When I was younger, it felt really important for me to feel in control all the time. I didn’t like uncertainty or when things did not go to plan. And definitely do not surprise me for my birthday! I used to plan my day minute by minute. I literally had a schedule for the day where I would schedule the time to get things done, but also all the little things like brushing my teeth and getting dressed or cleaning up. I wanted my life to run like clockwork, controlling everything. Of course, life does not work that way. The universe does not revolve around my meticulous schedule, nor does it care to adhere to my timelines and rules.
This inevitably ended up with me repeating a cycle of making big plans and getting off to a good start, but then something would happen that might throw me off just slightly. To me that was a big deal. I would think “That’s it”. “My plans are ruined”. “Nothing is going to work out”. “It’s doomed to fail”. Have you ever felt that way? Like if things aren’t controlled the way you want, that you’re being taken for a ride with nobody in the driver’s seat? Like a leaf in the wind, I was at the effect of the elements around me and would always wind up feeling overwhelmed, highly stressed and defeated. I would ask myself unhelpful questions like “What’s the point of even trying, if something can just throw it all out of whack in a second?” and “Why do I even bother? It’s not worth it”, or “Nobody cares anyway”.
I felt powerless and out of control. I became exhausted from repeating this pattern. I was tired of feeling like I was failing over and over again, even though I was trying so hard. Have you ever done that? Maybe you’ve made a new years resolution and you got so excited that the motivation just flowed naturally. You got planning and started off on great footing. But then something happened and once again you saw a promise that you made to yourself, fall away? It sucks and it hurts. I was over it. So I decided to get some perspective.
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A friend of mine at the time was an athlete who seemed to me, to have superhuman willpower. It looked like he always followed through on his promises to himself, even when he didn’t really feel like it in the moment. Little did I realise, that it had nothing to do with willpower at all. Another thing that I noticed about him, was that whenever things did not go to plan in his life, he seemed to just take it in his stride. He would adjust his plans without getting flustered about it. So I took him out for lunch one day and asked him if I could pick his brain. I wanted to know all his secrets for staying in control without being controlling. This is what I learned:
Choose your tribe
You’ve probably heard that saying about how you become like the five closest people in your environment. Who are those people for you right now? Take a minute to think about the people in your life who you see most often, and you give the most time and attention to. Even write their names down so you have a picture. As you look at each of their names, ask yourself how do you feel when you’re spending time and energy with them? Do you feel supported, cared for, connected? Do you have fun together and feel like you can count on them? If you’re noticing that more negatives than positives are coming up within a particular person or group, it might be time to check in with yourself and ask whether it’s worth making some changes in your relationships.
Either way, just remember that it’s your choice, and that you get to choose the boundaries and the terms on which you have relationships. Having at least one person that you feel is in your corner no matter what, can make all the difference when times get rough. Surrounding yourself with positive people who can help you to keep going, makes life so much easier to handle. It can be the springboard you need to propel yourself forward to success.
The next thing is, think about the people who are not on your list. Who are the people that you’re not spending as much time with, as you would like? No matter what the state of these relationships is, even if you’ve never met, you can take steps towards making those people a bigger part of your life and your tribe. That’s something you are in control of. Relationships are like plants, they just need a little tender loving care to grow. The thing is, if you only water them when you notice them wilting, it’s unlikely they’ll be around for much longer. We all get busy and caught up in our lives at times, but all it takes is to reach out regularly, even on those times when you might not feel like it.
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Focus on progress, not perfection
Just like in relationships, we know that nobody is perfect and that everyone is on their own journey. The same goes for your relationship with yourself and with life. Life is never perfect. It will never adhere to a strict plan or schedule that you impose on it. I found that out the hard way, but you don’t have to. It is human nature to grow and to keep growing through time, so we are never perfect, but we’re always moving towards our vision of perfect in every tiny moment. Every tiny moment of time is what adds up to build this journey that you are on, and that is why taking baby steps each day towards your goals is super important.
Instead of getting so fired up over things that are uncontrollable, or overshooting the mark until burnout, just focus on putting all that energy into one tiny step each day. That’s it. The key, is to do it every day, consistently over time. Have you ever decided you were going to eat healthier or get fitter and in the first day you went to the extreme? Maybe you exercised until your muscles hurt, or restricted the type of food you ate to the point where it was not enjoyable but you will-powered through it? If you’ve ever done that before, you’ll know that it doesn’t last for long if you’re relying on will-power only.
What if you simply made a small adjustment to your usual routine each day and focused on that. Instead of exercising so much, you could simply do a 5 minute jog up the block and back, increasing it over time. You could even start by just focusing on moving your body more each day, whether it’s through a specific exercise, or doing housework or just taking the stairs instead of a lift. In the case of eating healthier, what if you simply added more veggies to each meal, drank more water each day or focused on cooking one meal from scratch each week? These are just examples, but the principle can work in any area of life that you choose. Even though it might not always feel like it, time is on your side and it prefers regular attention, just like your other relationships.
What helped me every day, was to write down the things that I had made progress on each day. I didn’t need them to have gone exactly to plan, or have spent a specific amount of time or effort on them, I just needed to know that I was making progress. The way that I did this, was that I would get out a colourful post-it note and write just one thing on it to do that day. towards one of my goals. As soon as I had finished doing my one thing, I’d take the post it note and stick it on my mirror. That way, every time I looked in the mirror, I could see all the awesome things I had accomplished. Immediately I had a big colourful picture of all the progress I was making. Another way to do this is to keep a diary or a list of these things and review it regularly. That’s it. One thing a day, small enough that you can keep doing it day in and day out. No matter how small your steps are, when walking in the right direction, they will inevitably get you to your goal. Your only job is to just keep going.
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"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
You’re in charge of you
When life feels out of uncontrolled, some people find it easier to blame others for why they are where they are, or to complain about all the circumstances that got them there. But blaming something outside of yourself for your own unhappiness is the best way to give away your control, your personal power. The words we use are important, and I know that when I was feeling stuck it could be hard to face my own self. Instead I would either blame others or I would feel so guilty and beat myself up with negative thoughts. This did not help me move forward.
The thing is, the faster you can get real with yourself about where you are really at, the sooner you can get to where you’re going. If you’re not the one thinking or speaking negatively, but others around you are, then you can take the lead by letting them know how what they’ve said makes you feel. You could remove yourself from that environment, put in headphones, take a walk, focus on something else, or simply change the subject and look for a positive spin on the situation. Sometimes it can be as simple as just listening to what someone has said, neither agreeing or disagreeing. You simply remain neutral and let them talk it out.
The cool thing is, the more you hold yourself and others accountable to a higher standard, even if it’s just a small tweak, you’ll notice how much more confident and responsible you start to feel about other aspects of your life also. The more I started to focus on speaking to myself more positively, and not put myself in situations or with people that were bringing me down, the easier it became for me to focus on the positive progress that I was making. I began to find it easier to forgive myself, and others too.
Reward yourself along the way, not just at the end
Often when a person is feeling out of control or overwhelmed, they might forget about all the progress that they’ve already made. Remembering that life is about all the tiny moments, not just the big gold medal at the end. You are allowed to reward yourself for every tiny moment of progress! In fact it’s necessary, mandatory even, for your happiness and success. You can find ways to reward yourself daily, weekly, monthly or at milestones on your path of progress.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
For me, I’d write down what I achieved every day, as soon as I achieved it. As I was writing it down, I’d stop and recognise it and consciously praise myself, giving myself a pat on the back. At the end of each day, I’d read over my achievements and give myself a little something as a reward. It might be as simple as sitting present with a cup of tea, or taking a bubble bath. Other times I would take fifteen minutes to dance around listening to my favourite song, or call a friend to connect with, or cook myself a delicious feast. Do whatever feels good for you!
At the end of each week I’d reward myself again by reading over all my achievements and highlight the things I was most proud of for the week. Then I’d celebrate by taking myself out to dinner or hanging out with friends. Other times I’d celebrate by doing something that I’d been really wanting to do, like an acting workshop, learning to paddle board, seeing a new movie that’s out or going on a hiking adventure. Whatever it is for you, make a list of some things you love doing for fun, or that you’d like to try.
You can even make a list of things you can do at home as well as out, and things that are free or cheap and others that cost money. That way you’ll have an easy reference of things you can reward yourself with at any moment, whatever your circumstances. Be sure to keep a journal of all your achievements as well, because you’ll want to feel how amazing it is to read over it at the end of each year, knowing that you’ve made more progress than you could have imagined. I know I do 🙂
These days, I very rarely feel out of control. There are of course things that happen in life that are not in my control, but I feel so much more at ease about how to deal with them in a way that helps me feel empowered instead of overwhelmed.
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