back to the top of this list. Maybe you take account of your day. Maybe you write down what you learned or read a book for an hour before you go to sleep. Perhaps you reflect on your day and remind yourself what you are grateful for, a perfect end to the day. Whatever you do, the routine will benefit you, and it will give you a feeling that your life is within your control.

Filed under: Mindset

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