Four Tools to Take Control of Your Life

4 tools to take  control of your life

In the first two articles in this series, we explored seven ways that choice becomes a burden and a problem in your life.

Then, in the third article, we introduced three tools you can use to overcome those seven problems, and get back control of your life.

Here, we present four more tools to master the problems of choice.

The First Tool: Define Yourself!
Consider the three areas of:

  1. Being (who you are, including character and attitudes)
  2. Having (including possessions and knowledge)
  3. Doing (your actions, and the skills that enable you to act)

You define yourself, and let others judge you, according to a combination of the things you have, the activities you do, and the kind of person that you are.

You enrich or burden your life through the standards and goals you set for yourself in each of the three areas. This is key to personal growth.

Any religious, spiritual, or moral teaching speaks about appropriate standards or goals for each of three areas.
But the details of each area, and the right balance of those three is up to you figure out.

Among the three, defining yourself by what you possess probably causes you the most trouble.
I’m not suggesting that you give up possessions and go live in a cave. But there’s a big difference between enjoying your possessions, and defining yourself by them.

Some people try to escape the challenges of possessions by simplifying their life, and eliminating certain things from their life.
That’s because it’s often easier to go cold turkey, and stay away from something, then to use it in moderation.

But most of us don’t want to live in a black and white, all or nothing world.
And everyone needs to learn to choose among conflicting desires.

There will always be many things around us, competing for our attention.

Let the important and necessary goals and actions dominate your time and life, while the little stuff remains in the background.

Remember that how you define yourself will determines which choices will be most important to you, and will take your time and attention.

The Second Tool: Use the Help of Experts To Learn and Make Decisions
Do you know what you’re weak at, or ignorant about? That gives you some clues to when you’ll need help.

We live in a time when information is everywhere. For information junkies, it’s a wonderful time.

The Internet is full of free information.
But we’re also surrounded by information products.

These products are often sold with the message that “all you need is information”.
News media also market themselves with that same message.

But don’t confuse possessing information (even if it is completely accurate), with knowing how to use it to make decisions.
We often need time and real-world experience with a subject to understand the subtleties of it.

If you have a sick friend with a medical problem, for example, he has three needs:

  • Know about the full range of treatments
  • Find a medical professional who considers all possible treatments without bias
  • Understand (in layman’s terms) the risks and advantages to various treatments

But your friend can’t expect to match the expertise of the person who is treating him.
At some point, your friend needs to rely on his doctor’s judgment.

When you need skilled help to make important choices and decisions, do your homework and check out the expert. Then let her advise you.

And, if you want to develop real expertise of your own in a field, understand that it will take the right information, the right mindset, and skills developed from using the information and making mistakes.

The Third Tool: Compare and Take Action

Earlier in the series, we spoke about the pitfalls of comparison.
But comparison can be a great motivator.

Seeing clearly the gap between where you are and where you want to be generates the energy to reach your goals.

And then there is the idea of modeling.

You find a person who is excellent in some field that you’re interested in.
Then you identify his attitudes, skills, and knowledge that fuel that excellence.

Compare that to what you have, and take action to acquire similar attitudes, skills, and knowledge.

The Fourth Tool: Test Yourself With Action
Develop an action-oriented mindset.

Convince yourself that only action shows you what you really can do, and gives you the opportunity to improve.

Some people want to plan forever before taking action.
They want everything to be perfect.

That’s not going to happen!
Instead, look for excellence, not perfection.

Plan enough to get a rough idea of what needs to be done, and have an absolutely clear picture of what you need to do first.
Take action.

Look at your results.
Some people think that the only meaningful results are when everything goes as planned.

We all want to achieve our goals.
But when our results don’t match our expectations, we have an incredible opportunity to learn and grow.

Take action.
Understand and accept the value of your results.

And with those results in mind, think about your next step.
And so on.

When you hear an interesting idea, take it to the next level by thinking abut how you can use it.
Focus on one clear next step that moves you in the right direction.

And take action again.

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