Three Ways to Escape Confusion and Take Control


Out of Control?
Are you in control of your life?
Life is wonderful, and dangerous and unpredictable.

Sure, you pretend that you have everything under control.
But you know that’s not true.

Pretending to be in control makes you feel safe.
And everyone wants to feel safe.

It’s hard to think about personal growth, enjoying life, or anything else, when you don’t feel safe.

The problem is that most of the world is completely beyond your control.
You’re surrounded by possibility, and asked to make hundreds of choices on what to buy, what to do, and what media to listen to.

And most of these choices don’t matter at all.

Seven Ways That Choice Fouls Up Your Life
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we discussed 7 ways in which choice can become a burden and foul up our lives:

  1. More products, more choices, more effort: You feel that today’s world with endless options and endless choices, so many of them about trivial things, are an unfair burden that is stealing your time and life from you
  2. Expert Choices: In a world of overbearing choice, sometimes we’re encouraged to make choices that we don’t have the expertise to make, and sometimes these are life and death medical choices
  3. You are Your Choices: You use your choices to define who you are. Today, you have more and more choices that seem to express who you are. But endless trivial choices can’t really say anything about you. It’s easy to lose track of who you really are
  4. Negative Media Rules the World: We naturally give more weight to sensational and negative information, and the media uses it to steal our attention. And the more we hear something the more we think it’s real. We have more and more media in our lives, more and more information choices that offer no choice at all. We’re being buried in the negative
  5. Missed Opportunities and Regret: Every choice that you make leaves some possibility behind, and leads you to regret your choice
  6. The Curse of Comparison: When you encounter more and more options, the urge to compare yourself with others can drive you to want more and more, and doom you to be forever unsatisfied
  7. Control and Blame: In a world of increasing possibility, there’s more and more that you can’t have, and can’t control. If you blame yourself for this, and look at the situation as your failure, this can take you down the dark road of depression.

We’ll look at 7 ways to lighten that burden, and focus our energy on what matters in our lives. In this article we’ll look at the first three.

The First Way: Decide what’s important to you
Do some inner exploration and figure out what you want out of life – the things that make you feel alive, not the 9 to 5 maintenance stuff.

Demand the truth from yourself. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the things that you really want, and the things that your friends and the media tell you to want.

See if you can split up your world into four buckets: maintenance (the things you have to do to survive whether you like them or not, like eating or sleeping), must have (things that you can live without, but you’d feel like you were missing part of yourself), nice to have (pleasant and fun stuff that spices up your life), and filler activities (doesn’t matter much whether you do them or not).

Be thoughtful about what tasks you really have to do for maintenance. You want to shrink this area as much as possible.

Understanding what parts of your life fall into each bucket is a great start to taking control of your life.

The follow-up step to understanding is to set goals that focus on the things that are important to you. Plan your days so you grow the time you spend on your must haves as much possible. Allow a dash of time for your nice to haves, and try to eliminate the fillers.

The maintenance and must have activities should occupy the bulk of your days, with only a little time set aside for the nice to haves.

The Second Way: Live the difference between important and trivial
After understanding and planning, comes action! It’s not enough to think through the parts of your life and classify them into the buckets. You have to learn to see those categories as you take action throughout your day.

Now here’s a really crucial point. The same activity can be found in all four buckets, depending on what the activity is focused on.

For example, you can spend time on the Internet searching for critical information, must have information, nice to have information, or filler.

And it’s easy to start these kinds of activities doing some maintenance activity (like online bill pay), and end up just surfing around (nice to have, or filler activity).

Purchases (and the time spent deciding on a purchase) can fall into any of the four categories. Be honest with yourself about the kind of purchase you’re after and limit the amount of time for a purchase decision for the less important categories.

You need the same honesty about all your choices and decisions. Are you dealing with something trivial?
Insist on making those choices quickly and easily, without stress.

When you allocate time in your day for exploring media, remember to give the bulk of that time to information sources which aren’t biased toward negative, sensational reporting about trivia.

When you’re running errands (particularly where at least one of them is important, and is the reason you went out to begin with), be careful of how much you time you let yourself take for the more trivial activities.

The Third Way: Laugh
Don’t take the trivial stuff too seriously.
Make quick decisions about trivial things, and get on with the more important parts of your life.

(In the next article in this series we’ll look at four more ways to take control of your life.)

5 comments to Three Ways to Escape Confusion and Take Control

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    I was losing control of what was going on bugging me in the head and I needed some advice, and I just got it, Thank you for sharing this golden tips!
    Have a great Weekend! :)

  • I’m making these my ‘seven’ mantras for application in life! Can’t
    wait for the next blog post on the balance of descriptions. Bite
    sized “focused” tasks help me tremendously.

  • A great post as always.

    I would like to add to the 3rd Way, Laugh

    We all need to take ourselves a little less seriously also.

    We are all human and have warts, love your warts too!

    Forgive yourself your human frailities and keep trying.

  • We need to set realistic targets in life .First we need to realize our capacity and then go about doing things.This will not only ease the pressure but also give us a sense of satisfaction.

  • […] still up. There’s some really good stuff there and it’s a shame that he stopped. Here’s the original page and the whole article is […]

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