If you feel a little (or a lot) like your life just doesn't feel like it's truly your own, you are certainly not alone. It's very common to feel like all or part of your life is being dictated by entities outside yourself, like family or work, for example, or by things you can't control, like an illness or a tragedy. And those thoughts and feelings can consequently create frustration, distress, or helplessness, compounding over time.
So what do we do, when we're in this space of feeling powerless in our own lives? If you're not in a position to simply overhaul everything about your life overnight, here are five small actions you can take to start reclaiming ownership and power over your life right away:
1. Language Switching
Free up the pressure-heavy push-energy vocabulary taking up residence in your thoughts and words. Make some quick shifts using "I get to" instead of "I have to," "I choose to" instead of "I need to," and "I would love" instead of "I should." Language is powerful, wield it intentionally!
Create an interruption in your normal flow of your day by taking a few moments to do nothing but breathe intentionally. This empowers you to create space to think. When we're in a space of believing our lives are not our own, we get locked into a habit of helplessness. By purposefully creating an interruption in our day and focusing only on what we can control, like our breathing, we give our minds a chance to pause and reflect, creating an opportunity to decide what our next action will be.
When we feel like our lives are not our own, we can often get caught up in "the doing of many things," whether those things are ours to do, or not.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have had clients say that their plans were derailed because they had so many things "pop up." The mail does not need sorting as soon as it arrives, the carpet does not need vacuuming this particular moment, okay yes, the dog does need to be fed this evening, but does she need to be fed by YOU? Practice shedding the excess activity baggage by cutting out or reassigning 1 unnecessary activity per week for 8 weeks. The 3 D's can help you here: delegate it to someone else, delete the activity altogether, or defer the activity to when it *actually* needs to be done.
4. Look Deeper
We tend to get caught in a cycle of powerlessness when we believe that there will be negative consequences if we were to chart a different course of action, or in other words, if we were to exert power. "I have to work overtime otherwise I'll get fired," "If I don't show up to this networking event, I won't get any new clients," "I have to do the dishes because no one else will."
We can get so caught up in prioritizing the actions we fill our days with that we neglect to identify all the other possible ways (some of which will serve you much better) of avoiding those consequences.
"I have to work overtime otherwise I'll get fired" --> "How can I demonstrate and communicate my value to my employer in a way that supports an appropriate work schedule?"
"If I don't show up to this networking event, I won't get any new clients." --> "What can I do to share my products/services that prioritizes an efficient use of my time and energy?"
"I have to do all the dishes because no one else will." --> "Who else can share the responsibilities of maintaining a clean kitchen?" or "How can I shuffle my routine to create a comfortable living environment while respecting my time + energy?"
5. Scenario Specific Self-Leadership
For a real in-the-moment power move, practice asking yourself the question: "How would I love to show up [today, this afternoon, in this conversation]?" In just asking the question, you identify the choice and control you have over what version of your Self you're bringing to the scenario you are about to enter. It creates a specific time-bound situation to practice being the version of your Self that you desire to embody, so that in those moments, you get to practice self-mastery and controlling your experience.
While it might seem like much is out of your control, using these simple yet influential power moves can help you identify and regain power that might have previously seemed out of reach.