Can I control my future plans? Yes you can when you change perspective.
Have you ever felt anxious about future plans or situations? I have, and I’m fairly sure most of you have, too. The anxiety we feel is caused because of the unknown. Future plans are full of unknown variables, and each of those variables will increase my anxiety if I focus on them. Focusing my energy on something I don’t know or can’t control is anxiety producing.
The solution seems obvious; either try to control what is out of your control, or stop focusing on what you can’t control. As easy as the solution seems, the practice of the solution is not so easy. It’s possible to reduce our anxiety about future plans to lead a fulfilling life, but it takes persistence and a willingness to make some changes in your thoughts.
The first change we need to make to have a better future is our perception. Why perception? Because our perception is our reality. For example, if I perceive my relationship as broken, regardless of the feelings of my partner, in my reality it’s broken. My thoughts and feelings will lead me to act as if the relationship is broken. Assuming the relationship is not broken, I need to change my perception of the relationship so as to change my thoughts and actions about the relationship. When I change my perception I change how I think and feel. My emotions and my actions are in my control. When I believe that I have control over myself, and I make changes which are healthy, then my anxiety drops as I am now in control of my life, not out of control.
In this new perspective on life I start to see the world with some of that original wonder in which I used to see the world. I see a world with beauty. The biggest change is that now I'm looking more at the positive aspects of the world rather than from a jaded perspective. Yes, it is as easy as flipping from looking at the negatives to looking at the positives. I will now live a more fulfilling life in a better future.
Recently I had a client who was feeling a bit down and depressed because he was focusing on all that he had given up when he chose to stop drinking alcohol. The persistent thoughts of what was now gone placed him in this slump. If he flips his perspective he will realize all that he has gained as a result of no longer drinking to the point of getting drunk, missing work, all of which caused tension in the family. What he has gained is a renewed sense of self, an empowerment, a better family life, and a greater feeling of peace. Yes, he gave up something (alcohol), but he has gained much more than he has lost. The perspective shift is in his “choosing not to do” something versus his “giving up” something. Some will argue that this is merely a play on word usage. Maybe, but words are powerful and meaningful. Changing the words we use when we talk about ourself makes a world of difference on our outlook and perception.
Some of us choose not to change our perspective as we feel the issue is not mine but someone else’s. Blaming others or outside forces for how I feel takes away my control, giving that control to the other person or outside force. It's all about empowerment. If I'm going to sit back and complain that nothing in life changes, or “I never catch a break”, my response is “what are you doing about it?” That's the empowerment. Today, many groups and individuals are seeking and advocating for empowerment and choice. That’s exactly what I’m talking about! If you sit back and wait for something to happen you're not empowered or in control of your life. Wake up one morning and empower yourself by saying “I'm going to think different; I'm going to look at life different.” This is the beginning of action and action is our power. Take action by controlling your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Now you are empowered and in control of yourself and your future plans.
Once you choose to take control of your life and change your perspective, you’re set to take the next step in dealing with the anxiety of that future plan or situation. One method that I teach my clients is making a two column list. Label the left column “what I can’t control” and label the right column “what I can control”. Now, examine the situation.
On the left column list all of the components of the future plans that you have completely no control over. On the right column list those components that you do have control over. When you're done with your lists, examine the list of the things that I can't control and consciously forget about them. Since we can’t control them or their outcome, there is no reason or need to focus on them. Our continued focus on these components will only increase your anxiety as there is nothing you can do about them. So stop focusing on that list. Rather, let’s talk about our focus on the other list, the list of things we can control. This list will enable us to live the fulfilling life of peace we desire.
We can’t simply forget about the first list as that leaves a void, and a void needs to be filled. What we fill that void with is the control we have over the right side column list. Filling the void by taking action on what I have control over will decrease anxiety since we are doing something about the future plans. Taking positive action to make a difference in our future provides us the comfort and security of a sense of control.
So now we start planning out what I will do to make a difference in those areas in which I have control. By taking action I'm affecting the outcome of a situation that I first thought was out of my control. I need to actively take control over what I have the ability to control. As a result I am now feeling empowered when I see the changes that I'm making. When I see change it encourages me to make more change which reinforces that I have the ability to make changes in future plans and situations.
When I talk about finding inner peace I'm talking about being in sync with my thoughts and feelings based on my values and morals. When my mind and heart are in sync, then I'm at peace regardless of what happens around or to me. I could feel a gamut of emotions, but while I feel those emotions, as long as I'm in sync with myself, I’ll still feel at peace with a perspective of a better future.
When negative situations happen in life, determining what I can and can’t control empowers me to take action on those things under my control. As long as those actions are in sync with my thoughts, feelings, values, and morals, then I remain in peace regardless of life’s situations or future plans.
If you're ready to explore life coaching, we would be honored to help. You can read more here about our life coaching practice or call the office directly at 301-850-2177.
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