Learn to serve, rather than be served. It’s an attractive proposition to be in control in your life. It’s also nice to feel in control of someone’s life. To feel on top of everything. To build a life that’s yours in which people respect you for you, look to you for your opinion, and are generally agreeable.
But how often does that even happen in reality?
We may think we have control over our own lives, the way we spend each day, and who we choose to interact with, but the truth of the matter is that we are usually connected to a larger series of events and responsibilities over which we have no control.
We go to school every day because we have been told that we need to get an education to be successful. We make friends in school which aligns with our (or our parents’) world views. We take a job that isn’t perfect because we need the money, only to fall into the same
But even if you think that you do control your life, commitments and outside priorities can often get in the way. Even if you have a steady job, a long-term relationship, a large friend network, and a strong family, life has a way of throwing barriers in the way which challenge your ability to self-determine and choose a life that is right for you.
You may think that by creating a side hustle which allows you to make money on the side of your current business you can finally escape the rat race and live a life of your own, when what you are really doing is creating more commitments and responsibilities to others who will rely on you for your products or services.
You may think that you want to buy a house to jump on the property ladder and start off on the road to adulthood which most people have come to expect, thinking it will give you more freedom and allow you to escape the trap of paying rent to someone without any hope of seeing that money again, but you forget that having a mortgage payment locks you into keeping a regular paying job and effectively hinders your ability to be free even more than spending money on rent might.
You may think that having a job with unlimited holidays and lots of perks is incredible and unbeatable until you realize that in order to work in a job like that you are expected to work 80 hour weeks and spend most of your free time thinking about how to stay ahead in the job.
Sometimes, the more control we think we have over all aspects of our life, the easier it becomes for something small to throw us off course. Sometimes when things appear to be going quite well, you can be shocked to discover that you feel completely lost, out of control, or confused.
One of the biggest factors in one’s personal happiness is self-determination. The ability to feel as if you are in control of your life and free to make decisions based on your own thoughts, feelings and emotions is a powerful driver for people, and it is one of the key contributing factors influencing one’s overall sense of happiness as outlined in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.
In fact, self-determination could be described as one of the basic needs that all humans require to feel happy, as self-determination is closely linked with feelings of safety.
If you aren’t able to determine your own path and your own future, it is very likely that you will feel unsafe in your ability to perform your day to day tasks as a human. Therefore it is integral to find ways to get beyond feelings of being out of control in a chaotic world.
Here are four ways to develop a greater sense of self-determination in your own life in times of calm and times of chaos:
- Embrace the service mindset over the ‘be served’ mindset.
Approach each day thinking about how you can help others without expecting anything in return. This is particularly powerful if you can convince yourself that you don’t need anything in return and that you have the power to be a source of value and goodness for others without expecting equal treatment.
- Know that this won’t last forever.
A popular saying among most millennials in times of difficulty is “this too shall pass”. It is normal to experience ups and downs in your emotional state. The human body isn’t meant to process positive feelings all the time, nor is it meant to deal with negative ones 24/7. Look negative emotions holistically when you are feeling out of control and remind yourself that this too shall pass.
- Amplify the positive emotions.
Your ability to reduce the influence of negative emotions while amplifying the positive ones will allow you to quickly move beyond negative emotions surrounding feelings of self-determination.
- Develop the subtle art of not giving a f*ck.
One of my favorite books I’ve read recently has been The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. In the book, Manson talks about the importance of developing a healthy sense of loathing for any type of outside influence that is seen as negative or destructive. Try giving fewer f*cks about what other people think around you and start to see the difference in your feeling of self-determination.
Conclusion: The Bottom Line
By focusing on what is important to you rather than what you think the outside world wants to hear, you will be in a much stronger position to make the right choices about who you want to be and the choices you want to make. It’s also important to remember that while feeling in control may seem like a positive thing, it isn’t always. It’s good to balance feelings of control with being out of control. This perspective helps you build a better life for yourself.
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